Competition Guidelines

The Robert Spiess Memorial
2009 Haiku Awards

As a memorial to Editor Bob Spiess, who died on March 13, 2002, Modern Haiku sponsors The Robert Spiess Memorial Award Haiku Competition.

Modern Haiku is pleased to announce the winners of the 2009 Spiess Contest. There were 308 entries from 79 poets in 5 countries. Judges were Natalia Rudychev and Charles Trumbull. Haiku were to be written in the spirit of the following “Speculation” (Robert Spiess, A Year’s Speculations on Haiku, Modern Haiku Press, 1995):

In haiku the juxtaposition or “confrontation” of entities produces a tension charged with energy that generates an insight, intuition or felt-depth of an aspect of reality; it is a movement, a birth, that leads to a new level of awareness [Prompted in part by a passage of C.G. Jung’s].


First Prize: Anne LB Davidson

spring floods —
I move the sink spider
to a safer spot

The winning haiku was the only one that was on both judge’s short lists. Usually we live blessedly oblivious of our vulnerability to the forces of nature. It takes a flood, tornado, or wildfire to show us how ignorant we are of our surroundings and how small we are in the big picture.

“Spring floods” shows us that we are no better than a spider that chose a sink as his dwelling (presumably considering it a very safe and reasonable place to build a web). This realization begets a feeling of tenderness towards a creature that shares our attitude toward the world we live in. This haiku produces a tension that leads to insight into our own nature. Anne receives $100 plus a signed, previously-loved copy of The Turtle’s Ears (1971).


Second Prize: Nola Borrell

adult walk
a skip
in the child’s step

Two worlds show itself in this haiku: the world of grown-ups and the world of a child. When a child is allowed on an adult walk he/she cannot contain the joy which is manifested in a skip. The happy time of childhood (when one did not know how and did not want to conceal honest emotions) is juxtaposed with the world of grown-ups where such a concealment becomes almost second nature. Nola receives $50 plus a copy of Bob’s The Shape of Water (1982).


Third Prize: Bruce Ross

a sudden tinkling
of the wind bell
winter stars

“Sudden” is the operative word in this haiku. It is as if the sudden sound
of the wind chimes awakens the poet’s sensitivity to the clear panorama
of stars, an immediate stimulus that triggers the infinite. Bruce receives
$25 plus a copy of Bob’s Some Sticks and Pebbles (2001).


Honorable Mention Awards were won by Stephen Gould, Michael McClintock, Scott Mason, Bill Pauly, and Marilyn Appl Walker:

A redstone church —
still echoing its Angelus,
the red stone hills

     Stephen Gould

This is a subtle poem in which the third line echoes the first. The structural composition of the poem works beautifully with its semantics. The church erected by humans and the hills created by nature are juxtaposed and connected by the sound of the bell.

square little windows
the laughter of women
at work inside

     Michael McClintock

This haiku seems open to a variety of interpretations. I saw the “square little windows” as giving a glimpse of an cramped, unpleasant workspace, perhaps a sweatshop, and the women’s laughter as the human spirit triumphing over adversity.

near sunbathers
nearly bleached

     Scott Mason

This is a very nice poem that neatly juxtaposes the human world and the nature, the animate and inanimate, the living and the dead.

her therapy
the basket

     Bill Pauly

Basket-weaving is a common (re)constructive activity in institutions of various kinds. The basket of this woman in therapy is yet to be begun — or perhaps even has been undone — and we know that she has a way to go before regaining a structure and integrity in her life.

man in the moon
a newsman reports
a beheading

     Marilyn Appl Walker

It would be wonderful if we could be shocked by a newsman reporting a beheading, but it is no longer so. The commonplace poeticism of the man in the moon, as well as the moon’s pallid and disembodied nature, provide a perfect, if grisly, symmetry for the outrage.


The winning haiku and the judges’ comments appear in Modern Haiku issue 40.2 (summer 2009), which was mailed May 11 and 12th.

Contest coordinator Billie Wilson, the judges, and the editors of Modern Haiku thank all those who sent their haiku to the competition and congratulate the winners.


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