Thank you to everyone who participated in our first Readers’ Choice Awards! Almost a third the issue (22 poems) received at least one vote. Of those, 11 poems were horizontal one-line poems, and the other 11 were vertical and/or concrete poems. This 1:1 ratio is representative of the issue, which was half of the poems were horizontal and half were “everything else!” The winning poem received 12% of the vote.
We received some outstanding commentaries, which we are only able to share for the placing poems due to space, otherwise we’d be republishing a third of the issue! Please join us in congratulating the winner, runners-up, and second runners-up, and we hope you will participate again in our next Readers’ Choice Awards!
a garden chair rocking the sound of summer rain
- Bernadette O’Reilly, Ireland
These few words are filled with “the senses.” With my first reading I heard the rain and the sound of the chair rocking. Next, I saw the chair rocking in the rain. Then, I felt both the rain and the rocking - as if I were sitting in the chair. Last, I could smell the rain. - Margaret Walker
There is a clever play on words in the poem. While the image is common, the poem can be read different ways which makes it enjoyable and sweet. -Bonnie J Scherer
Runners-Up (tied), listed alphabetically:
a misunderstanding the length of the kitchen table
- Donna Kaplan, USA
I felt the long sweep of the word “misunderstanding” as it became the kitchen table, a place where family gathers and where these failures can hurt the most. I love the simplicity of how the poem creates distance with that core word itself and then moves into the feel of what it means to be at the far ends of that table. - Cynthia Hendel
Being a hardcore housewife or housewoman, I liked the way the poet has utilised this homely aspect of kitchen as the prime object in crafting this haiku. ‘a misunderstanding’ - has been so easily stated but I can visualise the scene with the provocation in the next following word... ‘the length of’. Yes, imagine the family members sitting apart, pushing their plates and laddle, literally showing the anger. What more scenes than on the kitchen table when that is the only place where we sit together to have a meaningful gupshop or cutting or placing the crockery, etc. I really understood the ‘misunderstanding’ and when that is revealed through the size of the table is the soul of this whole story. Thanks Donna!! - Lakshmi Iyer
winter crows the sky gone hollow
-Ann K. Schwader, USA
The beauty of this poem is the economy of words. The o’s in it increase the hollowness and sadness of it. The poem is bare like winter. My heart sinks with it. - Anonymous
before the morning after she knew
- Margaret Walker, USA
The poem is a mind twister to read but actually quite logical. - Bonnie J Scherer
Often haiku are successful with the magical six words, just as Hemingway’s haiku-like piece “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” We personally don’t know the “before and after” of whatever incident occurred with Margaret’s haiku. Unless we’re influenced by “the morning after” which may or may not be an allusion to the famous Emergency contraception pill. The haiku is fascinating as well as disturbing, is it about hindsight, is it a night of drunken mistakes followed by a morning of dread and realisation that time cannot be turned back.
Set aside “the morning” for a moment:
Both these interpretations are hinged or unhinged by “the morning”.
Six words, so many mistakes in life, if only the morning could happen before each night instead.
A haunting what if poem that the majority of us have experienced at least once, probably more. - Alan Summers
Second Runners-Up (tied), listed alphabetically:
soon just a speck in the blue balloon
- Christopher Peys, USA
I love not only the concrete imagery and the profound messages in this ku, but also how the poem begins by emphasizing the word “soon.” First, we are grounded in the now. While the poet is immersed in the image of the balloon becoming a speck and finally merging with the vast blue sky, it's as if each moment is becoming a balloon flying away into the sky. It is a realization that each moment is free of me. But am I working to be free of each moment?
Also, the balloon symbol has been skillfully used by the poet to highlight so many meanings, like how we can try to rise above the conflicts of daily existence. A balloon is a container for air that can burst suddenly, implying our confrontation with grief and reality and the consequent maturing of the spirit and mind. As I write this commentary, I realise my words are leading me towards a new-found freedom. - Richa Sharma
- Chad Lee Robinson, USA
A very clever use of the inverse format. As my eyes follow the words up the page my spirits are lifted ‘beyond birdsong’. Delightful! - Nick T
I like the challenge of figuring out how to read this poem. While it makes some sense reading from top to bottom with words inverted, most likely the poet meant for it to be read from the bottom up. - Bonnie J Scherer
Thank you to everyone who participated in our first Readers’ Choice Awards! Almost half the issue (27 poems) received at least one vote. Of those, 11 poems received 5% of the vote. The winning poem received 12% of the vote.
We received some outstanding commentaries, which we are only able to share for the placing poems due to space, otherwise we'd be republishing half the issue! Please join us in congratulating the winner and runners-up and we hope you will participate again in our next Readers’ Choice Awards!
scattered dandelion we age into wishes we’d forgotten
- Pris Campbell, USA
This haiku evokes a strong sense of the “what-if's,” the dreams there was never quite enough time to achieve, the sense that parts of our “self” have scattered as easily as the dandelion “fluff.” - Margaret Walker
I love the honesty this poem expresses, the honesty of aging, perhaps dementia, when memories of childhood can be more vivid than what happened five minutes ago. Blowing a dandelion and making a wish. Beautifully expressed yet tinged with sadness. - Sue Courtney
I appreciate this poem because it reflects back how I feel about my own life for the last four years. - Anonymous
Beautifully written with depth. Lots of thoughts swimming around my head. - Linda H.
Runners-Up (tied), listed alphabetically:
morning frost the sun paints back the grass
- Birk Andersson, Sweden
Here we have an apparent simple case of the frost being burnt off as the morning deepens into full day. The use of the verb ‘paints’ might seem anthropomorphic, but those of us who have started for work before most people set out for the day, will have seen this seemingly magical act of the sun as if’s it’s a watercolourist. We have the transition from the really early morning, that still feels like night, until it's gradually released from the hold of night, heading towards actual daylight and morning. The coming day’s palette starts to increase, and then there is often that strong brushstroke sweep turning grey looking grass into its more engaging daylight colour. It feels both a haiku of literal actions, but also symbolic of hope and a new day of chances with those key words “paint” and “back” combined. - Alan Summers
Nice personification. And though the theme might seem simplistic, a lot happens in for me in only 8 words. A picture is painted in my mind, one over time, more like a film, starting with night, frost, sunrise, melting frost, green blades and the beginning of a new day. And that, in turns, creates a cozy feeling/emotion/experience. - Linda H.
the world i would have made for you crocus blooms
- Deborah A. Bennett
The wistfulness and yearning. It is such a tender poem. Who is being addressed -- the crocus blooms? Or someone dear who is no longer present? Crocus are the harbingers of spring, the promise that winter will not last forever, but their time is short. This one touched my heart the minute I read it. - Beverly Acuff Momoi
the Braille of birch trees
- Stefanie Bucifal, Germany
I can feel that tree in my mind reading this. The choice of Braille to describe it is brilliant. - Pris Campbell
The sense of touch here is overwhelming! My fingers immediately felt the unique bark of the birch. - Margaret Walker
whales breaching the inside of a wish
- Aidan Castle, USA
I find this poem stunning. Its fragment is particularly evocative, and capturing the excitement of seeing a whale breach brings such sensory delight. The first and last word beginning with “W” really make this fun to say. - Eavonka Ettinger
humpback whale the grief finally surfacing
- Kerry J Heckman, USA
This haiku incorporates multiple senses - sight, sound and smell (salt water) are obvious. But to this reader there is also “touch.” The escape of hair when the whale breaches and the “cry” that accompanies that escape “feels” like grief finally allowed to surface. This haiku has great resonance. - Margaret Walker
Oh, I feel this one. Great analogy. - Linda H.
a flocking of light finches dawn
- Renée Owen, USA
Whether the poet and their poem intended to be “read a certain way,” my personal reading/interpretation is where ‘finches’ becomes a verb. Finching: The dark practice of hunting finches (bird) or the competitive sport of displaying the birds. Here I’ll go instead with the coming day showing off a team display of light.
Flocking suggests birds, and birds refract light appearing as specks of light across the skyline. Are these the small song birds, of which there are seventeen types in Northern America? My guess is that this could be Lesser Goldfinches and the early sun is catching them, perhaps in a low winter sun when they flock in even larger numbers. A wonderful haiku, where flocking is a noun and not a verb and finches is not a noun but a verb. A joyful tangle of words where light is birds or birds are light perhaps. - Alan Summers
witching hour feeding my baby into the blackbird
- Meera Rehm, Nepal
Google barely helps. Maybe this can be our modern definition of yūgen? Just kidding, I think. Robust and evocative – and a little bit unnerving. - Shawn Blair
her hands folding the cold rhododendron leaves
- Joshua St. Claire, USA
Achingly beautiful imagery, simply crafted. - Shawn Blair
morning fog clearing his throat of crows
- Rich Schilling, USA
I love how the idea of “a frog in my throat” is made via the fog (so close) and the need to clear his throat. The visual image and raucous sound of crows coming through the fog/from his mouth are sublime. - Eavonka Ettinger
hedgerow song ब्रह्म मुहूर्त the blackbird hour
- Alan Summers, England
I love the use of hindi to represent the hedgerow song. It gave me an idea of experimenting with music notes in a poem of my own. - Pris Campbell
embracing the impossible winter wood frogs
- Wai Mei Wong, Canada
Can humans cryosleep and wood frogs dream of electric sheep? We may never know the latter, but wood frogs (Alaska and Canada) go deep frozen through the winter so that they wake quicker than their companion species who sleep underwater. While the human animal species attempt to embrace the seemingly impossible in various ways, the wood frog succeeds. Humans can still carry hope “embracing the impossible” and those who live in some of the most extreme of weathers are embracing the impossible winter, but none so quietly and effortlessly as the wood frog. A lovely natural history haiku, of not so much of mice and men, but frogs and people surviving harsh conditions, and enabling hope perhaps. - Alan Summers