High-ku Challenge Winners

An inside look into the Vocal Curation Team's favorite poems from the High-ku Challenge

By Vocal Curation TeamPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 4 min read
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Out of respect for Matsuo Bashō, and in honor of his invention of the haiku in sixteenth century Japan, this post will be brief.

The beauty of the haiku lies in its economy of language—no word, syllable or letter out of place; every ounce of energy in 17 syllables. Though, over the past century or so since haiku has spread from Japan, it, like so many art forms, has been reinterpreted by its appreciators. Some haiku may have 17 syllables divided in a 5/7/5 pattern, though many great haiku do not. We have chosen to honor the classic form for this Challenge.

What all great poets and writers agree on is that a haiku should be arresting in its message, often based in nature, economical in its wording, and end with a moment that takes one’s breath away. This last point is what differentiated the winners of this challenge. While there were countless beautiful haiku to read, there were some that achieved the rare clarity and surprise of a great haiku. The last line of a haiku should be unexpected. It should open the poem up and make us look up from the page (or screen) and see far more than the few short lines in front of us.

Thank you for all of the incredible haiku. They were a joy to read. Be sure to check out all of the winners here and leave a comment to show your support. If you did not win this time, there are more opportunities on the horizon. The haiku format was so popular that we will be holding another haiku challenge very soon. Keep an eye on your inbox for more details.

$1,000 Grand Prize Winner

Avya M for Balance

Yes, even a wind

through the wild mountain bank

pinnacles and stills

Ayva M has written a classic haiku, committing to the form’s rigid but beautiful aspects with near perfection. We start with a wind, move through a wild mountain bank, and conclude with that wind coming to rest. What sets this haiku apart is its balance of imagery and action, as well as its use of the word pinnacle as a verb. So delicate and subtle are haiku that this one word, pinnacle, is enough to make the poem sing. As readers, we can feel the wind rising against the mountain peak and resting in the mountain’s cleft after its torrential journey. Congratulations, Ayva M!

$250 Second Place Winner

Dane BH for They Were Mountain People

her first time on skis,

she watched him go down whistling

then followed, for life

Dane BH has given us the wonderful final turn every great haiku needs. "then followed, for life." The use of the comma is the perfect pause to allow the magnitude of this final moment to land. Dane BH has also given us something especially difficult within a haiku: a complete story. With only fifteen words, we are given a lifetime. Congratulations, Dane BH!

Honorable Mention

Maddie Kate for Two Ends of The Same Current

Mountain grass sways in

The wind - that same wind touches

My long, dead hair strands

Maddie Kate’s haiku made excellent use of its title, an often overlooked aspect of almost all writing. It gave a powerful and clear explanation of the haiku without taking away its power. And, one cannot read the final line without getting the express feeling that we are all connected to the earth. Hair and grass in the wind, each swaying, one alive and the other dead. Imagery, efficiency, a twist. Well done, Maddie Kate!

Honorable Mention

Diara Alvarado for The Postcard

Snow-sprinkled mountains

Tomorrow’s ghostly postcard

A quiet goodbye

Diara Alvarado’s haiku left us asking questions. It’s often difficult to paint an abstract poem that is still grounded, one in which we are not lost but rather open to multiple potential meanings. This is where we felt Diara’s voice as a writer came through most clearly: in the poem’s possibility of interpretation. Was someone on a trip and sad to leave the mountains? Or is this a lament of climate change, once-snowy mountains silently balding of snow? These are just two potential interpretations, but we were able to imagine countless others that moved us equally. Well done, Diara Alvarado!

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Comments (31)

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  • Evelyn about a month ago

    Congratulations to the winners and all the writers who continue to write. 🖤

  • Neil Spencerabout a month ago

    This is great! These winners and mentions are lovely. Great to see haiku which uses classic structure, with a contemporary connection to life. It's interesting, I feel like they're connected to the cycle of life together. One informing the other. Like, the first author has gone through a divorce. More stodgy and lonely. A wind moving through a pinnacle, and then resting. While the runner-up winner, is possibly in a new love relationship, or marriage — and is super excited to follow their partner. Different stages, different views

  • Em Starrrrr2 months ago

    Very deserving winners, and some great insights and tips for the current Blue Haiku challenge. Congrats all.

  • The Light Keeper2 months ago

    Learnt so much from this informative post. ..Back to the drawing board. Thank you.

  • Patti Hodder2 months ago

    Beautiful work!

  • Eva Silva2 months ago

    So I suppose there is no need to rhyme? I’d never heard of a haiku until now. This is very interesting!

  • Aza Y Alam2 months ago

    Enjoyed reading each haiku. The commentary, providing insights into both construction and interpretation was insightful and interesting to read as well.

  • PK Colleran2 months ago

    What an insightful look into the makings of a great haiku! Thanks for this article, and congratulations to the wonderful winning writers.

  • Peter Thompson2 months ago

    Really interesting post

  • Martha Ball2 months ago

    So helpful to learn more about the history and intent of Haikus before reading fantastic examples from the winners. Well done all!

  • Maddi Clarke2 months ago

    Thank you very much! Loved hearing these insights and reading the beautiful words of these other creators :)

  • Congratulations 🎉 Everyone!!! I'm Glad I Read this and Learned Something!

  • Diara Alvarado 2 months ago

    Such an honor. Thank you very much!

  • Tracy Willis2 months ago

    Love the economy of haiku. Great challenge!

  • CJ Miller2 months ago

    I'm no poet, so haiku was a fun way to try out the art form. I also enjoyed reading the different ways folks approached the subject.

  • Alida Rodriguez2 months ago

    I wrote one the other day and sent it to my husband. Haiku Want to bring me some tee pee? I just went pee pee There’s not a square left in sight

  • Zack Graham2 months ago

    Very cool that you guys gave a contest breakdown for this one - very encouraging! Congratulations to all the winners and contestants that took the time to write something!

  • Harmony Kent2 months ago

    Huge congratulations to everyone who entered and to the winners and runners up. Wonderful poetry! 💕🙂

  • Dee Morrison2 months ago

    Congratulations to the winners and runners-up! 🎉🥳 These are beautiful creations and it's great to see so many talented people in the Vocal community, well done everyone!

  • Kendall Defoe2 months ago

    Okay, not a bad list... ;)

  • Morgana Miller2 months ago

    Hey!! Thank you vocal mods for taking the time to write up a winner announcement! It's really gratifying as a creator to engage with the judges in this way. I had so much fun with this haiku challenge, excited that there will be another. Congrats winners, these are really great entries, I can see why they were chosen!

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Congratulations to all that entered and the above winners!

  • KW7112 months ago

    Congrats to the winners!!

  • Andrea Lawrence2 months ago

    This was a fun challenge. Thank you for giving your reasons as to why these poems spoke to the judges.

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