Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

2011 Haiku Invitational Winners

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The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is pleased to announce the winners of its 2011 Haiku Invitational, judged by an’ya. The winners are as follows and are featured online at, in Ricepaper magazine, and in Haiku Canada Review. These five poems will appear on placards about Vancouver metro buses and SkyTrains in the spring. In addition, the website presents many dozens of additional Sakura Award winners and honorable mentions, all celebrating cherry blossoms, along with commentary from the judge. Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who entered for helping to celebrate spring and cherry blossoms. an’ya is well known worldwide for mainstream poetry, haiga, tanka, and haiku; her work has been translated into over 60 different languages She is past Editor for the Tanka Society of America’s Journal Ribbons, past-editor of haigaonline, past editor of moonset newspaper and moonset journal, past-co-editor of Haiku Reality, and past- Editor of the World Haiku Club Beginners, Founder of the Oregon haiku and tanka Society, and also, haiku Oregon. Currently, an’ya is the Oregon Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America and is co-editing (with her husband) the 2011 HSA Members’ Anthology. She has numerous books to her credit, gallery showings, has placed in competitions too numerous to mention, as well as been featured many places online, and in various print publications ie: magazines, anthologies, literary journals, newspapers; she has also taught numerous haiku courses, workshops, and so forth. One of her famous epic pattern poems and haiku are displayed at the Serban Heritage Musuem of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. an’ya’s extensive Oeuvre can be viewed at

Best British Columbia Haiku

we speak
of cherry blossoms—
a safe topic

Beth Skala
Nanaimo, British Columbia


In this fine haiku selected for the “Best from British Columbia”, obviously there is more than one person involved — perhaps two friends, partners, a married or divorced couple, father and daughter, mother and son, multiple siblings . . . and the list goes on. No matter however because what is most important is that they are sharing a mutual respect and admiration for the inherent beauty of cherry blossoms! The third line gives us an “aha” as we learn that these cherry blossoms are “a safe topic” for discussion between them, and whatever their reason for needing only to talk about a safe topic — becomes unimportant and is simply put on-hold. The haiku melds nature with human nature in just a mere 8 words and 11 syllables, and albeit this is shorter than the 5,7,5 count most people were originally and mistakenly taught in their school systems, it contains a complete thought with subject, verb and follow through. There is no run-on sentence, rather just a pause in line two reinforced with an em—dash. There’s juxtaposition between the softness and peaceful feeling representative of cherry blossoms which provided the environment needed for a safe topic of conversation between parties. It is a haiku that anyone from anywhere in the world from age 9-90 can relate to and understand easily upon first reading. This is not to say that it won’t be read over and over again. Thanks to this author for submitting such a well-written entry.

Best Canada Haiku

hanami picnic—
more blossoms
than sky

Pamela Cooper
Montreal, Quebec

The phrase “hanami picnic” in line one of this wonderful haiku captures the reader’s attention immediately. A hanami picnic is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the flower blossom season– typically cherry blossoms. It’s an important social event for Japanese people, celebrated with picnics under the sakura trees. Usually I choose haiku with action verbs but sometimes the visuals win out instead as is the case here. This haiku is a little short in lines 2 and 3 for my personal taste, however it is still quite effective. Sometimes I suggest combining lines 2 and 3 together if it doesn’t make the syllable count too long (which it wouldn’t in this haiku) so that juxtaposition can be added in line 3 and so that the haiku is zen-like rather than incomplete (and there is a definite difference which is easily glossed over by some modern-day editors.) Having said all this, “hanami picnic” is still the most worthy moment by far submitted in the category for Canada in my humble opinion. Back to its lovely visuals, this author manages to nicely combine the blue of sky with the pink of cherry blossoms (a tactic that many other entries tried to get right but missed) and made the pink most predominant without ever even mentioning any color whatsoever. Beyond this, the sky could even be grey and the blossoms white — it’s entirely up to the reader what they perceive of the day.

Best International Haiku

a blossom falls into
a fluffy cloud

Quendryth Young
New South Wales, Australia

This haiku I’ve chosen for Best International Category is an excellent multi-layered moment. First the author simply opens with one ordinary word “birdbath”— then we are given “a blossom” (in this case a cherry blossom), ah but in line three we see that blossom (not in the birdbath water), but on the reflection of a cloud in the birdbath water, wow! It isn’t just a cloud either, it’s a “fluffy cloud” which holds the cherry blossom in its own softness, and the juxtaposition of imagining pink on white is also a plus. Succinctly written with no other adornments, I can only further say that this is a lovely haiku.

Best United States Haiku

cherry tree blossoms
even underfoot
their spell lingers . . .

Anne Davidson
Saco, Maine

It was a difficult choice but among the many interesting entries from the US, this particular haiku says and captures something that none of the others managed. As we all know, there is no way a person can view cherry blossoms without sometimes having to step on some of them and even feeling guilty about it. In this haiku, the author turns even this intrusion into a good thing. Firstly and as always, we are spellbound by the blossoms overhead . . . but then “aha”, “their spell lingers” “even underfoot.” A skillfully written moment with an ellipsis at the end (not normally recommended for haiku) but in this particular instance it indicates an omission of one or more words that would complete or clarify the sentence (in this case perhaps “in my mind”, “forever” or “after the fact.” Using the word “spell” in line three rather than mentioning the usual color, look, or smell of cherry blossoms, completes the brilliance of this write.

Best Youth Haiku

no need for flower girl
the wind fulfills her role—
cherry blossoms

Sherry Zhou, age 13
Vancouver, British Columbia

In all categories of this contest, there were numerous submissions having to do with cherry blossoms and weddings. The haiku I have selected here is by far the very best one entered on this specific topic. One thing to remember when writing your haiku, is that it’s always best to use articles when and wherever needed, for instance an “a” in line one would read more smoothly. However and overlooking this omission because of content, the haiku is outstanding in all other word choices. Line two also presents a good example of how subtle personification is okay to use in a haiku, whereas blatant personification on the other hand is not acceptable. Line three is the most important line of this haiku however as it places the final emphasis on what Vancouver’s Haiku Invitational 2011 is all about — cherry blossoms.

— Contest Judge/an’ya, Gilchrist, Oregon USA