Haiku Society of America Rengay Awards for 2023 - Judges Commentary

Haiku Society of America Rengay Award
in Honor of Garry Gay


Judged by
Marcyn Del Clements & Seren Fargo


Many excellent poems were entered into the HSA Rengay Contest this year. Our judging came down to a very difficult process of elimination. Did the title of one particular rengay suit its verses? Did all the verses of another stick to its theme? As we closed in on our final decisions, several entries were set aside simply because a single word didn’t jive with the whole. Disappointing as it was to not acknowledge many of the fine rengay we were privileged to evaluate for this contest, in the end we are happy to award our First, Second and Third Place winners and Honorable Mentions.



2023 First Place


Yellowing Maple

Japanese garden—
the emptiness
of the teahouse

grass in the cherry orchard
wet with dew

stepping stones . . .
different languages
in the air

hungry koi—
the moonbridge crowded
with children

the calligraphy
of pine branches

a turtle sunning
at the pond’s edge—
yellowing maple

Ion Codrescu 1, 3 & 5
Michael Dylan Welch 2, 4 & 6


We both picked Yellowing Maple as our favorite rengay. It presents such a lovely image of a Japanese garden. While it could be anywhere, for me it is Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, where tourists from all over the world come to enjoy the teahouse, the moonbridge, the Japanese maples in the fall.
~Marcyn Del Clements

A work of art. I absolutely love the artistry and beauty of this rengay. So aesthetically pleasing. This rengay stood out for me above all the others with its you-are-there descriptions. Each verse was a mini-clip of a Japanese garden, expertly crafted to evoke a different experience. With each one, I was taken to that place and that moment, and to the different sensations and emotions they evoked: melancholy, surprise, joy, tranquility. I was particularly struck by the freshness of the 2nd verse   and the painting-like imagery in the 5th. I was also pleased with the technical correctness of these 2-line verses, which were not simply 3-line haiku divided into 2 lines. Well done. A truly gorgeous rengay.
~ Seren Fargo


2023 Second Place


Colors of Life
rising early                                   
the woodpecker’s head
flicking wood chips
a Cortland apple                          
polished on flannel
meeting in the middle                   
of the row of raspberries
full buckets
sweat beads                                 
tilting back
a cherry coke
licking a drop of blood                  
from a fingertip
snapping his suspenders             
the old Farmall tucked away
in the barn

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


Colors of Life is delightful, fun. Life’s Blood. Each verse is built on the previous one, linking and shifting through scenes of life. I love the last verse. A Google search of “Farmall” revealed endless images of a blood red tractor!
~Marcyn Del Clements

Clever, clever — but not transparently so. I loved this rengay right off, but was initially uncertain of the relevance of the title. It was not until Marcy pointed out that each verse related to the color red, that I not only realized the title’s aptness, but also how cleverly and skillfully the verses were written — how distinct each one is, while holding together so well in the entirety of the rengay. And the title is just as skillfully written — not simply an overt mention of the color red, but instead another allusion to it, in that it refers to blood as life. I also learned what a Farmall is.
~Seren Fargo


2023 Third Place - tied

Sky Dance

a killdeer's cry
as it circles overhead 
red sky at morning 

criss-crossing the wrack line
ruddy turnstones

incoming tide
a swirl of plovers 
lands at my feet

the back and forth
of waves
of sanderlings

phalaropes spinning 
in the saltmarsh shallows

first of spring
the evening sky dance
of a woodcock

Kristen Lindquist 1, 3 & 5
Alan S. Bridges 2, 4 & 6


The two rengay that tied for Third Place are too wonderful for us to choose one over the other. Sky Dance is all about what shore birds do, precisely. Birders, both Seren and I could especially relate to the knowledge displayed about each species, the specificity. I like how the poem covers the morning frantic calls of a killdeer protecting her nest, through the mid-day of sanderlings tracing the waves, to the evening sky over the salt marsh and the winnowing woodcock, displaying to his mate.
~Marcyn Del Clements

What a joy. What makes this rengay remarkable is its pure delight. Each verse is a small celebration of life — like “a swirl of plovers” or “phalaropes spinning,” I especially enjoyed the clever repetition and positioning of the word “of” in the 4th verse, mimicking the movement of the sanderlings “back and forth.” These are all encounters I am grateful to say I have experienced myself. What a joyous rengay.
~Seren Fargo


2023 Third Place - tied


morning mist
a dew drop slides down
the mango leaf

green papaya’s bitter edge
monsoon heat

night showers
singing your name
red hibiscus

after the downpour . . .
chattering crows drown out
the muezzin

sugarcane harvest
a whiff of afternoon toil

the pregnant tabby laps
from an oxcart rut

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


Thirst has such delightful images, like a painting from Van Gogh.
~Marcyn Del Clements

Perfect title. Another well-crafted rengay, with satisfying variation between the verses, while staying true to the theme. I don’t know if the title was decided on before or after the rengay itself was written, but it is another perfect example of how important the title is. In this case, it reflects the commonality within the verses, but in an indirect, somewhat subtle fashion. No one verse actually mentioned ‘thirst.’ I also found great satisfaction in this rengay’s employment of so many of the physical senses — from the “papaya’s bitter edge” to “a whiff of afternoon toil.” Wonderfully provocative. Polishing it off so well, it ends with the full and rich imagery of a pregnant tabby lapping from an oxcart rut. Superb.
~Seren Fargo


2023 Honorable Mentions (in judges' rank order)


A Day Between

an osprey preens
our canoe
glides into spring

rainbow trout tails flash
in the morning light

a lazy whirlpool
stirs the clouds

nearby campfire
scent of coffee  
soft breeze in the tall reeds

emergent daydream
paddle blades lifting water

pink sunset
the color of rose wine
stars rising

Lee Hudspeth 1, 3 & 5
Joan C. Fingon 2, 4 & 6




circus parade
the ballerina rides
an old elephant

stale peanuts
swirl of a juggler’s flames

       in the safety net
       empty trapeze

breathing life
              into a swan—
                     the balloon man

sideshow barker
the rattle of pocket change

his face-paint smile. . .
from behind her ear
an Anthony dollar

Billie Dee 1, 3 & 5
Richard L. Matta 2, 4 & 6




the variegated shades
of mourning

weaving pale buds           
into a wreath

her photo draped
with orchid leis

freeze frame                     
shot before the blossom
falls to the ground

rosemary flowers               
in our potpourri

fading light                         
we wrap ourselves
in our stories

Carol Judkins 1, 3 & 5
Lorraine A Padden 2, 4 & 6


About the 2023 Rengay Awards Judges

With over 800 works in print, Marcyn Del Clements didn’t discover rengay until Garry Gay’s workshop in New York’s 2015 HNA Conference, and again in the 2019 North Carolina Conference where she was guided by the creator himself. She was honored to be one of the co-editors of Tandem: The Rengay Journal. Marcy has turned her swimming pool into a swimming pond and can now swim among her lilies, koi and goldfish; while dodging dragonflies.

Seren Fargo has been writing Japanese-form poetry for over a decade. She is published internationally, has won and judged several contests (including HPNC rengay contest), and was co-editor of the retired rengay journal, Tandem. She resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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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: | 2023 | 2022| 2021 | 2020 |

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

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