Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 1998

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 1998

for books published in 1997

Peggy Willis Lyles and Paul O. Williams

We found value in almost every book submitted for this year’s competition. While we did not agree completely in our evaluation of all books considered, we found our rankings coincided more often than they diverged and we stand firmly together in our praise of the books we have cited for awards.


First Place (tie)

Dee Evetts. Endgrain: Haiku & Senryu 1988-1997. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 1997.

Lee Gurga. In and Out of Fog. Foster City, CA: From Here Press, 1997.

In a field of fine haiku books published in 1997, Dee Evett’s endgrain and Lee Gurga’s In and Out of Fog excel for the scrupulous selection and editing that allow their exceptional haiku and senryu to shine without distraction. Each collection includes unforgettable images drawn from alert and perceptive participation in moments of real life. Each poet is a craftsman of the highest order, wording and arranging the components of heightened experience to create enlivening resonance for the reader. We believe the winning books are collections of significance and lasting value.


Second Place

Jeb Barton. Short Distance, Long Journey. Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, 1997.

Jeb Barton’s beautifully handmade Short Distance, Long Journey is subtitled “Haiku Style Verse.” A good number of these poems, composed between 1969 and 1997 in many parts of the world, are, by practically any standard, haiku of unusual excellence. We commend the book for these poems and for the rare insight and experience the book as a whole offers its readers.


Third Place

Edith Shiffert. The Light Comes Slowly: Short Poems from Kyoto. Oswego, OR: Katsura Press, 1997.

Edith Shiffert’s The Light Comes Slowly is a masterful collection that resonates with insights from enthusiastic participation in a long, rich and colorful life. While one might argue that Ms. Shiffert has reached a level of haiku achievement that allows for more commentary and direct statement than one would condone in a less skillful or experienced poet, we welcome the subtitle “Short Poems from Kyoto” for its recognition that some poems are other than exemplary English-language haiku. In any case, we highly commend the collection for its strength, substance and accomplishment.


Honorable Mention

Vincent Tripi. Between God and the Pine. San Francisco, CA, 1997.

Also, along with the winners, Peggy Willis Lyles would like to note vince tripi’s Between God and the Pine as a collection of distinct merit that was not submitted for the competition.


Honorable Mention for Translation

Kôko Katô, Editor. Translated by Kôko Katô and David Burleigh. A Hidden Pond: Anthology of Modern Haiku. Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1997.

While we do not presume appropriate linguistic skills for definitively judging quality of translations from the Japanese, we both rank the bilingual anthology A Hidden Pond among the year’s most valuable contributions to haiku literature. The book presents a substantial sampling of fine haiku by contemporary Japanese poets. We found the annotations, comments, and other supporting material interesting and valuable. Above all, we admired and enjoyed the individual haiku in graceful and accessible English translation. Many examples show that the Japanese poets are now comfortable with abstraction, simile, metaphor and other poetic devices than are most North American haiku poets. Ms. Kato and Mr. Burleigh might well have accepted as unquestionable haiku more poems from the Barton and Shiffert collections than, say, the editors of The Red Moon Anthology would have. We believe A Hidden Pond invites an interesting and constructive discussion of different views of haiku in Japan and North America.


Honorable Mention for Translation

Ishihara, Yatsuka. Translated by Tadashi Kondo and William J. Higginson. Red Fuji: Selected Haiku of Yatsuka Ishihara. Santa Fe, NM: From Here Press, 1997.

At the time of his death in 1998 Yatsuka Ishihara was one of the most honored and influential haiku poets in Japan. His Red Fuji, translated by Tadashi Kondo and William J. Higginson, with an introductory essay by Kristen Deming, offers a representative selection of his haiku. The translators note that they “have tried to make a selection that reflects Japanese taste and the most typical of Yatsuka’s haiku, regardless of whether we thought they were easy to translate or would be easily understood by non-Japanese. As a result, this collection may reflect some aspects of haiku not previously noted outside of Japan.”


Honorable Mention for Anthology

Jim Kacian, Editor-in-Chief; Jan Bostok, Tom Clausen, Ellen Compton, Dee Evetts, Yvonne Hardenbrook, John Hudak, H. F. Noyes, Francine Porad, Ebba Story and Jeff Witkin, Editors. The Red Moon Anthology 1996. Berryville, VA: Red Moon Press, 1997.


Honorable Mention for Anthology

Carol Conti-Entin, Helen K. Davies, Cherie Hunter Day, D. Claire Gallagher, Marianna Monaco, Ce Rosenow, Ebba Story, and Joan Zimmerman. Editors. Beyond Within, A Collection of Rengay. Portland, OR: Sundog Press, 1997.

The Red Moon Anthology for 1996, published in 1997, presents some of the best work of our English-language haiku poets, and beyond/within, a collection of rengay includes many fine individual haiku as well as providing fine examples of this uniquely North American form of linked verse.


Honorable Mention for Tanka

Pat Shelley. Turning My Chair. Foster City, CA: Press Here, 1997.

Finally, we commend the graceful tanka of Pat Shelley’s Turning My Chair, and the careful attention Michael Dylan Welch gave to its publication and distribution after Pat’s death.




The purpose of the Haiku Society of America's Merit Book Awards is to recognize the best haiku and related books published in a given year in the English language. Every year sees a fresh crop of fine individual collections, anthologies, translations, critical studies and innovative forms.

In the past, the HSA Merit Book awards were partially supported by a memorial gift. Leroy Kanterman, cofounder of the Haiku Society of America, made a gift to support the first place award in memory of his wife Mildred Kanterman. See the archives of Merit Book Awards.

The Merit Book Awards competition is open to the public. Books must have been published in the previous year and must clearly contain a printed previous year copyright. A member, author, or publisher may submit or nominate more than one title. At least 50 percent of the book must be haiku, senryu, or haibun, or prose about these subjects (books mostly of tanka, for example, are not eligible). HSA will also consider collections that have only appeared in an e-book/digital book format. Two print copies of the digital book may be sent by the publisher. Books published by HSA officers are eligible for this award. Books published by the national HSA organization, however, are not eligible.

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990 | 1989 | 1988 | 1987 | 1985 | 1983 | 1981 | 1978 | 1975 |

See the contest rules for entering the next Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards competition.