Haiku Society of America Haibun Awards for 2023

Haiku Society of America Haibun Awards

Haibun Awards for 2023

Judges: Marilyn Ashbaugh & Sean O’Connor
2023 judges commentary


First Place:

by Dru Philippou, NM, USA


On my way to Fuji-san, I stop by a bakery and buy their specialty tribute bread, made from the finest ingredients: Yamanashi wheat flour, Fujigane Kogen milk for its velvety richness, and Kyoho grape juice for sweetness and color. I slice through the loaf and see a striking blue-and-white rendition of the mountain. Biting into its pillowy softness, I think of the fabled Princess Kaguya, who gave the Emperor a vial containing the elixir of life before she left for home on the moon. Unable to live without her, the Emperor ordered his warriors to burn her farewell offering on the highest mountain, giving it the name Immortal. On a day like this, it could live forever.

shining through
the morning mist . . .
Fuji’s many paths

the wind of Mt Fuji
I’ve brought on my fan
a gift from Edo

Note: The haiku in italics is by Basho, translated by Etsuko Yanagibori.

~ ~ ~

Second Place:

by Alan Peat, Staffordshire, UK

Corpse Way*

On this long, flat stone — the first of six where the dead were rested — I am sat with my dad, watching crows. Not crows in flight, but walking crows, the ones that move between sheep with that slow, yet determined gait, enlivened now and then with a fluttering hop. This is our regular stop: for tea and biscuits as the views open up.

dawnlight —
with no map or compass
our whole day ahead

A wicker coffin to lighten the load. Too poor for a horse and cart, his neighbors will carry him — sixteen hard, winding miles from Keld to Grinton — over tree roots, across flowing water, then up to the high ground, far from hushed hamlets, where the living might tempt a dead man back. And when they reach St. Andrew’s lichgate, the old warden will lift the lid and, if his body is wrapped in wool cloth, his bones will be fit for the consecrated ground.

less trodden path —
the unpicked berries
black and shrunk

On the last of the coffin stones I am sat quite alone. It is a fine spot to rest in the gentle lower dale, in the heart of its patchwork of drystone-walled grass. The church door marks the end of my walk. I will pass through it soon enough, but for now I am content to stay seated; happy to listen to the lapwings’ calls.

unmoved for so long —
the yew tree I climbed
as a boy

*Corpse Ways are medieval paths that remote English communities walked to the closest consecrated burial ground.

~ ~ ~

Third Place:

by Barbara A Sabol, OH, USA


Wide open at thirteen. It was a year of blood, of trying to fit into a bewildering body. On the doorstep of summer break, I was itching for freedom. As I pulled on my wool uniform, thoughts of sleeping late, running wild ’til the streetlights came on ... . The news of Bobby’s death rang from the transistor on my dresser. I fell back onto the bed as our house plunged off its foundation. I refused to go to school. Diagrams and fractions suddenly meaningless. Catechism, more than ever, hollow rote.

I had had my schoolgirl crushes, my disappointments. This was a different kind of heartbreak. A rip in the seam of the world I was just getting to know.

bird bone flute
the hollow sound
wind makes

What I remembered about his brother’s assassination five years earlier was that it made my impassive mother cry for days. Then the never-ending funeral procession on television. Otherwise, my childhood world remained intact. That was the same year my uncle fell from a ladder and lay for the rest of his days staring at the ceiling in the Veterans Hospital.

But mom still put dinner on the table every day, dad kept going to his job at the mill, and I would learn how to find a common denominator that bound together fractured things.

lightning-split redbud
and yet

~ ~ ~

Honorable Mention:

by Ellen Lord, MI, USA

A Poet in Winter

January ends. Lake-effect skies yawn on. The Irish call it ‘the drearies’. I bundle up and walk into a new-snow meadow. How I love the hush of a soft winter’s morning. I stop to gaze at faces in the clouds. Today, they all look like strangers, perhaps a clown or two. I whisper my poems to a crow in a jagged pine. He doesn’t seem to care. He reminds me of that poetry critic from a workshop I attended last week. I smile. I wonder who will remember me—and what—and why—and why not—

Then I realize, it really doesn’t matter at all. Such a welcome reprieve to be alone on this long rising road in Michigan.

so much pending
under a shroud of snow

~ ~ ~




The purpose of the Haiku Society of America's Haibun Awards competition is to recognize the best unpublished haibun submitted. Authors may submit up to three unpublished haibun, of no more than 1,000 words, not submitted for publication or to any other contest. Publication is defined as an appearance in a printed book, magazine, or journal (sold or given away), or in any online journal that presents edited periodic content. The appearance of poems in online discussion lists or personal websites is not considered publication. Judges will be asked to disqualify any haibun that they have seen before..

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

| 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 |

For details about the contest rules, see the Haiku Society of America Haibun Awards guidelines.