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
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
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!
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!
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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