HaikuNow! Winners for 2011

The Haiku Foundation created the HaikuNow! contest in order to encourage writers to explore English-language haiku. This year’s contest drew participants from over 50 countries. We had 240 entries in the Innovative category, 303 entries in the Contemporary category and 315 in Traditional.

We are pleased to announce the winners for the 2011 HaikuNow! contests:

Indian summer
mother dyes her graying hair
the color of straw

—Tom Painting

the river freezes . . .
silence is also
an answer

—Francine Banwarth

we turn turn our clocks ahead

—Christopher Patchel


Please see the HaikuNow! archive page for all the judges’ comments!


  1. Ed Williams (UK) says

    picking up on the turning clocks forward theme….

    spring forward leap back
    its morning, I forgot, dam
    sunlight floods my eyes

    I have enjoyed reading the archives – thanks

  2. Larry Bole says

    Was what is meant by “Innovative” defined for the contest, or was it left up to the contest entrants to interpret what is meant by the term?

    Mr. Kacien defines two predominant types of haiku received in this year’s “Innovative” category for the contest: “shape” poems and “language” poems.

    He defines “language” poems this way: “the experience conveyed is one conjured by the way words interact, more than any attempt at a natural correlative.” I assume he means by “natural correlative” a reference to some aspect of nature, such as flora or fauna, or naturally-occurring phenomenon, or naturally-occurring objects.

    So one might ask: is any haiku that doesn’t make reference to nature in some way an “innovative” haiku? And are haiku that don’t make reference to nature in some way solely dependent on “the way [their] words interact” to have meaning or significance? One might argue that “the way words interact” is fundamental to what makes poetry poetry, and therefore not particularly “innovative.”

    Are there other qualities besides “shape” and “the way words interact” as “language” that could make a haiku “innovative,” such as innovative subject matter? Is there any “innovative” subject matter left? Does the use of mimesis as a poetic technique make a haiku “innovative?” Is “innovation” only possible in haiku anymore by experimentation with “shape” and “language”? What is “experimental” when it comes to “language?” Can there be a conceptual haiku of zero syllables, which might exist as only a prosaic description of what the haiku would have been about, had it been written?

    I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint that haiku shouldn’t be “bejeweled” but, for those who do, isn’t there a certain amount of “bejeweledness” in “shape” poems and poems that use mimesis as a poetic technique?

    What English-language haiku currently suffers from a lack of, and has for some time now, is a critic of the caliber of Shiki, one who is not afraid to point out when the emperor is not weaering any clothes.

    I give Robert Wilson credit for at least making the attempt to be such a critic.

    What if I made up the following song to teach children about daylight savings time:

    We turn turn our clocks ahead,
    our clocks ahead, our clocks ahead;
    we turn turn our clocks ahead,
    so early in the morning.

    And then I told you that I was going to extract the first line from that children’s song, and call it an “innovative” haiku. Would me calling it that make it innovative? Make it a haiku?


  3. H. Gene Murtha says

    actually, I like the feel of Christopher’s “turn turn.” Twice per
    year, I have to take down the kitchen clock and turn turn the
    the knob on back of the wall clock either ahead, or back.

  4. Larry Bole says

    In spite of the garbled mess of an essay that is “Re-inventing the Wheel,” I agree with some of Robert’s points, although I disagree with others.

    Kigo is first and foremost a ‘seasonal word’. It is meant to indicate a season. A majority of such indications are natural phenomenon, or nature references in terms of plants and animals. But kigo have very specific associations. Although rain in spring can be torrential, “spring rain” as a traditional Japanese kigo is always a quiet, gentle rain.

    ‘Human Affairs’ can be seasonal references. I believe this was true even in Basho’s time. If not, please let me know.

    ‘Daylight Savings Time’ is as much a seasonal reference as the Japanese ‘Apprentices’ Holiday’ or ‘Dolls’ Festival’. I believe these were considered legitimate kigo, or ‘seasonal words’ in Basho’s era, and for sure by Buson’s era.

    Doing a quick search on the internet, I see that at least 70 countries use daylight savings time in at least a part of the country. Of the major industrialized countries, only Japan, India and China do not observe some form of daylight savings.

    As a separate issue, is “we turn turn our clocks ahead” a good haiku, or at least an interesting haiku? Not in my opinion.

    I have no problem with allusions to popular song, but if that is the poet’s intention, then repeating the word “turn” three times would make that clearer in relation to Pete Seeger’s song.

    It has also been suggested that “turn turn” is mimetic of the action described. That is true, but so what? In my opinion, mimesis is a tool that can help make a poem interesting, but mimesis by itself does not make a poem (well, maybe a children’s poem).

    And that is the problem with this haiku: it sounds like a children’s chant. And as cute as that may be, it’s not interesting in terms of the haiku genre where, even in a ‘single-object’ poem (see Haruo Shirane, “Traces of Dreams,” pp. 111-115 for a discussion of this), one expects a little more resonance of some sort to exist.

    Larry Bole

  5. Patrick Sweeney says


    My “subjective cognition” was triggered by your parody “he pee pees on the trunk of a young oak” which I perceived as excessive, stinging ridicule. I understand your ethical point and the need for examples, but must one kill a cat to enlighten?
    No matter. I seek no internecine strife with you, a poet I have long admired.
    I am relieved to learn that I have misread and misjudged your intentions. Please forgive me.
    I read your article. Your knowledge and erudition is rich and vast.
    I am no scholar. Yet I believe modern haiku poets, especially those seeking to innovate, should feel free to step off the worn path of tradition, loosen the pedantic snares of convention and enter the wild, untrodden places
    to include both the mind and above all, the compassionate heart of existence.
    If something new gets born in the process, let’s name it and raise it as our own.

    Gambatte kudasai!

  6. Lorin Ford says

    yes, I appreciated that interview, too, Adam. Shirane always invites us to take thought, to see haiku, whether Japanese or EL, as poetry.

    – Lorin

  7. Ed Markowski says

    great discussion great points but to be succinct …..

    first kiss ….. we somersault down ….. a roadless road


  8. adam traynor says

    I found Robert D. Wilson’s article instructive and I bet many people will be cheered by it. But please also read his interview with Prof. Haruo Shirane in the same issue of Simply Haiku. An excerpt:

    RDW: Is it imperative to utilize Japanese aesthetics as tools in the composition of English haiku? Due to the genre’s shortness, is it possible to compose a haiku in English without being object-biased? Can Western haiku poets possess a double vision, an awareness of an object and the unsaid, and at the same time, view haiku objectively as “a text in constant motion objectively”?

    HS: I don’t think there is a need to utilize Japanese aesthetics. What is Japanese aesthetics anyway? Is there an American aesthetic? Disneyland? The Wild West? Walden Pond? Baseball? You can find an aesthetic where you want to. It is not a given, and it is constantly changing. Poets make their own aesthetics, through their poetry, and they draw on the aesthetics of those who came before them. It is both inherited and created, but it is not fixed. North American haiku poets can draw on a certain vision they may have of Japanese aesthetics, but each will have his or her own view, and that is the way it should be. Or they can choose to ignore Japan.

    Yes, it is possible to compose an English haiku that is not object-biased. I don’t think there are any set rules here. The only thing that I would stress is the need for haiku to have overtones. This is true of all poetry. That is what distinguishes poetry from prose, the fact that something radiates beyond the literal meaning of the words, that you are saying one thing but implying more than that. If that implication or overtone comes from intertextual resonance or from some literary or cultural reference, that is fine. Or that implication may come from a simply image or landscape. One is not necessarily superior to the other.

    The interview is here:


  9. lulu says

    In a very real way, R. D. Wilson has contributed to answering the question posited by Don Baird on THF Forum: “Is the Clock Ticking on Haiku?”

    To see how, and where Wilson thinks haiku is today – and where it may be going – his wonderfully exhaustive essay on “Reinventing the Wheel” is scholarly and annotative. He analyzes many haiku, a number by well-published poets (some THF regulars) whose work has been singled out as notable, but which he believes fall well short of the basics. His counterpoint, however, surveys wonderful examples of haiku that he believes capture the very soul of haiku (THF regulars too).

    Specifically, and at length, Wilson shakes up the notion that every short poem (from three-lines to one word) is a haiku, that a haiku need not conform to any rules, and that it can be about anything and everything “‘. . . eroticism, psychological expression, political and social commentary” (Bruce Ross, 1993).’”

    I am glad/grateful for Wilson’s Troutswirl posting, and Sasa Vazic’s guidance to his essay. His commentary is an affirmation of much of what I see as passing for haiku today, and stimulates me to capture “within the genre a path, a way to compose poetry that adheres to tenets that are proven, work well, and produce first-class haiku.”

  10. Allan Burns says

    The poem evokes both the coming of springtime and the concomitant lengthening of days, natural phenomena both, even if from within the context of a built environment. It is a 21st-century American poem, reflecting its time and place, submitted for the “Innovative” category of a contest; therefore, it seems inappropriate to attempt to judge it as if it were intended to be a 17th-century Japanese poem. New evolutionary departures in any number of directions, both in Japan and abroad, are, in my view, signs of the genre’s continuing relevance and vitality rather than of its imminent demise.

  11. Kathy Lippard Cobb says

    I guess I will put in my two cents here. I do not think Robert meant to denigrate Christopher’s haiku. After all, this posting area is for poet opinions/comments. If this area were only filled with “nice job” or “wonderful,” it would not serve the intended purpose. Robert was simply stating his opinion on a particular type of haiku that did well in this competition. His comments were objective and appeared to hold no ill will. Had Robert’s comments been more cryptic regarding the author, there would be numerous posts both online and offline asking questions regarding authorship.

  12. says

    The usage of “turn your clocks ahead” or “turn your clocks back” as a kigo, negates the essence of nature as it was originally meant to be understood by Basho and others, untainted by the colonization of Japanese haiku by the German based university system and the subsequent need to define Japanese styles (re-named: aesthetics) using the language used to interpret the bible, which has a different set of meanings, many that are unable to grasp, in full, the intention and insight of the words used to write a haiku in Japanese. If your stance is for English language usage only, and for consideration as a kigo for the Anglo-Western conceptualization of what is and isn’t a haiku, it should be pointed out that not all English speaking countries recognize daylight savings time, thus, if to be considered as a kigo, it would have to be geospheric specific kigo.

    Nature is more than a reference or a set of objects. Nature, as used in early Japanese haiku, is an ever changing continuum of creative energy (activity biased: koto versus object biased: mono). Yes, all words in the Yamato penned haiku were codified. As
    non-Japanese poets from different or similar cultural melting pots, this codification in haiku is unnecessary, and not a matter of style (aesthetics).

    Something to think about.

  13. says

    Dear Patrick,

    No denigration was or is intended. That is your subjective cognition regarding what I wrote. I suggest
    you read my article, Re-inventing The Wheel, in the current issue of Simply Haiku, in full. It’s important to give examples, and to do so without naming a poem’s author, lacks credibility, and is unethical.

  14. Allan Burns says

    “turn our clocks ahead” (daylight savings time) is a neat modern kigo, clearly making this a spring poem, with both trad and innovative tendencies.

    As Jim nicely observes, “[Christopher’s] repetition of the verb recapitulates the action described.” Exactly so, and this aesthetic technique would not work to such good effect in most other contexts. I also like the way the poem exploits the grammatical ambiguities inherent in the (now-very-trad) one-line format, especially as a reader first parses the words (“we turn”, as in “around” or…?; “turn turn” as in “to everything there is a season” or…? usw). These additional ghosts of meaning contribute to the overall effect.

    Allan Burns

  15. Patrick Sweeney says


    Your ideas about the haiku form and its noble history could have been expressed without denigrating the work of the poet in question.

    Patrick Sweeney

  16. says

    God was pronounced dead in the 1960’s. Some in Japan heralded the epitaph, Kill the Buddha!” Shiki once declared that haiku was on the verge of extinction. What is labeled today as Western English language haiku is in the throes of death. In it’s battle to reinvent itself into a socio-biospherical genre apart from Japan, they have succeeded. Anglo-Western haiku and Japanese haiku are distinctly different entities. Why advocates of Modern American haiku people still call their invent a Japanese name (haiku) is beyond me. To laud the following simple sentence one of the best haiku for 2011 by the Haiku Foundation is also beyond me in that it lacks the meter indigenous to haiku, makes no kigo reference, is object biased, and makes no use of aesthetics:
    – Hide quoted text –

    we turn turn our clocks ahead
    —Christopher Patchel

    We can write simple sentences like this all day long:

    * We put put a towel around our waists

    * I drink drink summer wine in the patio

    * he pee pees on the trunk of a young oak

    Perhaps modern English Western haiku is dead.

    come back,
    basho, the new melons
    are bloated

    robert d. wilson

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