“Small Wonders” Haiku Contest

Report of Results

The 2023 Small Wonders Haiku Contest—sponsored by and benefiting the Katonah Poetry Series—attracted nearly four hundred haiku from dozens of poets in fourteen states and ten countries on four continents. Contest judge Scott Mason selected the ten haiku shown here from a longlist of forty especially strong poems. His brief remarks appear below in italics. The top three finishers will receive a poetry collection by one or more of these past KPS readers, each a favorite of Scott’s: Kay Ryan, Arthur Sze and Rosanna Warren. All ten will receive one of Scott’s haiku anthologies. Along with the rest of us at KPS, he wishes to convey his gratitude to all who participated. He also hopes that this competition might encourage newcomers to further explore haiku and experience its full range of life-affirming pleasures.

First Place

throughout the night
Marley’s chains

—Joe McKeon, Strongsville, OH

Robert Frost wrote of “outer” and “inner” weather in his poem Tree at my Window. Here too we find both the phenomenal and psychological worlds—linked by a pivot line to that surprising yet seasonally apt Dickensian detail—all in a mere six words. A poem that haunted me from my very first reading.

Second Place

backs to the sea wall
just us
and forever

—Alan S. Bridges, Bellingham, WA

Who says that a tiny poem can’t address major themes or bear great emotional heft? This one pits a couple (I presume) against an implied ocean of uncertainty, perhaps even resistance. It speaks to me of love and fate and fortitude, and so much more.

Third Place

crime scene
the downward spiral
of red and blue snowflakes

—Jay Friedenberg, Sleepy Hollow, NY

Just as crimes upend the normal order of things, here a crime scene turns colorfully surreal—but through an all-too-real effect: the flashing lights of an attending (but unmentioned) police car. Acutely observed, in the best haiku tradition.

Honorable Mention (unranked)

spring sun
the littlest spins
her umbrella

—Brad Bennett, Arlington, MA

What an exquisite—and euphonic—depiction of new beginnings and innocent joy.

saxophone solo
the caramel note
of a single malt

—Marietta McGregor, Stirling, ACT, Australia

Here I’m transported to a jazz club with one of the smoothest sensory pairings imaginable.

one size
fits all

—Jeff Hoagland, Hopewell, NJ

A minimalist haiku with outsized scale and (at least for me) cosmic humor.         

empty pew
an open bible
holding a tissue

—Stevie Rose, Hawthorne, NY

A captivating vignette that invites one to conjure its backstory.

evening colors the bugler’s last call

—Rebecca Drouilhet, Picayune, MS

A beautiful, elegiac one-liner; here “colors” serves double duty as both noun and verb. 

the easy-picking ones
already gone
summer dusk

—Lesley Anne Swanson, Coopersburg, PA

A deliciously slippery poem that leaves its absent subject(s) unidentified as the light and time wane. 

breathing in
the milky way

—John Pappas,Boston, MA

A lovely and magical nocturne conflating what’s seen and what’s freely imagined.

KPS executive committee member and contest judge Scott Mason is the author of The Wonder Code: Discover the Way of Haiku and See the World with New Eyes – recipient of the Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, the Touchstone Distinguished Books Award from The Haiku Foundation, and a Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America. A former longtime editor with the online haiku journal The Heron’s Nest, Scott currently serves on the board of The Haiku Foundation. His own haiku have placed first in more than two dozen international competitions.