Haiku Society of America Rengay Awards for 2022 - Judges Commentary

Haiku Society of America Rengay Award
in Honor of Garry Gay

Judges Commentary for 2022

Judged by
Kristen Lindquist & Michael Dylan Welch


Our congratulations to everyone who participated in the 2022 Haiku Society of America Rengay Contest, because writing itself is its own reward. We received 43 entries and admired each rengay’s exploration of various themes—having a theme is, after all, rengay’s cornerstone. We looked for themes that were clear to readers (not just targets for writers, which can sometimes remain unclear to readers), fine individual haiku, a pleasing development of verses, and strong titles. All but one of our selections happened to be two-person rengay, but we encourage more three-person rengay as well. We hope you enjoy reading these selections and our commentary and feel inspired to write many rengay (or more rengay) in the months ahead.



2022 First Place


An Extra Leaf

there ll be no grandkids
winter deepens  

another autumn 
too old for a puppy

always leftovers
we fatten up
the strays  

an extra leaf
in the closet
family dinner  

spare rooms
just spare rooms  

samara seeds  
a blue ribbon tied
to the neighbor s mailbox  

Bryan Rickert 1, 3 & 5
Terri L. French 2, 4 & 6

This winning rengay captures in a quiet, understated way an older person or couple’s thwarted desire for a grandchild, for a new generation to carry on the family line as one ages. There’s much more going on here then is apparent at first glance. This sense of endings is linked imagistically to year’s end in the first two verses, as well as to the “extra leaf” of the title and the fourth verse, which evokes both autumn foliage and the family tree. An interesting thread about unneeded excess also runs through these verses: there’s always extra food for strays, the table leaf isn’t needed even for “family dinner,” and spare rooms remain uninhabited. It’s as if every aspect of the domestic scene is a reminder of the absent child(ren). And there’s clearly much that could be shared, making the lack that much more difficult to reconcile. The culminating verse, with its “blue ribbon,” which we took to indicate the birth of a son into the neighbor’s family, a “win” for them, rounds out the emotional journey with a complex sense of wistful envy tinged with loneliness. ~ Kristen Lindquist

This domestic rengay begins with the premise of lacking grandchildren—and presumably desiring them. We go from a deepening winter ahead nearly a full year to “another autumn” where the people in the poem realize that even a puppy isn’t possible. The rengay shifts to feeding stray animals, a sort of surrogate not just for puppies but for grandchildren. From there the loss of potential family members manifests itself in the dining room table’s unused extra leaf and the spare room left unvisited. The final verse becomes a sort of consolation and yet not. The blue ribbon suggests winning a prize, but it’s the neighbor’s prize. And the blue color is also a gender-reveal for a baby boy. Samara seeds suggest new life, and they have sprouted for the neighbor but not for the poets writing this rengay. The neighbor’s public announcement contrasts with the poets’ private loss. We are left to wonder if they are happy for their neighbors or perhaps envious. ~ Michael Dylan Welch


2022 Second Place



rose-laced dawn
a young girl sweeping petals
from the courtyard

old narrow bed
     our parents sleep entwined

Ganga ghat
the barefoot cobbler
with crossed legs

a rickshaw puller
     wipes his sweat
     city din

festival tuk-tuk
my driver s betel-stained teeth

Vedic chants
     weaving prayers in one thread
     a garland of marigolds

Billie Dee 1, 3 & 5
Neena Singh 2, 4, & 6

A rich cultural context weaves itself into this rengay, adding an exotic flavor for North American readers. The first two verses might at first seem to be possible anywhere, focusing on entwinings. But from the third verse on, readers know we are in India, which makes us reconsider the location of the first two verses. We experience temples, transportation devices, and religious chants, each one further developing the theme of things woven together. The dawn is laced with color, parents wrap themselves together in bed, legs are crossed, the city’s din envelops a sweating worker, teeth are stained, and prayers weave themselves into a garland of flowers. This rengay weaves us into its world. ~ Michael Dylan Welch


2022 Third Place

In the Expanse

faint echoes
from the stones
a raven s call

guinea fowl pick over
the empty waterhole

scratched onto blue
the black
of an eagle s wings

emus . . .
to the horizon

crested bellbird – courting notes 
buried in the dunes

a puddle
filled with sky
pink cockatoos

Kristen Lang 1, 3 & 5
Lorraine Haig 2, 4 & 6

The birds throughout this piece provided one lovely thread of thematic consistency, with their activities creating movement from land to air and back again through each verse. We also enjoyed how the title helped evoke another layer: the sense throughout of a spare landscape serving as backdrop to the energetic birds, from the echoing stones of the first verse to an empty waterhole to, ultimately, a reflection that captures in one image both the water and sky of previous verses. There’s also a fun progression here from black or dark birds to the ebullience of pink cockatoos in the final verse.
~ Kristen Lindquist


2022 Honorable Mentions (in judges' rank order)



sneaking back in
past curfew
a prick of the rose bush

snapped twig
the motion sensor light

my mother
sits on my bed
not another talk

waning moon
my daughter s
monosyllable answers

two weeks grounded
my light turns off

bathroom trash can
I worry about
her period      

Yvette Nicole Kolodji 1, 3 & 5
Deborah P Kolodji 2, 4 & 6

This unique rengay expresses anxiety from two different points of view. The first three verses seem to present the daughter’s viewpoint, sneaking in late after curfew, triggering a motion-sensor light, and finding her mother waiting for her on her bed. The last three verses seem to show the mother’s point of view, starting with noticing the daughter’s reluctant monosyllables. In the fifth verse, the mother has grounded her daughter and can now turn off her own light with reduced stress, knowing her daughter is home. And in the final verse, the mother frets about the daughter’s growing up, perhaps even worrying that she might be pregnant. We don’t know why the daughter missed curfew, but we do know the mother punished the daughter, and yet the mother remains concerned and empathetic. ~ Michael Dylan Welch



Drifiting Out of the Frame

turning to dust
what s pinned in
the shadowbox

her love letters
in faded ink

becoming more
mother s face
or less mine

wings worn down
to gossamer

lavender sachet
her memories no longer come
when called

dandelion seeds drifting
out of the frame

Michele Root-Bernstein 1 & 4
Laszlo Slomovits 2 & 5
Jennifer Burd 3 & 6

From the title on down, this delicate rengay is tonally consistent with its focus on ephemerality and the passing of time: dust, faded ink, an aging face, worn feathers, and, more profoundly, the loss of memory, which links beautifully to the final image of dandelion seeds floating away—the perfect imagistic shift away from the poem itself. ~ Kristen Lindquist



Off You Go!

corn stubble
the camouflage
of a killdeer's egg

dots under a dock leaf
left by a butterfly

on a pond
the sound of nothing . . .

filling the blossoms
with bees

milkweed fluff
off you go!

the last crack
opens the world

Alan S. Bridges 1, 3 & 5
Jacquie Pearce 2, 4 & 6

This rengay celebrates small things, starting and ending with eggs. We also see butterfly eggs in the second verse, frog eggs in the third verse, and bees and milkweed seeds in the fourth and fifth verses. Then we end with another bird egg in the last verse, this time one as small as a hummingbird’s yet still opening to something as grand as the entire world when that delicate hummingbird egg cracks open. The potential of beginnings brings all these verses together, with the bees transferring pollen and the milkweed seeds suggesting new life, in addition to the eggs in all the other verses. Even the title inspires and energizes us: off you go! ~ Michael Dylan Welch



Desert Highway

the feather trapped
in a Chevy grill
dust devil horizon

riding an updraft
          turkey vultures

rock doves
preen in the heat
ATV exhaust

windswept dunes
          distant echoes
          from campfires

old coyote
scavenging scraps

star-filled night
          a kangaroo rat
          noses the tent flap

Billie Dee 1, 3 & 5
Naia 2, 4 & 6

Just as a highway introduces a human-made element to the spare desert landscape, almost every verse in this rengay depicts wild desert creatures interacting or juxtaposed with human artifacts, culminating in a perfect, whimsical way with a kangaroo rat about to enter a tent. The desert becomes a shared landscape. Several verses link in interesting ways, too, through images of rising air: dust devil, updraft, exhaust, implied smoke. ~ Kristen Lindquist


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These awards for unpublished rengay are sponsored by the Haiku Society of America in honor of Garry Gay, the inventor of rengay.

Winners by Year: | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 |

See the complete collection of award-winning haiku from all previous Rengay Award competitions

See the contest rules for entering the next Haiku Society of America Rengay Award competition.