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Simply Haiku: Winter Kukai Results

The results are in! The winner of the First Annual Simply Haiku Winter Kukai is Hugh Waterhouse from the United Kingdom. Congratulations, Hugh. An honor well earned. The Judges, Carole MacRury and Michael McClintock, had a lot of fine entries to study and contemplate. Selecting a winner was not easy. Laryalee Frazer from Canada is the second place winner. Congratulations, Laryalee. Darrell Byrd and Ron Moss tied for third place. Congratulations Darrell and Ron. Honorable mention awards go to Zhanna P. Rader, Kirsty Karkow, Tomislav Maretic, Peigi Ann Sway, Carmel C. Lively, and Marjorie Buettner.

A special thanks to Carole and Michael for judging the Kukai. Their biographical information is found here:

See the winning entries below and read the comments made by the judges. You are in for a treat!

Robert Wilson, Haiku Editor, Simply Haiku

Judges' Commentary: Carole MacRury (CM) and Michael McClintock (MMc)


over the frosty hill
comes a stick
then a dog

Hugh Waterhouse [bio] [email]

This one leapt off the page when I first read it. It's very simple, but so authentic! The concise crafting leads us by the nose - first the hill, then the stick, then the dog. Never the poet! It engages the reader fully in the moment. It is joyful, lively and playful. It asks to be nothing more and it works extremely well. I appreciated the attentiveness to concreteness and objectivity. -CM

This has Zen-like humor, surprise and gusto. Someone is out playing in the frosty air with dog and stick. Here is playful joy, playfully and simply captured, delivered without sentimentality or syrup. A quick little moment from real life. The poem has no special depth or other pretensions: it is not a deep poem, but is excellently written and realized. -MMc


waving goodbye -
the winter wind thick
against my fingers

Laryalee Frazer [bio] [email]

I appreciated the alliteration and assonance in this haiku and the way my mouth moved over the vowels and consonants as I read it aloud. I found the word 'thick' richly suggestive. This winter parting suggests a heaviness not only of wind, but of spirit too. The waving hand is held up against the heaviness of the wind. There is a sense of lingering, stalling for time. I found this an evocative and sensory haiku and enjoyed the careful attention made to word choice. -CM

A memorable poem--visually, kinetically, and aurally, with the word choices "thick/against" showing good technical skill in their placement and fine poetic evocation of the unnamed emotion. This poem grew on me over time; for me, it had what I call "subjective endurance." -MMc


bright winter sky
curlews wedge their way
into the wind

Darrell Byrd

I enjoyed the poet's use of clear and dynamic language. The verb 'wedge' makes this haiku come alive for me. The opening line gives us a broad canvass with which to imagine these curlews. It speaks not of storms or clouds, just wind. Yet one is left to imagine something very physical about the way the birds are flying into this headwind. I enjoyed the contrast between a bright blue sky and the fight to stay on course, which provided added depth to my reading. -CM

This poem also grew on me over time; I went back to it again and again. I had certainly read hundreds of poems about birds in winter. What was it about this one that drew me back to it? Well, certainly that wonderful repetition of the "w" sound, helping me to hear those beating wings into what is, I am sure, a headwind. The poem has visual beauty of a type rather common in poems on this subject, but it gains points in its subtle mixture of beauty with menace, or with hope and danger--hope that the sky and weather remain clear for the birds to survive their long, late flight to warmer climes, and danger that the wind they rely on for their flight may also be blowing directly toward them the storm that does them in. The use of the word "wedge" is critical and skillfully placed, describing not just the shape of the formation but the right verb to describe the birds' difficulty in taking flight, having to fight the wind to both rise into it and gain the right altitude. There is subtlety here, very good control of language, and I think a mature and wise appreciation for the ambiguities inherent in nature. -MMc


first light . . .
yesterday's ice skates
glisten with frost

Ron Moss

This image sparkles with clear concise writing. Once past the frosty ice-skates, I circled immediately back to the word 'yesterday's' to look for a deeper meaning besides the initial image of frosty skates. Although a bit ambiguous, I appreciated the way this haiku set the dawning of a new day against a glimpse of yesterday. This was an unusual and surprising juxtaposition. -CM

Another poem where language is very much in control, each word chosen with care and placed with skill within the poem. Especially intriguing to me is the absence of any over meaning, this haiku's complete reliance on image, and its invitation to us to ponder or meditate on that alone, rather like what we find in some of Buson's finest poems. We might wish we knew more about why the poet has described them as "yesterday's" skates, but Ron Moss is not saying. What does the poem mean? There is no clear answer to that question at all. Through its juxtaposed images, this haiku delivers the essential mystery and "thus-ness" of the real, mute world just as it is, to be witnessed all around us in its mute glory. There is no special meaning to those skates. They are a mystery; they are part of the mystery of existence. We are forced to admire them, to notice them for what they are . . . and they are beautiful to look at and see in the "first light", gleaming and frosty. -MMc


chilly air -
the winter-flowering cherry
hosts a mockingbird

Zhanna P. Rader

This one makes me smile as I feel a tinge of the author's wit with her choice of the word 'hosts.' It's winter and it's chilly, yet this cherry tree is blooming. As if a table is set, the branches are filled with flowers and the mockingbird has settled in the tree. Maybe he's mocking winter. The connotations of the bird's name are not lost on me when I read this one. The concise writing and dynamic verb made this a fun haiku to read. -CM

I very much enjoyed the whole "mockingbird", blooming-in-winter mix-up here. -MMc

late afternoon
at the harbor market
one codfish for sale

kirsty karkow

I appreciated the smooth pivot line in this haiku and its fine crafting. The codfish as winter kigo kept me at a bit of a distance as I searched for what this image might be saying. Perhaps it's simply a market scene showing the leftovers of the day - one lone fish. I'm uncertain as to what the codfish kigo suggests for winter, but I couldn't help but be reminded of the over-fishing of cod on our shores and its environmental impact. Either way, I felt a strong sense of depletion with this haiku. There was a tired feeling thinking of this one last codfish losing its freshness at the end of day. -CM

I found myself wishing there was more to this one. Why only one fish? Was it just a case of arriving at the market after everyone else had been there, too "late" in that "late afternoon"? Or has the fishing been bad? One fish for sale means really no choice for the latecomer? Despite these yearnings for more, there is a memorable saltiness to this haiku's glum little moment.-MMc

winter morning
our baby tapping
from her belly

Tomislav Maretic

Although the wording feels a bit awkward, I find this a very sensual and warm moment. Set against a cold morning, we have a bed, a baby and a couple; a scene suggesting a snug sense of hibernation. All right, I imagined the bed. But not difficult to do, I think! It's a cold morning; perhaps the baby's movements woke them up. This haiku shows the promise of spring within winter's grasp. Like a tulip bulb that waits beneath winter's hard ground, the baby waits to be born. There is a deep and warm sense of spring fertility in this winter haiku. -CM

Is this poem deliberately trying to tug at our heartstrings? Maybe. The contrast of the cold winter morning, outside, with the warmth of life, inside, tapping its message of arrival (due in spring?) within the woman's belly, is interesting and effective. -MMc

the beach winter


Only five words, yet this haiku really rang a bell for me. Even the spacing directed my reading in such a way that each word reverberated in my mind. The word 'unfrozen' is evocative and opened my mind to many different thoughts. One thinks of what freezes in winter? As well as flora and fauna, we think of emotions. But the beach remains unfrozen. The sea continues to ebb and flow. The poet could not have been more concise. Nothing more was needed. This is a memorable haiku that hints of cold realities yet appreciates and recognizes, even seeks out, the positive in nature. -CM

We both found merit in the poem's starkness, but disagreed about the effects and use of the word "unfrozen." This notwithstanding, it seemed to belong in the top ten. -MMc

midnight shift
two piss holes
in the snow

Carmel C. Lively

I enjoyed this poem for the sense of comradeship and warmth it brought to a lonely time of night. One piss hole would have been uninteresting. Two offered an unusual twist to a familiar scene. Wherever one's mind wants to go with these two marks in the snow, there still seems to be a sense of comfort and quietude in this act. -CM

It was the two holes and the context of the "midnight shift" that made this poem successfully different from others written on more or less the same subject and taking place along a roadside, outside a bar or restaurant, or near a school. This poem clearly adds to this sub-genre of haiku by introducing some new dimensions. -MMc

moonlight across snow . . .
first Christmas
without her

Marjorie Buettner

My attention was caught with the first line. The word 'across' swept the vision of moonlight in such a way that it became a soft spotlight. In this case, the spotlight shone on loss. There were certainly questions with this haiku, but the tone was set for me in the first line. The ellipsis in this case asks us to take note of the scene--to linger a moment as the full impact of memory surfaces under the moonlit snow. A lovely setting and an evocative haiku. -CM

A simple poem about absence and loss. The poet does not seem willing to let us know too much about the place, setting, or circumstances; who "her" is is a mystery--mother, daughter, friend? Someone else? I felt these things had to matter, and so I felt somewhat left outside, looking over the poet's shoulder here. -MMc

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