Haiku Society of America Haiku Award

Thanks to Chuck Brickley, I’ve recently had the great honour of co-judging, with Kat Lehmann, the Haiku Society of America’s annual haiku competition, named in memory of Harold G. Henderson, who played a pivotal role in helping to popularise haiku in English.

I’ve been reflecting on why it’s such a great honour. The answer is complex. First off, that the HSA should ask me, some schmuck from England, when the easiest thing would be to ask two (North) American haiku poets – I find that immensely open-minded, especially at this time when globalism seems to be in retreat. Secondly, that so many of the English-language haiku poets whom I admire are American. Thirdly, that much of the rich culture which has influenced me as a person, and as a writer, is American – not just the obvious poets like Bishop, Brock-Broido, Kerouac, Lowell, Snyder and Williams, but art film, music and all, right up to yesterday, when I had Jake Xerxes Fussell’s interpretations of old folk tunes from the South on repeat. So, much gratitude again to Chuck.

I hugely enjoyed the process through which Kat and I progressed from our two separate longish shortlists to having a combined shortlist, and agreeing which poems would be the top three (or four in our case) and then which would be awarded hono(u)rable mentions.

Thanks to Kat, it was an altogether much easier and better process than being a sole judge, as I was for the Martin Lucas Haiku Award for 2019. When you are flying solo, you have nobody with whom you can air your thoughts and doubts about particular haiku; moreover, the chances are that, however meticulously you undertake the initial sifting, you will overlook some perfectly excellent poems which might have otherwise grown on you had you given them the chance to do so.

I like to think that the seven haiku which we selected are all excellent and resonant in their individual ways, and that the pleasure we took from reading and discussing them is evident in the commentaries which Kat and I co-wrote.

You can read the winning haiku and our commentaries here.

2 thoughts on “Haiku Society of America Haiku Award

  1. Hi Matthew,
    Only just catching up with your blog. What an honour indeed. I love all the selected poems and it was great to read the commentaries as they often touch on something I might otherwise have missed. So, thanks for sharing them.
    Julie x

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