Competition Awards

The Robert Spiess Memorial
2015 Haiku Awards

As a memorial to Editor Bob Spiess, who died on March 13, 2002, Modern Haiku sponsors the Robert Spiess Memorial Haiku Award Competition. I am grateful to Modern Haiku for the opportunity to judge this contest, which is one that is close to my heart. Many fine poems were submitted to the 2014 contest and I give thanks to all the poets who entered. The winning haiku are of exceptional quality and closely follow the spirit of this year’s Speculation from A Year’s Speculations on Haiku, (Modern Haiku Press, 1995):

It seems that those haiku that have an inherently melodious quality are the most expressive and contain the most felt-depth.

It was difficult to place one haiku above the other in an award-winning position, but the one that speaks to me and has stayed with me the longest wins out in the end.

Marjorie Buettner, judge
Billie Wilson, contest coordinator


First Prize: Rebecca Lilly

The life behind the one
I think I‘m living—
daylily pollen in wind

Robert Spiess said the criteria for a good haiku should include a “melodic quality.” To me, this means that the haiku is not necessarily about music but contains within it the essence of music: light, sound, rhythm and alliteration. The alliteration and rhythm of the first two lines complement the action evident in the third line. Both sections of this haiku reflect each other in a deep and resonate way. What is the life behind the one we think we are living? What a deeply felt introductory line which touches the heart immediately. The concluding third line completes the haiku with an image of resonating depth: daylily pollen in wind. It is not just any pollen but daylily pollen that blooms for only one day. The pollen itself—the dust-like yellow material containing the sperm cells on 6 stamens—is taken by the wind; in other words, it is not fertilized. It is lost. The symbolism inherent within this beautiful haiku is apparent: not only are our lives as brief and as illusory as daylily flowers, but the essence of the flower itself does not live on and our lives are as brief and as transitory as this pollen; our inheritance is taken ultimately by the wind. Of course, this is what it means to be human. This haiku resonates with me and will stay in my heart for a long while.


Second Prize: Judt Shrode

mesa wind
flutes the mouths of clay vessels
spring snow

Again, the symbolism of wind holds a prominent place in this evocative haiku, but it is what the wind does which gives this haiku its impetus. The musical reference is inherent in the use of flute as a verb, but the sound of the mesa wind on the clay vessels is caught up and taken away by the spring snow. Such rich symbolism here! Humans are, in essence, clay vessels played upon by the wind. Again, it is a transitory yet beautiful sound which comes back to haunt us. An intersection of two worlds collide in this haiku: spring and snow, wind and clay vessel, time and timelessness, change and changelessness. We are but clay and a vessel of transient de- sires, but the spirit of being human is a beautiful flute-like melody which echoes throughout the ages. The wind or breath of the wind symbolizes the in and out take of life and death , the interchange of opposites if you will. This rhythm of life and death within the song of the mesa wind tells us once again that we are mutable.


Third Prize: Lesley Anne Swanson

that old tune . . .
knots in my shoelace
coming loose

This haiku is rich with association and revelation. What music can do for us and what the heart of poetry can do for us stimulate complex emotions and we literally become undone in the process. The sound of a significant song or the recitation of a remarkable poem can unbind us, release us then set us free from long suppressed emotions. The image of the knots in a shoelace coming loose is a wonderful image.


Honorable Mentions (unranked)

losing you slowly
the incremental way light
leaves the day

James Chessing

The alliteration within this haiku sings to me and moves me.


butterflies feeding blossoms
a boy with a net
catching sunshine

Robert Witmer

This is a beautiful image. The boy and the butterfly are one and the same: both lovers of light.


my footprint fades
with the turning tide
hint of whale song

Tracy Davidson

There is perfect rhythm within this haiku.


darkness falling into the stars between us

Natalia L. Rudychev

This is an imaginative and evocative haiku.


wind chimes in winter
through broken glass

Robert Witmer

Here is a visually satisfying image which stays with me.



Marjorie Buettner, judge
Billie Wilson, contest coordinator



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