Competition Awards

The Robert Spiess Memorial
2012 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.

We are grateful to Modern Haiku for allowing us to judge this year’s entries for the Robert Spiess Memorial Haiku Award Competition. The theme for 2012 was to write haiku in the spirit of the following Speculation by Robert Spiess from his book, A Year’s Speculations on Haiku (Modern Haiku Press, 1995):

Haiku have three forms or manifestations: the written, which enters the eye; the spoken, which enters the ear; and the essential ... which enters the heart. [Prompted in part by a passage by Sa'in al-Din ibn Turkah.]

There were many excellent haiku that were worthy of commendation. Although it was difficult deciding on the poems for Honorable Mentions, we quickly settled on the three winning poems.

Melissa Allen & Carlos Colón, judges


First Prize: Scott Mason

     nautical chart
   I touch the depth
of my mother’s ashes

In the First Prize haiku, we were struck by the powerful words chosen and by their musicality: the rhythm and the soft, soothing sounds of the words “touch,” “depth,” “mother’s,” and “ashes.” A nautical chart is studied in order to pinpoint the exact location on the ocean where the mother’s remains will be scattered. The reader can feel fingers digging into the urn, can feel the ashes being pushed under fingernails. The sadness in the poem is subdued, although the poet may have not reached the depth of his own grief.


Second Prize: Duro Jaiye

slave quarters . . .
the shapes of their shadows
in this dust

Slavery has existed for too many thousands of years and through too many cultures. This poem brings to our senses the sweat, the tired, tortured bodies, and the empty eyes, but still the hope for better times, for a glorious release from captivity, either on earth or in the afterlife. The letter “s” appears eight times, and like in “nautical chart,” there is the softness in the poem akin to the texture of dust. The only harsh-sounding word in the poem is “quarters,” a reminder of the harsh, cramped conditions to which the slaves are confined after a long day of grueling work.


Third Prize: Susan Constable

shades of blue . . .
the deer’s remaining eye
cradled by bone

This poem is more jarring than the others. It starts with the shades of bluebonnets and azure skies and word by word becomes deeper and darker. The solitude of nature is interrupted by a gunshot, which destroys a deer’s face, leaving only one eye dangling in the socket. The judges were sickened by the resonating image, yet we had to marvel at the skill of the poet. The word “cradled” was especially poignant and evoked a mother as she tenderly holds her dying child.


Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

winter dusk
my grief released
from the crow’s throat

Margaret Chula

formation of geese —
a log opens
to the woodsman’s maul

Michele L. Harvey

I seem to be
an intermittent shadow . . .
summer clouds

Kirsty Karkow

     bitter wind
the towhee’s song
     three notes short

Scott Mason


For this year’s Robert Spiess Memorial Haiku Award Competition, there were 323 submissions from 83 poets in 9 countries.

Melissa Allen & Carlos Colón, judges
Billie Wilson, competition coordinator



© 2012 Modern Haiku • PO Box 1570 • Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459