3rd Yamadera Bashō Memorial Museum English Haiku Contest

There was a strong Australian contribution to the contest this year as highlighted by Professor Oba in his report shown below. Hearty congratulations to Pamela Smith for winning the grand prize in the foreign country section and to Nathalie Buckland for her distinguished work prize. Their poems in English and Japanese can be seen at:

Noboru Ōba
Chair of the Board of Directors
Yamagata City Culture Foundation

This year marks the third Yamadera Bashō Memorial Museum English haiku contest. When we established this competition two years ago, it was with a mixture of hope and uncertainty, but we are pleased to note that this contest has attracted an increasing amount of attention and recognition with each passing year. 570 applicants submitted a total of 830 haiku to this year’s contest, surpassing last year’s total of 306 applicants and 462 haiku submissions. We are especially pleased at the large increase we saw in Division 3 submissions from high school students, which we see as a hopeful sign that our contest will continue to attract the interest of the younger generation. We were also happy to receive haiku submissions from a group of elementary school students in Kyoto, which we have included in a “special division” category. As we lacked a division for elementary school students in our submission guidelines, these works were not eligible for screening, but it is our great pleasure to be able to present these excellent haiku which serve as an example of the very high potential elementary school students have for haiku composition. We also received submissions from 47 applicants in foreign countries, 21 of whom were from Australia. I believe that we owe a debt of gratitude to the network of the Australian haiku poet Beverley George, who visited our Bashō Memorial Museum with her haiku companions last December, and I look forward to the continued growth and activity of the Australian Haiku Society. With regards to the Division 1 category, we were disappointed that we continue to receive no submissions from college students, and we also noted a decrease in submissions from our neighboring prefecture of Miyagi. We believe that this may be a result of the recent earthquake, and we mourn the people who died during this tragedy, and pray for the recovery of the injured and the revival of the stricken areas.

In the hopes of raising interest in English haiku and to express our appreciation to all who take part in our contest, we until now distributed this anthology of haiku submissions to all contest participants. However, the significant increase in haiku submissions we received this year resulted in a considerably longer anthology, forcing us to make a change in this policy. In addition to downsizing the anthology, we will also be sending participating junior high and high schools a limited number of copies. We ask for your understanding in this matter.

In the haiku judging process, we naturally excluded applicant names and other personal data to ensure that the judging was free from bias, and to allow us to focus our attention on the works themselves. In each division, we selected one Grand Prize winner and two Distinguished Work recipients (the names of these prizes have been altered somewhat from the names given in our submission guidelines). All of the prizewinning works were succinct and effective, with a content that strongly appealed to the heart of the reader. In addition to these prizewinning haiku, the works we received from the other foreign applicants were also concice and elegant, and I believe they can serve as a model of English haiku composition for all of us. I encourage all Japanese people interested in composing English haiku, particularly those at the beginning stages, to look carefully at these works.

Finally, I would like to conclude this foreword by thanking all the members of this year’s judging panel. I would like to express my great appreciation to Head Judge Takehisa Iijima, Professor Emeritus of Yamagata University, who led our judging panel with sound judgment and enthusiasm, as well as to Justin Orasky, Yamagata City International Exchange Society CIR, and, last but not least, Lisa Somers, translator and part-time employee of the Yamagata City Cultural Foundation.