Competition Awards

The Robert Spiess Memorial
2011 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.

Thank you to Modern Haiku for the opportunity to judge this contest and to the many poets who shared their fine haiku. Reading your poems was a pleasure and gave us hours of stimulating discussion. In the end we selected the following poems for their quality and adherence to Bob Spiess's Speculation from A Year’s Speculations on Haiku, Modern Haiku Press, 1995:

"Haiku help to make our senses more alive to sounds, and colors, to  textures and odors."


First Prize: Catherine J.S. Lee

falling leaves
the clang of horseshoes
in the crisp air

Our First Prize poem directly and indirectly addresses the Speculation through the sound of the horseshoe hitting the stake, the color of the leaves, and the texture of both the leaves and the air. There is an unseen community of people and the suggestion that like the leaves they will also shortly disperse. The poem is full of energy, not foreboding, and contains wonderful pairings—the motion of the leaves and horseshoes, the crispness of the air and the sound, the rust color in the leaves and possibly in the horseshoes, and a tolling sound that marks the end of the season the way the crispness of the air does—that reverberate individually and collectively. The word "crisp" is key to the poem, and invokes a lateness of autumn that makes the sound that much sharper—allowing it to carry beyond the game's confines.


Second Prize: Sandra Simpson

spattering rain the pulse in a sparrow's throat

The elements of texture and sound are present in this simple and direct eight-word haiku. One knows immediately the way the raindrops feel through the writer's use of the word "spattering," and one can see these tiny explosions of water as well as the sparrow taking shelter in some nearby bush. The author lets us hear the sparrow when she chooses the word "pulse," since it is always visible when the bird sings. The spattering drops and sparrow's pulse pair nicely. Finally, the small motion of a small bird captures a tiny moment in spring which opens the door to the rest of the season. The song carries us into the season and the single line presentation reinforces the idea that there is more spring to come.


Third Prize: Jennifer Gomoll Popolis

weathered rail
all those carved names
through my hand

In this poem the immediate quality of texture is revealed through the names that are deeply carved into the rail. In spite of years of weathering, they are still deep enough to be felt by the narrator's hand. The word "weathered" not only gives color to the rail, but also speaks to the age of the narrator. That the rail is needed reinforces this concept and suggests that there may have been personal connections to the community of carved names. This haiku, although capturing something of the past, is immediate and in the present moment.


Honorable Mentions (unranked):

mice beneath
the floorboards ...
all her small noises

Melissa Allen

the scent of crushed sweetgrass
where deer have lain

Catherine J.S. Lee

the timbre
of a horse's heart
winter sea

Clare McCotter

trying to name
the color of the sun
yellow peony

Angela Terry


The 2011 Robert Spiess Memorial Haiku Award Competition attracted 433 entries from 108 poets in 7 countries.

Wanda Cook and Paul Miller, judges
Billie Wilson, competition coordinator



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