2008 Poetry Competition Results

Congratulations to all the winners! View the results and read the judges’ comments below.

Open Section I Haiku Section I Open Junior Section I Haiku Junior Section

Open Section

First Robin Fry, Lower Hutt – ‘Hurry’
Second Frankie McMillan, Christchurch – ‘birthday boy’
Third Elizabeth Robertson, Christchurch – ‘My sister’s San Diego garden’

Highly Commended Poems:

Jenny Clay, Waitakere – ‘My Mother 2007′
Bernadette Hall, Christchurch – ‘The Americans: a film noir’
Joanna Preston, Christchurch – ‘The Salmon’
Sandra Simpson, Tauranga – ‘In Chapter Ten’
Pat White, Masterton – ‘After Reading Donald Hall’
Karen Zelas, Christchurch – ‘Preservation Inlet’

Commended Poems:

Waiata Dawn Davies, Oamaru – ‘Actors’
Raschel-Miette Eesa-Danes, Gisborne – ‘15 Points Further to the Stray Tomcat’
Rangi Faith, Rangiora – ‘A Poem For Hone Above The Buller River’
Janet Newman, Levin – ‘Photograph of Daphne 1912-24′
Kelly Pope, Christchurch – ‘sparrows’
Barry L Smith, Hamilton – ‘Lost Sons’
Kiri Piahana Wong, Albany – ‘A Life’
Karen Zelas, Christchurch – ‘Magnet Bay’

Judge’s Comments: Tony Beyer

One of the pleasures of judging this year’s Adult Open competition was that the first placed poem declared itself very early in the reading process. It was then a matter of seeing whether it held its own against a wide range of poems of (as it turned out) almost equal quality.

In the end, ‘Hurry’ kept its appeal and the lively urgency that makes its title so apt. The author’s conflation of public and private concerns, with a healthy preference for the private, combines with a delightful selection of shamelessly Romantic images – “agave”, “salamander”, “troubadour”, “sitars”, and “sirocco” – to weave heady magic. The use of parallel structure to develop a poem was a popular formal device among this year’s entries but no one else handled it as well as this.

Like many other poems, too, second placed ‘birthday boy’ deals with painful circumstances in life. Unlike others, who did not seem to know how far to go too far, this poem uses a subtle control of language to represent complex emotions. The consistent lower-case orthography is just right for such tentative realisations.

‘My sister’s San Diego garden’, the third placed poem, represents another frequent approach of many of the submitted poems in that it completes a narrative and reflects upon it. The poet succeeds once again, however, with a particularly firm grasp of sound – the essence of poetry – rather than by distracted focus on anecdote.

All the Highly Commended poems are worthy of this distinction and several of them pushed very strongly for third place at least. ‘The Salmon’ is superb in giving us two long, narrow worlds, surging with energy. In a very moving poem on several levels, the bitter experience of ‘My Mother 2007′ is leavened in part by its subject’s hard earned, stoical humour. ‘After Reading Donald Hall’ is one of the few really successful literary poems submitted, largely because it moves out from its reference into wider, better known things. Generally speaking, I found I preferred poems reflective of actual lived experience, instead of read or viewed observation. The participants in ‘The Americans: a film noir’ and ‘In Chapter Ten’ have just the right, light touch of humour to see the world and themselves from outside. ‘Preservation Inlet’ and its companion ‘Magnet Bay’ (Commended) are precise in their geographies.

Among the other Commended poems, arranged in no particular order, I admire the accurate wording of ‘Lost Sons’ and appreciate ‘A Poem For Hone Above the Buller River’, which effectively recalls a voice we are all going to miss. If other poems are distinguished by their use of sound, ‘sparrows’ appeals with the immediacy of its tactile qualities. ‘15 Points Further to the Stray Tomcat’ demonstrates how a poem can find its own best form, in this case without strain, whereas ‘A Life’ is a fine example of a poem achieving exactly what it sets out to do. Both ‘Actors’ and ‘Photograph of Daphne 1912-24′ could do with further work on at least one stanza each but belong in the Commended category for their overall strengths.

Future entrants in competitions of this kind will do well to read carefully through the poems I have discussed here. The most impressive among them clearly indicate an awareness of the spoken nature of the language they use. It is always wise to read a poem aloud to at least one listener before confirming its final shape. In this way, flaws hidden on the page, especially in print, become obvious.

Haiku Section

First Erika Galpin, Nelson – ‘held breath’
Second Katrina Shepherd, Scotland – ‘gentle rain’
Third John Bird, Australia – ‘park swing – ‘
Fourth John O’Connor, Christchurch – ‘dawn – ‘
Fifth Lorna Ashby, Scotland – ‘six miles to Pennan’

Highly Commended:

Ernest Berry, Picton – ‘third trimester’
John Bird, Australia – ‘nimbus clouds ‘
Kirsten Cliff, Tauranga – ‘navigating’
Kenichi Ikemoto, Japan – ‘gnarled’
Jim Kacian, USA – ‘hometown visit’
Roland Packer, Canada – ‘snowmelt’
Janine Sowerby, Christchurch – ‘closed curtains’
Barbara Strang, Christchurch – ‘replying to his letter’
Quendryth Young, Australia – ‘fireworks . . . ‘

Commended:

Ernest Berry, Picton – winter bus’
Sheila Barksdale, USA – ‘high-drifting balloon’
Nola Borrell, Lower Hutt – ‘daybreak’
Nola Borrell, Lower Hutt – ‘night storm’
Anne Edmunds, Christchurch – ‘her stomach moves’
Lynn Frances, Kapiti – ‘new love’
Helen Lowe, Christchurch – ‘silver wedding day’
John O’Connor, Christchurch – ‘storm damage – ‘
Bruce Ross, USA – ‘summer clouds . . .’
André Surridge, Hamilton – ‘powhiri’

Judge’s Comments: Sandra Simpson

One word.

For one poem a single word was all it took to push it out of the top 20, a word that didn’t need to be there. Another poem, originally placed in the top 10, was demoted further down the list because of a superfluous word. It’s more likely that a 5-7-5 will contain superfluous words to make up the syllable count.

Interesting to see two 5-7-5 haiku among the prize winners. It’s not a style in which I choose to write, but these authors have (almost, in the case of the commended poem) made the restrictions seem negligible.

While there were many fine haiku submitted, it did seem a fair few entrants had lost sight of the basics of haiku, so for those still finding their way let’s recap a few:

• The poem is the poem. Haiku eschew poetic devices and words, preferring simplicity. One poem may have made it into the top 20 had the author been ruthless enough to detach “hue” from “autumn”. “Azure” does not belong in a haiku, nor does “reverie” or “o’er”. Haiku use everyday language; if you wouldn’t use it in conversation, don’t write it.

• Show, don’t tell. Haiku are small poems, often only three lines. Yet they can contain the biggest ideas (see this year’s winner, below). One poem contained six nouns (10 if we ignore hyphens), “and” and an adjective. Yes, verbless haiku exist but only rarely and they need to be more than just a word list.

• Keep it real. Poems that described lambs “frolicking in a blue sky”, the sea breathing, a frog on water skis or blackbirds playing chess didn’t make it past the first read. Also be logical, a haiku about a new Moon was a lovely image and well-written, but after some thought was clearly an impossibility. In the same vein rain doesn’t “tame” streets, birds aren’t “sadly silent”, and trees don’t “swoon”.

• Get loud. If your tongue trips over your poem, so will the eye. Go gently with alliteration and please, don’t rhyme them – one “haiku” contained five rhyming words.

• Less is more. Once you’ve written your poem go back and strike out the adjectives and adverbs. Be ruthless. If you’re left with virtually nothing, this may be a clue that your haiku is missing a concrete image.

• Error message. Don’t send poems with spelling and punctuation mistakes. This is an international competition, show some respect. Sending poems with spelling errors is inexcusable (and no, they weren’t differences in spelling conventions, they were mistakes). Also disturbing was the number of people not using apostrophes in contractions.

• Understand the form. Haiku (or senryu) have conventions. If you want to win don’t send meditations, jokes, nebulous spiritual thoughts, doggerel or inversions (reversing the phrase, a haiku doesn’t make).

• Surprise! By all means write about your loved one, your cat or the Moon, but be aware that many writers have broached these subjects before you and a freshness of approach is, therefore, essential.

If you haven’t read up about haiku recently please update your knowledge. Like everything else in this world, haiku is evolving and memories of what you learned in school may not be standing you in good stead.

A good place to start is the archived articles section of Haiku NewZ on the NZPS website www.poetrysociety.org.nz/haikunews (click on “archived articles” in the left-hand menu). If you don’t know how to access the internet, ask a family member, neighbour or work colleague to help. One of the best places to start is Lee Gurga’s article on editing haiku, or Jane Reichhold’s articles. If you don’t have a computer at home you can use the internet at your local library and, while you’re there, check out the New Zealand anthology of haiku, the taste of nashi. Better yet, buy one and refer to it on a regular basis.

Yes, this is criticism, but I hope it is constructive criticism. Don’t give up. You wouldn’t expect to win Wimbledon (or even the local club tourney) if you had just started playing tennis. Practice, practice, practice, application to technique, build up your knowledge, and sweat. Like every other muscle, the writing muscle needs regular exercise to stay in shape.

Many haiku received were perfectly publishable, and I hope to see them in the competition anthology or haiku journals. But to do well in a contest there has to be a certain something extra – I hope you can see that quality in the very deserving winners. Look at these winning haiku and try to understand their structure and content, for each one is a lesson in itself. (By the way, in case anyone thinks I am a pushover for pregnancy/baby haiku, let me just say there were an awful lot of poems on these topics.)

1st
held breath
new-born’s cry
begins again
Erika Galpin, Nelson

Whose breath is held? The baby’s before it starts that particular cry that will rouse the deepest sleeper? Or is it a parent waiting, hoping the baby is all right as it is born? The “begins again” links us into all the births, and all the fears, that have gone before, as well as suggesting the life that flows from parent into infant and so “begins again”. On a less optimistic note, we could be looking at an exhausted parent, praying that the child will not cry again, will allow some rest. It is this mystery of the scene which gives the poem so much power (there is a surety of language here too, with a deft alliterative touch on “b” and “g”).

A passing family member looked over my shoulder and asked me why I had chosen it, and all I could say was that it squeezed my heart, hit me in the gut.

2nd
gentle rain
scent of the seedbed turning
a deeper brown
Katrina Shepherd, Scotland

This is a lovely poem which cleverly “turns” a smell-sense haiku into a sight-sense haiku. Can we smell something change colour? Perhaps not, but anyone who has stood and watched the rain fall on a garden will understand. This is more of a traditional haiku – season, nature – than the winner and it is nice to see what might be considered a less important topic given such depth.

3rd
park swing –
her smile each time
he returns
John Bird, Australia

Here is a haiku that ably demonstrates the finding of the extra-ordinary in the ordinary. The writer has given us little information apart from “park swing”, choosing to leave ambiguous as to who is swinging and who pushing, their relationship and ages, so each of us may make this our own. I like the simple joy in it too.

4th
dawn –
the old oak breaks
into song
John O’Connor, Christchurch

Every time I looked at this haiku, I liked it more, and reshuffled my first choices to accommodate it. It’s clever, deft and, again, full of joy. It’s a haiku, like each of those above, I wish I had written myself. A whole world of sight and sound in just seven words.

5th
six miles to Pennan
cross-country through mud and rain
your small hand in mine
Lorna Ashby, Scotland

I didn’t immediately realise this was a 5-7-5 haiku, and that’s the way it should be (I worried at the word “small” for a while, but decided it didn’t matter). It was the story I imagined that drew me in, a story repeated so many times since Cain killed Abel. A soldier with a local child, taking her to safety in Pennan and, because we as a nation have so recently been discussing the Vietnam War again, that was where I placed it. Later, I Googled Pennan. Hmm. Apparently it’s in Scotland. Never mind, it’s still a good haiku.

Open Junior Section

Primary/Intermediate:
First Rhianne Price, Christchurch – ‘The World’
Second Wanzhi Tay, Christchurch – ‘Anger’

Secondary:
First Charlotte Trevella, Christchurch – ‘Other people’s gardens ‘
Second Nic Harty, Hastings – ‘Aftermath’
Third Sarah Daymond, Christchurch – ‘evening in the hotel’

Highly Commended:

Emily Adlam, Auckland – ‘Child Baking Biscuits’
Emily Adlam, Auckland – ‘her mouth says no but her eyes say yes’
Jess Fiebig, Christchurch – ‘the art of blending’
Charlotte Trevella, Christchurch – ‘Nautilus’

Commended:

Rosie Bolderston, Christchurch – ‘Fundamentals’
Rosie Bolderston, Christchurch – ‘Intervals’
Cara Chimirri, Christchurch – ‘Take a seashore memory’
Sophia Frentz, Tauranga – ‘Names for Girls’
Alexandrea Hollyman, Wellington – ‘Jelly-bean Princess’
Sue Mun Huang, Hastings – ‘Before Today’
Ashish Kumar, Singapore – ‘Stopping’
Alex Morris, Hastings – ‘Alice’
Amy Pepper, Hastings – ‘Dad’
Beth Rust, Hastings – ‘Blink’

Special Mention

Ashley Briscoe, Christchurch – ‘Winter the Evil Stepmother’
Kate McIlhone, Christchurch – ‘Can you Imagine…’

Judge’s Comments: Helen Rickerby

I’m delighted to report that the future of New Zealand poetry is in good hands, based on the entries in this year’s Open Junior section of the Poetry Society International Poetry Competition.

The poems showed a lot of imagination and promise, as I expected. But what I didn’t expect was to find so many writers whose work has already passed through the ‘promising’ stage, into fully fledged good writing.

I didn’t have any set criteria that I was judging poems against, and tried to keep my mind open to what each poem could say to me, and what the poet was trying to achieve. But I have noticed that there are several things that make a poem work well for me.

• I like it to make me feel something. Sometimes that’s a feeling of recognition (‘Yes, I’ve felt like that’), or sometimes a feeling of understanding (‘Now I understand what that feels like’). Sometimes it might just make me laugh, or think about things in a new way.
• I like poems to surprise me. I don’t like to know where the poem is going – like I’ve read it before.
• I enjoy unexpected metaphors and similes.
• I enjoy poems with interesting ideas or new ways of looking at things.
• I like poems in which all the words seem right and necessary. Where the words flow smoothly and the poem isn’t overwritten.
• I like poems that end in the right place. This depends very much on the poem: sometimes ending with a twist or a bang is nice, but sometimes a quieter ending is right. (I often find that the way to fix an ending that isn’t working is to just cut it out altogether).

Secondary Students

The winning entry, ‘Other people’s gardens‘ does all of those things. It begins:

“When you were
five years old, you knew
how to pick up an
ant
between thumb and
forefinger”

It took me straight back to how it felt to be a child, when the adult world was almost a separate but parallel place. This is achieved partly through addressing the poem to ‘you’, which makes the reader feel included. But its real strength is the very specific details the poet uses. Some of them are pleasant images – the miracle of an ant, ‘roses in perpetual/sepia’ – but other images are nightmarish – huge carnivorous insects, cicada eyes and rotting ground. It all makes the garden seem very big, exciting and a bit threatening – like the grown-up world. The poem is nostalgic without becoming schmaltzy or clichéd, and its end subtle but perfect:

“How you listened but
did not understand
as they talked
about who would mow
the lawns now?
and how much bluer
agapanthus was
when Harry was alive.”

I agonised over the second and third place-getters, as all of the highly commended poems were outstanding, and all very different. Congratulations to all those poets for their excellent work. But after much thought, and reading them all out loud several times, second place when to ‘Aftermath’.

Aftermath‘ is a deceptively simple poem; small but perfectly formed. It conjures a story of a troubled relationship without need to tell the reader very much at all. Not one word is out of place or awkward to read, and it rolls beautifully off the tongue. My favourite lines are: “Sometimes she was like warm clothes on a cold day./Sometimes she was the cold day”. It almost had me shivering. The poem ends with the extended metaphor:

“He is a dog curled on the ground
chewing on her apology
like a bone.”

Similarly, the third placed poem ‘evening in the hotel‘ is about a relationship – this time between ‘you and I’ instead of ‘he and she’. Again, it doesn’t need to tell you very much to hint at the tension between the people and what their situation might be. I enjoyed the way this poet placed the words on the page, not just sticking to the left margin, but using extra spaces to emphasise some words, and alter the rhythm of the poem. The striking sentence:

“What words of comfort
I could say now
are caught in
the ashtray.”

is placed against the left margin, setting it apart and providing a pause between the first and second parts of the poem. The last stanza of this poem is at once straight-forward and mysterious. The moths “beating their wings/helplessly/against your skin” may be actual moths, but also seem to be symbolic of something else.

Two of the highly commended poems are about words and poetry. The complex and well-thought-out ‘Child Baking Biscuits’ parallels watching a child baking with writing a poem. It tells us that

“the shattered biscuit is
not crumbs, but Bis Cuit,
French, meaning twice cooked.
this is the proof
we don’t really know what
we’re saying”

Similarly, the excellent ‘her mouth says no but her eyes say yes’ deals with how language can be deceptive:

“[…] nowadays
it’s hard to find the meaning in the real
thing. we’re thrown back on words,
imperfect as they are, so I’m warning you,
when they want to take away
your language,

say no.”

‘the art of blending’ cleverly uses painting as a metaphor for a relationship -, the blending of painting parallels the blending of lives. Like many of these poems, it was a pleasure to read out loud, so I could fully appreciate its subtle use of alliteration and assonance. For example, the repeated ‘cl’ and ‘ight’ sounds in the opening lines:

“your favourite light
is crisp morning
white and clear
you paint clouds”

‘Nautilus’ also makes good use of alliteration: ‘sea birds/suspended mid-air and my mother imagining the worst’, with the ‘s’ sounds reminding of the sound of the ocean. This poem hints at a story – the poet and their mother on a boat near Stewart Island – but only gives us glimpses. There is a strong tension that something bad may happen, with mother imagining the worst and the narrator putting a shell to their ear and hearing:

“no gulls or breakers, just the terrible sounds
of my own breathing resounding into a corkscrew of
noise.”

Congratulations also to the commended poets. Your work was of a very high standard and a joy to read.

I was particularly struck by the exuberance and energy of ‘Alice’, a poem about a friend. It’s structured in short sections, each with a different focus, like a series of mini-portraits of Alice. To me the most delightful was:

“At the Kaoutunu store we got three-scoop icecreams.
You cackled
as you gathered yours off the gravel.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

Another poem about poetry and words is ‘Stopping’, with this gorgeous image: ‘a poem is lost in the flash of//Sun on a turn of a leaf’. ‘Take a seashore memory’ also shows an interest in words:

“the word macrocarpa
like sherbet
on my tongue
dry and pricked
with the itchy-eye scent”

Primary/intermediate Students

This is the first year the competition has had separate prizes for the primary/intermediate age group, as a way of encouraging our most youthful poets. Work by the younger poets displayed a lot of imagination and exuberance, and often had interesting new ways of looking at things.

The winner of this section is ‘The World‘, a thoughtful poem that compares and contrasts the confusingness of the world with maths and writing:

“It is not like maths,
where everything makes sense,
where everything has an answer,
and where everything fits together.

It’s more like writing a story,
where things just happen how they do,”

The second-prize winner is ‘Anger’, a poem of the type that takes a subject (in this case, anger) and describes it in various ways. It was the unexpectedness of these similes that delighted me: “It tastes like Brussels sprouts/Anger smells like a whiteboard marker”

Two other poems by primary/intermediate poets that deserve special mention both had exquisitely-decorated borders. ‘Can You Imagine…’ is a series of rhyming couplets about what the future could be like, by a poet with a lot of imagination. For example: ‘A robot that teaches,/A chain of indoor beaches’. There were several entries that described winter in various metaphorical ways, and the most striking was ‘Winter the Evil Stepmother’. Winter is described striding in wearing her glistening white cloak ‘Pushing aside the Hippy that is autumn’.

Thank you to all the entrants, I very much enjoyed reading your work. I found these poems amusing, inspiring, touching and surprising – sometimes at the same time!

Haiku Junior Section

First Charlotte Trevella, Christchurch – ‘Flanders’ Fields’
Second Sophia Frentz, Tauranga – ‘autumn wind/following her footsteps’
Third Harry Frentz, Tauranga – ‘night fog’
Fourth Charlotte Trevella, Christchurch – ‘electrical wires
Fifth Alex Harding, Christchurch – ‘leopard seals’

Highly Commended:

Harry Frentz, Tauranga – ‘a tui’
Sophia Frentz, Tauranga – ‘ autumn wind/blowing colour’
Maddy Hayward, Wellington – ‘school compost’
Sophie Kirkby, Australia – ‘an owl hoots’
Tamara Webley, Christchurch – ‘the shadows’

Commended:

Amelia Anderson, Christchurch – ‘First light’
Rachel Boddy, Hamilton – ‘a boat bobs’
Liam Collinson, Christchurch – ‘Captain Scott’s’
Monty Elworthy, Christchurch – ‘in a ruck’
Clare Fairgray, Christchurch – ‘wave after wave’
Marcel Foster, Christchurch – ‘baby penguins‘
Bede Gorman, Christchurch – ‘after a storm’
Sage Gwatkin, Christchurch – ‘behind the fridge’
Sophie Kirkby, Australia – ‘fisherman’s cabin’
Lorelei Parker, Christchurch – ‘the playground’
Charlotte Read, Christchurch – ‘my skin cooks’

Judge’s Comments: Nola Borrell

1064 haiku. Best yet. And a maximum of 25 placegetters only. Many thanks, all you Poets out there – especially if you entered for the first time. Congratulations all round, and to the winners in particular.

Many of you wrote fresh, wakeful and imaginative haiku. And gave variety! Dragons and jandals, boy racers and jellybeans, hedgehogs and even Macbeth. And, just like adult writers, you were in love with autumn leaves, waves and birds. Good to see your use of New Zealand/ Aotearoa names too: pohutukawa and manuka, tuatara and wet togs. When all else failed, several of you contemplated the blank page. (Silence has a good tradition in haiku!)

Antarctica was a popular location. (Curriculum topic?) At first I thought – with Basho on my side – that firsthand experience was an essential criterion. The writer’s everyday life. But those skilfully juxtaposed cold images didn’t need katabatic winds to blow to success.

The leading entries were not only clear, accurate and original but they also had ‘lift’. (Yes, more wind!) They became larger. They leapt over their own boundaries, achieved that difficult-to-get depth – or resonance.

First prize

Flanders’ fields
the horizon scars
the sunset
Charlotte Trevella, Christchurch

A powerful haiku. Emotional impact, startling image, immediacy and craft. With such evidence at one’s feet of humankind’s inability to live peacefully, the future seems blighted. And even sunset, normally an occasion of wonder and awe, is spoilt. As well, the word ‘sunset’ can mean ‘decline’ or ‘the final phase’. Of civilisation? The sun – life-giving – disappears below the horizon, leaving darkness. ……….. True, that major metaphor made me pause. Metaphors tend to be discouraged in haiku though they do seem to be coming back into fashion in the US. The usual ‘rule’: Tell it plain! But, but, ‘the cicada’s cry/ drills into the rocks’ (Basho).

Second prize

autumn wind
following her footsteps
through the leaves
Sophia Frentz, Tauranga

I kept seeing more in this haiku. The autumn wind follows ‘her footsteps’; the persona follows ‘her footsteps’. (A neat coupling of lines 2 & 3; & of lines 1 & 2.) A touch too, perhaps, of following the example of a wise elder, the pattern of a parent. And then, there’s the transience or quick passing of time expressed by the image of falling leaves. Over all hangs the traditional sadness/melancholy of autumn.

Third prize

night fog
the white line
moos
Harry Frentz, Tauranga

That surprise so neatly expressed in the final line! What fun, and immediacy. A skilled haiku.

Fourth prize

electrical wires,
sparrows shudder
into the storm
Charlotte Trevella, Christchurch

A nice link between ‘electrical’ & ‘shudders’. Otherwise, shouldn’t those sparrows puff up their feathers to keep warm? That one little word ‘into’ suggests that those hardy sparrows go with the storm rather than pitting their frail strength against it. A reminder of: ‘Sudden shower -/ a flock of sparrows/ clinging to the grasses’ (Buson).

Fifth prize

leopard seals
lie on glaciers
shadows in the wind
Alex Harding, Christchurch

Another charged haiku for our time: endangered seals and retreating glaciers. The striking final line – both literal and metaphorical – stays with me. Dire shadows, and an Antarctic wind that sweeps all before it.

Each highly commended haiku is clear and concise with a well-focused image and turning point. Appreciate the fun and sharpness of ‘school compost/ the worms/ obese’. The commended haiku present an able standard too.

And there were still haiku that were within a whisker of getting included.

So you want another tip or two: Keep your haiku simple. (Yes, it’s possible to have simplicity and depth. Read the anthology!) Your images are great! But structure sometimes failed imagination: Too many words, too many images, repetition and complexity.

Now, occasionally, personification does work in a haiku. But most of the time it doesn’t. Keep it for your mainstream poetry.

And, on the whole, better to leave out your own opinion. You’re the observer – though the haiku may convey a strong emotion – subtly. The trouble is – there are always exceptions. Have you read Issa’s poems!

A minor point: Use as little punctuation as possible. You don’t need to begin a haiku with a capital letter. Ok, that’s a change from the usual school rule.

It’s fun to practise using ‘models’ but take care that any haiku you submit to a competition is not too close to the original. This can be tricky – given the delight in similar moments around the world and the constraints of a few words. Basho said, ‘Don’t imitate me;/ it’s as boring/ as the two halves of a melon’.

Remember, readers bring their own experience and feelings to the poem. You, the writer, have no control over that. There’s always an element of subjectivity in judging. For writers not included this time, next year, another competition, another judge! And, you know, finding and writing haiku is fun itself. It’s a great way of seeing. Read on. Write on.

Thanks again, Poets, and also supportive Teachers and Parents, as well as Competition Organiser Laurice Gilbert.

Living with 1064 haiku is a delightful way to spend time. I could do it all over again.

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