Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for 2018

Haiku Society of America

Merit Book Awards for 2018

Melissa Allen and Brad Bennett, judges


First Place

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

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

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.

Best Prose

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.




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.