The Robert Spiess Memorial
2022 Haiku Awards
There were 517 submissions received for this year’s Robert Spiess Memorial Award, related to the following Spiess Speculation:
(T)he more satisfactory haiku are those that incorporate or juxtapose two (sometimes three) elements of perception in an aesthetic manner, rather than merely elaborating on one entity. The use of a season word, for example, has the function of relating ‘in absentia’ all the aspects and entities of the season to the entities put forth in the haiku.
Since this year’s Speculation referred to juxtaposition and the incorporation of a season word, I initially thought it would be a matter of first sorting through the entries for those which clearly followed the Speculation and those which didn’t. Only it was not quite that easy as numerous excellent haiku (including some I’d have been proud to have written myself ) didn’t include or at least imply a season word, or else left the competing or contrasting elements a bit too loose. But that still left me with a wide variety of excellent haiku to choose from.
After reading through the full group several times, I started the very difficult cutting process, and got down to thirty possibilities. I then started sorting through those with my mind on both the Speculation itself and a desire to find fresh interpretations of it. As I made notes on those thirty, I kept coming back to about ten, with another thought or the desire to reread and rethink, and gradually the prize winners and honorable mentions sorted them- selves out. While many exceptional haiku didn’t make the final cut, they were a joy to read, and I feel privileged to have had that chance. I thank Modern Haiku for giving me this opportunity .
~ Angela Terry, Judge
First Place: Julie Schwerin
the too much of shoes that tie summer’s end
This haiku grabbed me from my first read through and never let go. There is that immediate feeling of going from the barefoot freedom of summer to the boxed in feel of those (probably new) shoes with laces, school days with their structure as opposed to the open-ended days of summer. I sense the bittersweet feelings of regret for the summer just ended mixed with the excitement of what’s to come, a new school year, new friends, with perhaps a bit of fear of the unknown added to the stew. The world is contracting and expanding at the same time. Is there perhaps a “too much” in the expectations of others as summer ends? And what does the end of summer really mean? Perhaps for some, it’s a longed for time, as summer can be a time of loneliness with no friends to play with, or a time of food insecurity, perhaps even a time of abuse. For others, summer is a time of sheer joy and freedom (or at least that’s how it appears in memory), a time to do what you want, when you want or even do nothing at all. I’ve focused here on the end of summer and the time to start back to school, but there can be many other interpretations of “summer’s end” and just what that “too much” is. Although I write very few one-line haiku myself, I feel the structure here added very much to the power of the poem.
Second Place: Bill Cooper
gumbo simmering to the voice
of Sweet Emma
This haiku really brings the senses to life. It’s very visual. I see a family scene here. Outside it’s cold, late fall or early winter. Inside dinner’s cooking, the radio is on, and there is a feeling of warmth in the spicy scent of the gumbo, and in the words of Sweet Emma’s songs. There is a feeling of comfort here, too, a sense of welcome. I can smell the gumbo simmering and hear the music. I am part of the scene, but it leaves me wanting to know more. What kind of gumbo is it, perhaps chicken or sausage or shrimp or possibly ‘gator? Whose recipe is it; perhaps it’s an old family one or one cut out from a magazine or even found on the internet. And I’m wondering what song Sweet Emma is singing, something familiar like “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” or something now only found in Preservation Hall’s archives. And in addition to Sweet Emma’s singing, there is the music in the haiku itself, with its hard and soft “I” sounds in the first two lines. I feel this haiku fits very clearly with this year’s Speculation.
Third Place: Greg Schwartz
the lumberjack rests
in the shade
The picture here is vivid, the sweat on the lumberjack’s face a given. This is heavy, tiring and in summer, very hot work. You can feel the heat, feel that need for rest and shade. The ending word in each line is just right; the rhythm of the poem itself of short (3 syllables) long (5 syllables) short (3 syllables) emphasizes the contrasts between the heat and the shade. Possibly this haiku had a particular impact on me because I recently moved to an area where logging was a way of life for years, and the historical museum where I volunteer is filled with photos and other historical ephemera of the lives those lumberjacks lived.
Honorable Mention Awards (in ranked order)
winter's blue sky
the missing boy
Dian Duchin Reed
There is something particularly compelling about a child lost in winter. We’re all holding our collective breath until that last line with its single word “found.” Luckily it’s the one we want, the one we need to hear. Every parent’s worst nightmare is of a child being lost; the worry, the what-if’s, the fear, the guilt, and then hav- ing this drama set against the blue sky which is usually synonymous with well being and good times. The imagery here is sparse. We’re told what has happened, with no frills attached, and yet, it’s enough.
the trailer park
For me, this haiku fit the Speculation perfectly; the double rain- bow juxtaposed with the trailer park. The rainbow is such a beautiful wonder of nature, and in this poem, the trailer park actually becomes part of its show. Perhaps we can rethink the trailer park so it becomes part of the proverbial end of the rainbow, with the pot of gold being the hopes and dreams of the people living there.
of the coffee cart
Within this haiku I hear the sound of the coffee cart, that metallic click of its wheels breaking through the silence, maybe welcome, maybe not. When I think night train, I think winter, and probably an unplanned trip, possibly a family emergency or maybe the need to escape. There’s the long night in the cold train compartment, trying to sleep, wracked with pain, worry, sorrow, regret, and then just when sleep finally comes, in comes the coffee cart, making its rounds.
Here we have the simplicity, purity, sheer beauty of a butterfly fly- ing around the rusty, damaged end of things found in a junkyard. But even without the butterfly there is life there. And when the butterfly has flown on, it’s the yellow yarrow that will be adding color and light to the junkyard. Reading this haiku reminded me of Christopher Herold’s suggestion one time that instead of going on ginkos to parks and nature preserves we should go to a junkyard. Here is that junkyard haiku.
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