2011 Poetry Competition Results

Congratulations to all the winners.

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

Open Section

Judge: Tim Upperton

1st: Sue Wootton, Dunedin

2nd: David Mark Williams, UK

3rd: Aleksandra Lane, Wellington

Highly Commended: Anne Edmunds, Christchurch; Catherine Fitchett, Christchurch; Cherry Hill, Christchurch; Michael Harlow, Alexandra; Sue Fitchett, Waiheke Island.

Commended: Aleksandra Lane, Wellington; Amanda Hunt, Wellington; David Mark Williams, UK; Jo Thorpe, Wellington; Keith Westwater, Lower Hutt; Marion Moxham (2), Palmerston North; Michael Harlow, Alexandra; Stephanie Mayne, Auckland, Sue Fitchett, Waiheke Island.

Judge’s Report: Tim Upperton

How do you judge a poem? Actually, judging a poem is easy. Judging 679 poems is hard. It’s easier, I think, to articulate where poems go awry, so let me talk about that first. As I read these poems, I found myself assigning many of them to certain vague categories that became more clearly defined as I went along. All examples are, of course, my own invention.

1. The undeserved praise poem. These poems praised something, often extravagantly, for just doing its job. “Oh bedside lamp, you shed light on my book, that I may read!”

2. The eighteenth century poem. “O bedside lamp, thou shedd’st light on my book, that I may read by thee!”

3. The extremely difficult form poem. Never has there been such a congregation of pantoums, villanelles, sestinas, even a mirror poem or two. These poems often seemed to breathe a sigh of relief in the last line – thank God, here’s the end and I haven’t dropped the ball. But is that enough, not to drop the ball?

4. The homily. An anecdote followed by a moral. I don’t think I’ve ever been so instructed in my life. I realise I don’t care about morality very much.

5. Rhymes that hurt my ears.

6. The quiveringly sensitive poem. In these poems, the speakers are more sensitive than I will ever be. They feel so much, so much. I realise I’m not very interested in feelings.

7. The smart-arse poem. This is a variation on no. 6. The smart-arse poem knows a lot, and hints that it knows a lot more. It bristles with literary allusions. It talks down to me. It pisses me off.

8. The galloping poem. These poems just go for it, in a pounding rhythm, regardless of subject matter. Birth of a son? Te-te-TUM te-te-TUM. Grandmother’s funeral? Te-te-TUM te-te-TUM.

9. The Big Issue poem. A tricky one, this. No reason why poems shouldn’t address big issues, but they nearly always come unstuck when they do. It’s as if the issue carries the poem, and not the other way round.

10. The darkly enigmatic poem. This poem means something, but it’s not going to let you in on the secret, oh, no. It’s like an architect designed a house and disdained doors and windows.

From 679 poems to just eighteen. These poems all demonstrated an understanding of language and its resources, and particularly of sound. The best of them appear to follow a tune where it leads them; they are exploratory, tentative, questioning, open. They transform what they represent, and take me somewhere I didn’t expect to go.

Third Place: ‘Final discourse’. The run-on lines and vowel substitutions artfully conceal the end-rhymes in this poem. The jump-cuts (“Now / all of a sudden I am hopeless in this town”) are unpredictable and, in the generally restrained atmosphere, heart-breaking.

Second Place: “The devil’s nursery”. Foreboding, creepy, funny: “they said they had never seen / such good children, so sweet they could eat us. / As we sat down, our foreheads cracked like Pavlovas”). Diction and tone are wonderfully integrated: “There would be a place for everyone. / We were such promising material.”

First Place: “Ice diver” The poem I kept returning to, and which grew richer with each re-reading. I initially relegated it to the Darkly Enigmatic Poem pile (see above), but it won me over even as it refused to reveal itself completely.

Ice diver

Sue Wootton, Dunedin, First Prize

O feed more salt to that deepsea heart –
blind, propulsive, without a shell, at
each squeeze pushed hard into the net.

Not you, fisherboy, winding in your reel,
sticking to your quota. But you, off-duty,
shoreless, out of your depth, taking your soul

for a fresh-water swim under ice, who’ll
ascend your bubblebreath trail
in holy isolation. You in a dazzle

of danger, drifting with the light-struck
dead. You, hooded, sealed in your drysuit
habit. Monk, sprinkle the salt.

The Devil’s Nursery

David Mark Williams, United Kingdom
Second Prize

Every morning they would usher us in
from the playground where we cowered, trapped
small figures in a shadowy lithograph
bordered with briars and ravens.

Cooing at us, eager to begin,
they said they had never seen
such good children, so sweet they would eat us.
As we sat down, our foreheads cracked like Pavlovas.

The weather they conjured was always bad,
dishrag clouds teeming with fever,
winds with blue faces screaming around corners
to blow us over and how well we would recall
those days when the slow terror of snow
was summoned for all the mothers to cut
straight lines through the white with their wheels.

Always we were urged to draw closer to the fire
kept blazing and unguarded, cracking out sparks.
We feared to move, being wax or wood,
still as puppets until they pulled our strings.

Every afternoon they laid us down to sleep,
each of us parcelled up in single beds,
wakeful, our eyes reluctant to close, as the cut flowers
around the room discharged a subtle poison.

When the time came, they promised us,
we would all be called
to climb aboard into the wagons, waiting at the station.
There would be a place for everyone.
We were such promising material.

Final Discourse

Aleksandra Lane, Wellington
Third Prize

Star grit in his salad as he roughs up lettuce
leaves. Somewhere else he would have broken his teeth
eating dinner with the moon this white and with this many stars. Let us
leave, he replies. It is clear, sombre on the way out. He leaves a wreath

of bay leaves around his naked words, discarded little stones. Olive oil in his highs,
vinegar in his lows. We must go, he says. Now
all of a sudden I am hopeless in this town. What is left behind lies
still; his face a falling northern leaf to remember me by. His brow

up then down. I take him on the palm of the evening, succulent moon above just
showing off. I have grown so lush, so native in love I must
explain the ferns, gather up all our brittle shoots. Green lust

encircles the city, though we are inside, it’s not just
us. His hands are full – mine are starved.
He puts down his cutlery before the last course has arrived.

Open Junior Section

Judge: Adrienne Jansen
1st: Maria Ji, Auckland – ‘My Friend Nick’

1st & 2nd Runner-up, Secondary: Rebecca Hawkes, Ashburton – ‘Vows’ and ‘Helena’

1st & 2nd Runner-up, Primary/Intermediate: Isabella Taylor, USA – ‘Ephemera: Bubbles’ and ‘Spider Web’

Highly Commended: Alexandra Morris, Hastings.

Commended: Juliet McLachlan, Christchurch; Lin Wang, USA;, Lucy Diver, Auckland; Monique Hodgkinson, Wellington; Rebecca Hawkes, Ashburton; Rosa Ellis-Cook, Arrowtown; Taylor Annabell, Auckland.

Judge’s Report: Adrienne Jansen

I read nearly 400 poems in this section of the 2011 NZ Poetry Society’s Competition. Every poem was worth reading. There were many poems where I wanted to sit down and have a conversation with the writer – maybe about the subject of the poem, maybe about the writing of it. That’s a great thing about poetry – it sets up small conversations in the head, it creates pictures, and small moments of delight, or sadness, or laughter, or simply pleasure at the words. Everyone who entered a poem in this competition can be pleased that they created a small moment like that. There were poems about everything – war, sunset, cats, music, grandparents, spiders, the weather, relationships (lots of those) – and in particular, there were poems about the Pike River Mine disaster and the Christchurch earthquake. It’s hard to write well about these big events, and I’m impressed that you took it on. I’ll say something more about that later.

There were a lot of poems where the whole poem didn’t quite work but it had something very good in it. Sometimes it was a particular line, sometimes it was a rhythmical musical quality, sometimes it was very original, sometimes the idea was very good even if it didn’t quite make it into words. But to get one great thing in a poem is a real achievement, and if I could have that conversation with many of you, I would say ‘This is the best thing in your poem. Use that as a starting point and write a new poem from that.’

A poem by its nature is concise. A lot of poems just needed to be cut down. They had more words than they needed, and sometimes they repeated words accidentally. Some poems would have been stronger if the last line had been left off. Sometimes we use too many words, or add a line that isn’t needed, because we think the reader won’t get it. But readers are smart. They get it. And we don’t want to spell everything out. That can take the sense of discovery, or small mystery, out of a poem. On the other hand, there were poems with really great last lines. Quite a few poems made it into my short list just because of the last line. So last lines are both important, and a challenge.

There were poems about fantastical things and poems about battles, but some of the best poems were about things that you knew well – skiing, snowboarding, a family cat, a school camp. And some of the best poems were very simple. Good poems don’t just happen. Although we might sometimes write a poem which comes almost fully-formed, that’s very rare. Most good poems are the result of a lot of rethinking, honing, rewriting to find just the right word, the right rhythm, the right image.

There were very many good poems in the Secondary group. It was difficult to choose between the first three poems. In the end I chose ‘My friend Nick’ as the overall winner. I think this is a very accomplished poem. It’s a short poem shaped around the central image of Venn diagrams. It’s clever without being at all self-conscious. It appears straightforward, in its clear direct language, but it says important things about relationships in an imaginative way. It feels complete, and has that sense of being very well-worked. It’s a poem to go back to and read time after time.

The two runner-up (Secondary) poems, ‘vows’ and ‘Helena’ share many qualities. They both have a sense of the drama and poignancy of life, and both have excellent endings. ‘Helena’ begins in a conversational tone, but combines that with a lyrical voice and great choice of words and images, as ‘vows’ does also. Both have that same sense of completeness, of being well-worked. All these three poems offered me a gift – a moment of insight – and that’s poetry at its best.

All of the other Commended or Highly commended poems show real strengths. ‘Brother’ is a great poem of sibling relationships, with its very good ending, “If I grow up/will you/ grow down and meet me?”. ‘since September’ is a fine example of how one can write about earthquakes or other major events by making them personal and detailed , without sentimentality. ‘poem for a lamppost’ uses images very eloquently. There is the grittiness of ‘this bathroom…’and plain stripped-down style of ‘Return to School Camp in Year 13’ which work very well for both these poems. All of these poems have that sense of music that is so much a part of poetry, a sense of rhythm of the language. And the writers have paid attention to how the poem appears on the page – where the lines break, what to punctuate, what not to punctuate.

The two runner-up poems in the Primary/Intermediate section, ‘Ephemera: Bubbles’ and ‘Spiders’ stood out for their sense of accomplishment. They both took an idea and unravelled it, thoughtfully and delightfully. There was that sense of music in the language, words very well chosen, and a sense of completeness.

It was very difficult to choose a small number of Commended poems. There were so many poems that had something good in them. In the end I chose poems that had that sense of completeness about them. ‘Tilly’ is a delightful picture of a cat, and ‘A kid called the war back’ made great use of words and strong visual images.

People in Chile have a saying that there is a poet hidden under every stone. This competition has turned over a lot of stones and uncovered a lot of poets! Congratulations to all of you who entered, and I hope you do it again next year.

My Friend Nick

Maria Ji, St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland

My friend Nick is a lover of Venn diagrams.
If he could, he would tell me that many of my interests
and hers lie in the same delightful area of correlation
and things shared, where the two circles
hesitantly overlap.
&nbsp
Under different circumstances, he would say,
a less turbulent relationship was completely
within the bounds of imagination since
both she and I had working hearts
that were more or less in the right place.

Vows

Rebecca Hawkes, Ashburton, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School

+
the only difference between fairytales and being
alone is that in all the stories,
there are no empty radio stations, real queens
cannot fill their lives with static.
+
it is the Night Before and already you belong to him.
you dream of walking down the aisle with your arms
curled about your ribs, protecting
the shallow black mangrove pools inside;
+
in order to become a queen you break the shells of
oysters, you sacrifice the bodies of bees, you spill
the last of your peregrine breath
into the pillow.
you learn to fry bacon the way he likes it.
+
when the day comes it is longer than you expected;
+
the shadows longer than you expected.

Helena

you’ve always known, honey,

that there are so many kinds of awful men

and yet you’re surprised anyway.
[seventeen hours, a bath and two
showers later and you can still smell him on you. a secret.]
tear streaked, fall down six flights of stairs, up
twelve. silk, ripped
silk. peel back tissue-paper selves, and you become small again.

my daughter, and something has been taken
away; spread, held up to the light and
discarded. you are beauty that shadows the sun, you are cut
out of the fabric of the world and it’s so
hard to believe you’re not real until I look at you
side on.
there is too much future for this,
you have too many futures
I do not want the sun, do not want
the briefness of your lips, I want
you

home. safe, un-

harmed.  the sky will shelter you.

[you are asleep when I come in. I make sure I am too quiet
to wake you.]

Ephemera: Bubbles

Isabella Taylor, USA, Runner-up, Primary/Intermediate

A blow of life
filling
your
being
with
knowledge and air
Filling you round as
a perfect moon,
in a
perfect place
You
Soar
Climbing the spiraled staircase to infinite possibilities
and
mirroring the imperfect world
in a crisp
photograph
A plump finger will reach up and tap you oh so gently on the shoulder
And you fall in the droplets of your creation
Fall down
down
to the ground
You will remember how you never touched the sky
[or were even close]
As you shattered into a thousand pieces

Spider Web

Isabella Taylor, USA, Runner-up, Primary/Intermediate

I did not see you
Invisible
Death
Wearing only
Water strung like pearls
Your luring architecture mastered over centuries
A geometric maze
I sit and wonder how many innocent lives you have taken
So proudly displayed upon your
Mandala patterned streets
Various coloured lights of
Blue, red and yellow blushing gold
In the dusky light of dawn
As you take my soul
Memory by memory
Thought by thought

Haiku Section

1st (Winner of the Jeanette Stace Memorial Award): Greg Piko, Australia

2nd: Tony Beyer, New Plymouth

3rd: Chen-ou Liu, Canada

4th: Keith Frentz, Tauranga

5th: John Barlow, UK.

Highly Commended: Catherine Mair, Katikati; Ernest J. Berry, Picton; Janine Sowerby, Christchurch, John Barlow, UK; Katherine Raine, Owaka; Pamela Smith, Australia; Sophia Frentz, Dunedin.

Commended: André Surridge, Hamilton; Barbara Strang, Christchurch; Chen-ou Liu, Canada; Duncan Richardson, Australia; Elaine Riddell, Hamilton; Elise Mei, Christchurch; Jeffrey Harpeng, Australia; Katherine Raine, Owaka; Kirsten Cliff, Papamoa; Quendryth Young, Australia; Sandra Simpson (2), Tauranga; Sophia Frentz, Dunedin.

Judge’s Report : Joanna Preston

Six hundred haiku. Six hundred attempts to crystallise the moment of an epiphany, and offer it whole to a stranger. Put like that, is it any wonder that haiku is a difficult form to master?

I was able to discard a third of the poems very easily. They tended to be lists of unlinked images, or flat statements (often political), or jokes, or epigrams. Too many seemed to have an attached rimshot at the end – haiku and senryu may be funny, may even operate with a punchline. But that’s not the only thing they do, and they don’t stand back and expect to be applauded afterwards. If the reader’s response is “oh yes, very clever. Next”, you’ve failed. If it’s a snort of laughter followed by “but that’s so true!”, there’s a good chance you’ve got it right. The best haiku involve multiple senses, have layers of meaning and use ambiguity to keep the poem open to numerous interpretations. The line between ambiguity and befuddlement is a very thin one, and merely sounding gnomic isn’t enough.

Of the rest, there were a surprising number that failed because they weren’t edited well enough. Spelling is important, as is punctuation (if you use it). Be consistent – lots of poems (especially those padded out to seventeen syllables) used an article – ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘an’ – in one line but omitted it in another. It’s like wearing lipstick on only one lip – either option is fine, but not choosing is either lazy or bizarre. And still others used words that didn’t quite mean what they evidently thought they did. In competition, those sorts of errors will see your poem cut very quickly.

Writing in 1870, Emily Dickinson famously said:

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me,
I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off,
I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?

Reading through the best of this years’ entries, I got to feel the truth of her words, quite literally. Haiku is a subtle form of poetry, so its effects are quiet, but profound. And reading good haiku does produce a physical response – something in your body recognises deep truth, and for a moment you’re stilled, suspended, inside the moment. There were a little over two dozen poems that did this, and that continue to make me catch my breath on each rereading. So to all the placed and highly/ commended poems – thank you. It has been a privilege to spend the last month immersing myself in your work.

First place

her grandson’s lips
just a little like hers
chinese whispers

Even on the superficial level, this is an interesting image. A child whispering into an old woman’s ear (or vice versa), playing a game. The contrast between their physical appearance – old with young, male with female. Or is it more abstract? His lips are “just a little” like hers – we don’t know how young he is. Could he be learning to speak? Practicing new words, and not quite making the right sounds, the right shapes with his lips? We talk about learning our ‘mother tongue’, but grandmothers are often just as important, especially in modern families where mum might be at work much of the day. And then there’s another possibility – genetics. Inheritance. He is her grandson, and so only carries one quarter of her genes. Enough to be ‘like’, but ‘just a little’. And the game of chinese whispers is a perfect metaphor for the way that genetic information changes through generations.

This poem was in my top five from the first read-through. What gives it the edge in the end is how satisfying, how meaningful even on a superficial reading. From the ‘moment’ of noting a resemblance, to a consideration of the whole complexity of familial inheritance, with each layer complementing the next. The perfect synthesis of emotion and intelligence. Subtle, and very very good.

Second place

talking it through
beside the signer
the mayor again

Of all the earthquake-related haiku, this was the standout. But it earns its place regardless of the topicality. Did you notice the twist? Reread it. Not ‘beside the mayor’ (the usual figure of importance), but beside the signer. Just as everything in Christchurch has been turned upside down by the earthquakes, the usual order of importance has been reversed, and the star of the show is the figure signing. And that last word is superb – again. Earthquakes again. Bob Parker and his orange jacket again. More words, more press conferences, more officials giving official comments to the media. Again, again again. And through it all, through them all, the unlikely celebrities, NZSL interpreters Jeremy Borland and Evelyn Pateman, real people bringing a usually forgotten part of the community into prominence.

And that first line, “talking it through”. Through, in which sense? Via? About? During? Over? To the end? The officials, talking through the signers? The signers, talking through the media? The mayor doing deals on the sidelines? All of us, talking through the trauma and the chaos and the confusion? All of that, and more. A really good piece of writing, and one that will continue to work long after the aftershocks have ended.

Third place:

crowded
in my whisky glass
autumn stars

A lovely classical haiku, entirely bound into the image and the moment. Key here is the play of the images, and the shift of focus. Crowded – a human scale, combining a certain amount of confinement with an awareness of (occupied) space. Glass – small, intimate, vulnerable. And then autumn stars – opening out into the vast expanse of the night sky. You can feel the person looking into their glass, than raising their gaze upwards. Feel the whirling sensation of the alcohol matching the giddiness of the depths of space. The colour of the whisky and the golden hues of autumn, and the way stars seem brighter and more numerous then than at any other time of year. Are the stars also ice cubes in the whisky? The light reflecting from the glass as it is raised? Or from the liquid itself? It’s pure moment, and a very accomplished ‘ahhh’.

Fourth place

comparing shadows
my father’s
fading

Parents cast shadows – literal and metaphorical – over their children. Part of growing up is moving out of that shadow, and casting your own.

There is wonderful multiplicity in this poem, and it’s rooted in the words ‘shadows’ and ‘fading’, and the use of the apostrophe in the middle line. The superficial meaning is simple: we’re both looking at our shadows, and for some reason my father’s shadow is fading. Do we read “father’s” as a possessive? (The shadow of my father is fading?) Or as a contraction? (My father is fading?) Both?

Fading in what sense? Literally, because of a change in the light? Metaphorically, because he is growing less substantial? (Again, literally or metaphorically?) Is this a sudden realisation of a parent’s aging? (‘As we compare shadows, I realise my father is growing elderly’.) Or is the shadow a metaphor for his influence over ‘my’ life?
Five words; and an entire movie’s-worth of drama, pathos and conflict.

Fifth place

walking barefoot
over the paths of snails
summer dawn

Another haiku in the classical mode. The contrast of the silvery snail-trails and the golden red of the rising sun, the cold wetness of snails and the heat and dryness of a summer day. Not to mention the link between the bare feet of the human and the single foot of the cephalopod. You can choose to read this as a literal description – it’s dawn, it’s summer, I’m walking barefoot, and there are snail trails across the path. Or you can take a more romantic view – that it is Dawn personified, walking across the garden.

It’s a good example of focus shifting – looking down at bare feet, then further down and more focused to pick out the snail markings, and then up and out with an almost audible sigh to register summer dawn. And it’s very tactile – bare feet, slimy snails, hard path (concrete? Stone? Maybe dirt, or grass?) and summer warmth. Emotionally satisfying without ever being sentimental. A palpably lovely haiku.

Haiku Junior Section

1st (Winner of the Jeanette Stace Memorial Award): Amelia Stapley, Christchurch – ‘earthquake’

1st & 2nd Runner-up, Secondary: Harry Frentz, Tauranga – ‘last light’ and ‘autumn leaves’

1st Runner-up, Primary/Intermediate: Olivia Hay-Smith, Christchurch – ‘mother’s day’

2nd Runner-up, Primary/Intermediate: Gabby Dodd-Terrell, Christchurch – ‘ocean’

Highly Commended: Dominique Harrison, Christchurch; Emma Olsen, Christchurch; George Lester, Christchurch; Harry Frentz, Tauranga; Juliet McLachlan, Christchurch.

Commended: Adele Thurlow, Wanganui; Alexandra Henderson, Christchurch; Anaru Skipper, Arrowtown; Hannah Ban, Auckland; Hugh Mercer-Beumelburg, Christchurch; Jinwoong Choi, Christchurch; Juliet McLachlan, Christchurch; Juliette Newman, Christchurch; Leika McIver, Palmerston North; Liam Kelly (2), Christchurch; Maya Laws, Christchurch; Megan Kivell, Christchurch; Nathan Penrose (2), Christchurch; Nikki So-Beer, Rotorua; Oliver Hill, Lower Hutt; Siew Jey Ren, Singapore.

Judge’s Report (Judge: Owen Bullock)

My first reaction on reading through these haiku by young writers was of appreciation for their creativity; they seemed to be looking in every direction, with some healthy observations and descriptions of the world, including attempts at capturing the sounds of nature. A number of haiku in both sections were written over one or two lines, instead of three, creating variety. Several poems were presented as Haiga (with images), not really part of the brief of the competition, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Some writers, however, didn’t look at what was immediately in front of them; their haiku included too much comment or used old-fashioned language, with an overtly ‘poetic’ diction, as if there were some standard way to write poetry. Many used anthropomorphism (objects having human qualities), which is best avoided in haiku. Those written in the past tense lost power. A good number were written in strict 5-7-5 form, but very few were successful in this guise (only one being selected for its poetic ability and haiku spirit). Others needed to animate the emotion in the poem with more active verbs. Some haiku were written after another formula, e.g. presenting a single-word noun, followed by an action. Of these, a few worked surprisingly well, especially in the Primary and Intermediate section, but on the whole they had the effect of devaluing each other. It’s worth bearing in mind that, as time passes, certain words get overused, such as ‘beautiful’; the poet needs to work hard to find a fresh way to express the moment.

From the Secondary School entries, I made a short-list of 36 haiku, which was quickly whittled to 16 as I searched out those with a greater sense of a moment in time, rather than a nice idea. This was less intellectual material, though the odd metaphorical moment seemed to sit well poetically. The serious contenders numbered 10, and the strongest piece in this section was a subtle one-liner:

last light the colour in a falling leaf

I enjoyed the gentle observation here. The single line allows any ideas associated with any part of the poem to flow into and around each other. In what was to become the other Runner-Up, I valued the use of the word ‘rusty’ which is imaginative and out of the ordinary, the very kind of search for original speech mentioned above:

autumn leaves –
the woodpigeon’s
rusty call

It’s a simple haiku but given elegance by that choice of word.

Another which stood out (Highly Commended) was:

two fantails
round my head –
the martyr’s vow

This alludes to the vows of St Francis of Assisi. We are confident the poet will not harm the bird; at the same time, the birds form a halo around the human.
Whilst there was plenty to enjoy in this section, I did not yet feel I’d found something worthy of winning the competition.

I went on to the Primary and Intermediate section, where a similar process of selection saw a short-list of 44 haiku reduced to 20, then 15, then 10. As I read the poems aloud, there was one which brought tears to my eyes – that’s the overall winner:

Earthquake
Santa’s late

The tragedy this poem relates to can be read as a haiku or senryu (haiku about human nature). But we tend, I think, to see the event through the child’s eyes. This Santa could be either parent. They might be late because of helping others in the aftermath of the earthquake, or delayed in traffic. Perhaps they simply can’t afford presents this year, or, worst of all, they have been killed in the disaster. In the milder interpretation, the child’s point of view can seem selfish, the child is wrapped up in their own desires, but, after the upheaval of the earthquake, they can be excused for wanting a little comfort. This haiku speaks of the reality of the situation rather than any external expectation. Naturally, we think of the Christchurch earthquake last September and we know that no one was killed at that time, but because the place and date are not named in the haiku – and don’t need to be – it can be read in other contexts, including the tragedies of February 22nd.

Another haiku from this section moved me greatly:

Mother’s day
the silence of wet grass

This piece was a close Runner-Up. Normally, we think of flowers and other gifts for mother’s day, not wet grass and the possibility of the grave, so there’s an unexpectedness to the work which matches the content.

Second runnner-up:

ocean
she dreams
the whole world

What pleased me most in this section was the great variety of both subject and technique in the first dozen or so haiku.

It was a privilege to judge this competition. Congratulations to the place-getters and to all who wrote of their experiences for us to share.

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