Merit Book Awards for 2018 (for books published in 2017)
Melissa Allen and Brad Bennett, Judges
Judges' Comments in Italics
Leroy & Mildred Kanterman Memorial Award, First Place $500
Peter Newton. The Searchable World. Mapleview Publishing, 2017.
In The Searchable World, Newton shares what he has discovered during his life-long study of the world we live in. We are the lucky recipients of his tide pool of treasures. Newton’s poems are simple yet enduring, personal yet universal, observational yet philosophical. He writes humbly, honestly, and refreshingly. Newton uncovers moments that are familiar, but he examines them in new ways that resonate. He is adept at using less when less will do. We learn about ourselves as Newton measures himself up against what he is observing.
Second Place $100
Elmedin Kadric. Buying Time. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2017.
Buying Time, by one of the most interesting new haiku poets to emerge in the last few years, is full of fresh, startling perceptions and razor-sharp language. Several of these haiku seem destined to become new classics (rock paper scissors war; in my voice / briefly / the cave mouth). This collection, which will appeal to readers of many tastes, rewards many rereadings.
Third place $50
Carolyn Hall. Calculus of Daylilies. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2017.
This collection by one of our most esteemed haiku poets is lush with expertly crafted haiku. How does she continue to delight and amaze? As the title suggests, Hall expertly juxtaposes natural garden images with human technology and artifacts. Her language is welcoming and fresh, and her poems are authentic and vulnerable. A handful of political poems are deftly achieved by focusing on the concrete. Hall deliberates over each word, and because of it, we are enriched.
Honorable mentions (unranked, in alphabetical order by author's last name)
Chuck Brickley. Earthshine. Ormskirk, UK: Snapshot Press, 2017.
Earthshine is the subtle sunlight reflected from the Earth that rounds out a crescent moon, and Brickley’s haiku are equally subtle and significant. This quiet but resonant collection is his first and includes his best haiku from over forty years of writing. Each poem is expertly crafted as to appear effortless. Every time we read this book we discover something new. These are pure haiku moments purely illuminated. They heal, they nourish, they leave us feeling hopeful.
Cherie Hunter Day. For Want. Princeton, NJ: Ornithopter Press, 2017.
The poems in this chapbook are full of small things, common things, things that are generally overlooked, but through Day’s eyes expand to take on outsize human importance (thistledown / a fugitive / at flight’s end). Day skillfully connects the human condition to the condition of all the other life forms on the planet, giving a sense of cosmic meaning to our suffering. There’s a sly humor to many of the pieces, too, a combination that encourages rereading.
Kristen Deming. Plum Afternoon. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2017.
This is Deming’s first full-length collection of haiku gathered from thirty years of writing. As her title suggests, this book is padded with soft, lush haiku. Deming follows the lead from one of her haiku (after the diagnosis— / looking deeper / into blossoms) by diving deeply into traditional, well-loved haiku moments (e.g. flying geese, falling leaves, cicadas) in fresh ways. Each moment is a perfect moment, and each poem is expertly crafted—there are many gems.
Jim Kacian. after image. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2017
after image is a substantial, rewarding collection of thought-provoking haiku, with a complex structure underlying it that increases the satisfaction of the reader. The way many of the haiku are connected is, as Kacian points out in his introduction, puzzle-like. Artwork and concrete haiku make this an even richer collection. These haiku are pleasing both individually and as part of a collective work of art.
Best Haibun Book
Glenn G. Coats. Waking and Dream. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2017.
Coats, long one of our finest haibun poets, writes prose that is steady and unassuming, but satisfying. He recounts episodes that are deceptively simple but o en reveal themselves, the more you think about them, to be dark and deep. He’s especially adept at pairing his prose with a haiku that helps reveal the currents running underneath. From the Rock Valley Session, a piece about a wayward, musical son: (a new year / the wind picks up / where it left off).
Honorarble Mention Haibun Book
Stella Pierides. Of This World: 48 Haibun. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2017.
In this fine haibun collection, Pierides addresses a wide variety of subject matter as she moves fluidly between tones—philosophical, heart-wrenching, ironic, humorous. Some of the prose is conventional and some highly experimental; likewise the haiku (a frog jumps in / intertextuality / for beginners). No matter how short or light-hearted, none of the pieces feel slight, and the variety is delightful.
Scott Mason, Editor. The Wonder Code: Discover the Way of Haiku and the See the World with New Eyes. Chappaqua, NY: Girasole Press, 2017.
We had a hard time classifying this innovative and significant addition to our haiku libraries. Is it prose? Is it an anthology? Is it a personal collection? In this paean to the joy and wonder of haiku, Mason actually gives us all three. This is a welcome read for the novice and the experienced practitioner alike. The book is carefully organized into sections of five haiku “imperatives” (e.g. “think small”). The prose is fresh, friendly, and engaging, and Mason also illustrates his imperatives with fove “galleries” of haiku from two decades of The Heron’s Nest that often include intriguing and insightful pairings with delightful connections. And to top it off, Mason includes a “Solo Exhibition” of his own masterful haiku and witty senryu that we’ve been savoring in journals and contests for years.
Honorarble Mention Prose
Michele Root-Bernstein and Francine Banwarth. The Haiku Life: What We Learned as Editors of Frogpond. Lincoln, IL: Modern Haiku Press, 2017.
In this appealingly compact volume, two past editors of Frogpond analyze their editorial choices to develop a highly convincing working haiku aesthetic. This book seems likely to become an indispensable read for anyone working seriously to advance as a haiku poet or editor of haiku. It also works as a fine anthology of many of the best poems published in Frogpond during the years Banwarth and Root-Bernstein were editing.
Best Haiku Anthology
Lenard D. Moore, Editor. One Window's Light: A Collection of Haiku. Greensboro, NC: Unicorn Press, 2017.
This fine collection of haiku by five members of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective breaks new ground. This first multi- contributors’ collection of African American haiku is uniquely organized into topics such as Families, Language, Teachings, History, and Folklore. The haiku in these sections gift us with glimpses of various aspects of black southern culture, and we are the better for it. Authentic, earthy, heartfelt, and powerful, these poems are at the same time a cultural primer and a jazz composition. rough their words, these poets are facing history, facing the present, and facing the future.
Honorable Mention Anthology
Jim Kacian and Dee Evetts, Editors. A New Resonance 10: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2017.
Another wonderful collection of blossoming haiku poets, the tenth in two decades. Seventeen poets, fifteen poems each, high quality throughout. The editors, Kacian and Evetts, provide intriguing paragraphs of commentary about each poet. Each well-chosen selection of poems gives the reader a solid glimpse into that poet’s style. We are encouraged by the fact that more than half of these poets were born outside of the U.S., a testament to the range of English-language haiku.