Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 2009

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 2009

an'ya and Cherie Hunter Day, judges

In competition for this year’s Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards, we received a total of 43 entries. The books varied greatly in their haiku styles from traditional to contemporary, and in their physical presentations, from the very simple to the quite elaborate. Since there were so many pocket-sized, shorter books submitted, we created a special “chapbook” category. As co-judges, reaching our end results went smoothly and we are in total agreement as to the final placements. Thank you to all the participants and congratu- lations to the overall winners and to the special mentions in each category.


First Place

Lorin Ford. A Wattle Seedpod. Teneriffe, Qld, Australia: Post Pressed, 2008.

The winning haiku collection, a wattle seedpod, is only slightly larger than a CD jewel case, but Lorin Ford has packed it with sparkling haiku gems:

heat shimmer
a kingfisher’s wings
answer the river

sliver moon
the sheath of a cat’s claw
on the doormat

land’s end
a seal returns
the dog’s bark

i dance barefoot
between snails

In the foreword John Bird quotes Lorin Ford on the occasion of her hearing one of Dhugal Lindsay’s haiku read aloud. Her response was “immediate—a physical quiver of recognition . . . ” This is the effect of haiku. It opens us up to our original experience. There is an inherent freshness to Lorin’s approach, a confidence in her choice of words as she shares experiences of her native Australia. She has a wonderful voice in this her debut collection of haiku.


Second Place

Madeleine Findlay. Empty Boathouse: Adirondack Haiku. Portsmouth, NH: Single Island Press, 2008.

Empty Boathouse: Adirondack Haiku placed second. Everything about this collection by Madeleine Findlay is carefully crafted: the photographic images of a bygone era blend perfectly with the haiku. “Each page explores the spaces between words and images, both verbal and visual: the effect is haiku-squared” (from the jacket front flap). Presented as an extended haiga a new/old aesthetic emerges that honors place and time and memory. Almost all of the photographs were gleaned from her family’s collection. The effect is stunning. This hardcover volume is a unique synthesis in the book arts.

The title poem is back to back with the following haiku:

filaments of light
through weathered slats
empty boathouse

the song of the thrush
within the dripping black spruce—
far away thunder


Third Place

Adelaide B. Shaw. An Unknown Road. Baltimore, MD: Modern English Tanka Press, 2008. 

Third Place went to An Unknown Road. There is almost a palpable hush when reading selections from this book by Adelaide B. Shaw. It is an opportunity to slow down and reflect:

not quite dusk—
a firefly hovers
without its light

Shaw breathes deeply in quiet places:

the warmth of May
a pregnant woman
smiles to herself

Many of the selections illustrate shasei (sketches from life) a haiku style popularized by Masaoka Shiki. It is this quiet intensity that sets this collection apart.


Special Award for Anthology

Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton, Editors. Dandelion Clocks: Haiku Society of America Members Anthology 2008. New York: Haiku Society of America, 2008.

The Special Award for Anthology was awarded to dandelion clocks edited by Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton. Last year, 2008, marked the 40th anniversary of the Haiku Society of America. Co-editors Beary and Compton, both seasoned writers and winning editors, compiled an attractive and engaging volume from the best available haiku and senryu sent from HSA members. Novice writers are featured alongside seasoned veterans for a refreshing equity.


Special Award for Themed Haiku Collection

S.B. Friedman. It Has Been Many Moons. San Francisco CA: Lily Pool Press (Swamp Press), 2008.

The Special Award for Themed Haiku Collection went to it has been many moons . “The moon is always with us. Every hour, every minute ...every frog-leap of our life”—vincent tripi (from the “Preface”). It has been many moons is not only themed insofar as astrologically ... it is doubly-themed through the folklore and cultures of English Medieval, Native American, Celtic, Colonial American, Chinese and Neo Pagan. It is also arranged (not specifically in seasons), rather in order of the calendar months and corresponding moons. S.B. Friedman opens with this Choctaw haiku and closes with this New Guinea haiku:

oolong leaves unfurl
to fill the whole cup—
little famine moon

gathering the chi
of the rain & wind moon—
city sunflowers

And there are many more equally wonderful “moon moments” in this handsome, delft-blue covered, letterpress edition.


Special Award for Chapbook

Helen Russell. Distant Sounds. 2008

The Special Award for a Chapbook went to Distant Sounds. This limited edition, handmade chapbook was lovingly assembled by friends of Helen Russell from Haiku Northwest and Vashon Island Mondays at Three in honor of her 99th birthday—a wonderful testament to friendship and longevity. The author started writing haiku in 1996.

a century
I have lived—
the first aster

a cloud across the sun
and suddenly
I am old


Special Award for Haibun

Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross and Ken Jones, Editors. Contemporary Haibun, Volume 9. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2008.

The Special Award for Haibun went to contemporary haibun, Vol. 9 which is the annual printed installment of the best haibun garnered from the online quarterly journal, contemporary haibun online. This volume features 60 haibun and 20 haiga by 54 contributors from around the world and offers a wide variety of styles and subject matter.


Special Award for Haiku Criticism and Theory

Richard Gilbert. Poems of Consciousness. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2008.

The Special Award for Haiku Criticism and Theory went to Poems of Consciousness. In the words of Richard Gilbert, the goal of this book “is twofold: to communicate some of what I have learned regarding /gendai/(contemporary) haiku in Japan; and to present theoretical concepts, structures and nomenclature as a means of potentially innovating haiku traditions occurring within the international scene.” His cross-cultural perspective has engaged some lively discussions and serves notice that haiku continues its evolution on the cutting edge of literature and philosophy.




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.