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Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards 2005

The Haiku Society of America sponsors this annual award for excellence in published haiku, translation, and criticism.

Merit Book Awards judges commets by year: 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

Return to archive of Merit Book Awards archive.

For full details about the contest rules, see Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards.


Merit Book Awards for 2005 (for books published in 2004)


Our number-one criterion for judging this year’s 51 submissions was this: If a friend wanted to learn about English-language haiku, we wanted to be able to recommend the Merit Book Award winners and say, “This is haiku.” We looked for full and consistent expressions of economy, immediacy, depth, and resonance.

In deciding on second and third place winners, we found our two favorites came in humble packaging: the 4 by 5 inch format from Bottle Rockets Press, with a very simple layout on plain paper, folded, a colored cover, modest cover art and two staples, which feels entirely appropriate for haiku. Two other books that exemplify fine haibun and haiga respectively were so noteworthy that we have given them each honorable mention.

Dean Summers and Ruth Yarrow, Judges

First Place

Quiet Enough by John Stevenson
Red Moon Press, Winchester, Virginia, 88 pages, $12.00

When you open the handsome cover with an O’Keeffe painting of a pelvis, you find more than five dozen haiku, interspersed with a dozen tanka and haibun, as spare and strong as bones. Echoing the title, they cohere with a quiet poignancy that resonates on many levels.

Second Place

The Sweet Potato Sutra by Michael Fessler
Bottle Rockets Press, Wethersfield, Connecticut, 35 pages, $5.00

Like the fragrance of a roasting sweet potato, Fessler’s haiku are fresh and immediate. They range from warmly humorous to delicately subtle. You can feel a grounded tone from this poet who has lived almost two decades in Japan.

Third Place

Piano Practice by Tom Painting
Bottle Rockets Press, Wethersfield, Connecticut, 35 pages, $5.00

Many of Painting’s poems trace a connection between people, but rather than snapping like senryu, they resonate as strong haiku.

Best Anthology

Edge of Light: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2003 (published in 2004), Jim Kacian and the Red Moon Editorial Staff, eds.
Red Moon Press, Winchester, Virginia, 175 pages, $16.95.

The consistent strength of the haiku, senryu, and linked forms in this large collection makes this anthology outstanding.

Honorable Mention for Haibun

My Journey by Lidia Rozmus
Deep North Press, Evanston, Illinois, 46 pages, no price listed.

The way the personal haiku journey of the author fits with the haiku impressed us. The format, an accordion fold, is tastefully illustrated with ink and small black-and-white photos.

Honorable Mention for Haiga

Reeds: Contemporary Haiga, Jeanne Emrich, ed.
Lone Egret Press, Edina, Minnesota, 109 pages, $16.00

In this collection, which includes three essays on haiga, the rich watercolor and ink illustrations combine effectively with many fine haiku.

Mildred Kanterman Memorial Award for Best First Book of Haiku

Eligibility for the Mildred Kanterman Memorial Award is defined as “any printed and bound work of more than 24 pages consisting of haiku, or primarily haiku, by a single author, presented in English.” For the purposes of this award, “first” means that the author shall not previously have published a work of this description. This inaugural award is for books published in 2004. Twelve books were considered for the competition, ranging from long chapbooks to hardbound volumes.

The Award is given to Philip Rowland of Tokyo, Japan, for his book Together Still. The author received a prize of $500 and a certificate from the HSA.

Together Still is subtitled “a sequence of short poems,” and both the title and subtitle are apt descriptions. The book loosely tracks the up-and-down course of a personal relationship in a series of 83 poems. Most poems are identifiable as haiku, though some of Rowland’s haiku are five lines in length or even longer. There are many one- and two-liners, as well as longer—but still brief—poems and even one full-page concrete poem. The great variation in format and arrangement of the material adds interest and tempo to the collection. The author displays an exquisite sense of form, and his poems are refreshing in that they transcend the fussiness of lineation and syllable counting.

The now-standard format for Western haiku—three lines with a text break at the end of the first or second line—feels extraordinarily limiting after reading Together Still. Rowland’s haiku seem instinctively to assume the form that is natural for them. Season words are used in most of the haiku but, again, in such a way that they are integral to the poem. They do not seem in any way to be a rote concession to the “rules” of haiku, and they enhance rather than limit expressiveness.

together still—
the shadows of our plane
on the cloud

Bach prelude . . .
winter sky
deep in the piano lid
childless silent winter rain


The slim, white, perfectbound volume with glued-on wrappers is nicely produced by Colin Blundell’s Hub Editions in England.

The Haiku Society of America congratulates Philip Rowland, a former longtime member of the Society. In addition, we would like to acknowledge our gratitude for the generosity of HSA Charter Member and Co-Founder Leroy Kanterman for suggesting and endowing this award in memory of his wife, Mildred Kanterman, also a Charter Member.

Charles Trumbull, Contest Judge for the 2005 Mildred Kanterman Memorial Award

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