2020 Haiku Invitational

For the 2020 VCBF Haiku Invitational 747 poets submitted 1,364 haiku. With so many from which to choose, the task of selecting the top haiku required a great deal of thought and consultation among the judges. The theme was simply “Cherry Blossoms,” reflecting the purpose of the festival. It was no surprise, however, that a secondary theme was on the minds of many poets. We received a large number of haiku capturing the feelings of isolation, the restrictions, and the fears around the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout those poems, we searched for ones which also had a universal message beyond the current situation. Other themes which emerged from the submissions included family members, children, pets, and love, which goes to show just how personally writers connect with the phenomenon of cherry blossoms. Juxtaposing a feeling of sadness was the poignant choice of many, while light humor provided a welcome relief, and sometimes just pure nature painted a lovely scene. We would encourage all poets who entered the competition this year to continue to write haiku, share your work, and hone your craft. While we cannot respond to each of you individually, we want you to know how much we enjoyed reading your submissions.

The following comments on each poem are by 2020 Haiku Invitational judges: Agnes Eva Savich, Beth Skala, and Gary Hotham


cherry blossoms fall—
the gentle quake
of baby kicks

Genevieve Wynand
Coquitlam, BC

There is such a lovely juxtaposition of babies and blossoms in this haiku. One can imagine the cherry blossoms drifting down, shaking the earth so gently we cannot feel it, though we notice the blossoms as they flutter down and the accumulation of petals on the ground. This is the same gentle fluttering a mother feels the first time her baby kicks within her. Both the cherry blossoms and the baby are symbols of new life. The poem may also lead to an image of cherry blossoms falling into a pram, where the baby kicking its legs sends the flowers flying. Perhaps this is more than the author intended, but multiple meanings often arise with well-written haiku.


cherry blossom
after cherry blossom
dawn’s slow light

Ulrike E. Narwani
North Saanich, BC

Haiku are often said to “capture a moment.” In this poem, the moment is extended as the dawn light slowly increases, gradually illuminating more and more cherry blossoms and making them visible to us. The repetition of cherry blossoms in the first two lines shows what’s happening in an almost sing-song way, mirroring the moving rhythm of their gentle falling, while the monosyllabic three words in the final line effectively slow down that rhythm to the speed of the new day beginning, thus creating that perfect moment that feels like a pocket out of time in which we can just enjoy deeply the scene unfolding before us. It is also an awakening of more than the day, for the blossoms gradually open over many days, thus giving us a fresh view each morning. A simple and serene haiku, reminding us to stop and experience the opening of the day and the changing display of cherry trees in spring.


blossom wind
my sick wife holds my hand

Chen-ou Liu
Ajax, Ontario

A poignant moment; the wind takes the delicate blossoms which can no longer hold on to their branches and the writer’s sick wife is perhaps holding on to life and the lifeline of love. The middle line being the longest also speaks effectively to that extension of the heart one feels towards an ill loved one; as the hand is extended, we will love and healing through it and wish them strength and recovery. That one word “tighter” at the end delivers the emotional impact of bracing tight against the illness, against the scattering of the blossoms with the wind; the unvoiced desire to keep things stable. The blossoms provide a stark contrast (life as usual outside with blossoms appearing on schedule in spring) against the illness scene (sickness, pain, fear of survival), while also highlighting the inner mechanics of both elements in the juxtaposition (blossoms subject to the will of the wind, as illness is subject to the alchemy of medical care and one’s health in the healing process.)


mixing concrete
a few petals
don’t hurt

Jeffrey Ferrara
Worcester, Massachusetts

This is not a common situation – petals mixed with concrete – but one the writer was privileged to see and create a haiku. The writer uses it to highlight a difference between concrete and petals. Here is material we use to build for a long term our way of life mixed with the petals which are a short display of the beauty and pleasures of Spring. In this case neither changes the other but we are reminded that life is a mixture of moments – and some just appear to last longer.


petals in the wind
my girlfriend is never
where I expect her

Marcellin Dallaire-Beaumont
Brussels, Belgium

The writer makes a thoughtful comparison which is not the typical one for such relationships. The wind has its own way with the petals but not for long. And so, our relations with others – what little control we have of it and what a profound mystery it can be. The writer reminds us we never know how fleeting that time with others is nor where from time to time it will end up.


cherry petals
renewing the scarecrow’s
shabby coat

Andreea Buzuc, age 12
Botosani, Romania

This is a sophisticated poem for a 12-year-old; the fact that the scarecrow’s coat is shabby hints at the harshness of the winter it has survived. The pretty petals provide a contrast which adorns and refreshes the scarecrow they have fallen on. We all feel renewed as cherry blossoms herald spring. A very unique and concise juxtaposition that drew us to select this as our youth category winner.

2020 Haiku Invitational Judge Bios:

Gary Hotham has been writing haiku for more than fifty years and his work has appeared in many journals, anthologies, and books. His latest chapbook is Rightsizing the Universe: Haiku Theory in 2019 and his last major collection of haiku was Stone’s Throw: Promises of Mere Words in 2016. He has judged many haiku contests and selected haiku for anthologies. He lives in Scaggsville, Maryland, and currently serves as the first vice president of the Haiku Society of America.


Agnes Eva Savich is a Haiku Society of America member and author of The Watcher: Poems (Cedar Leaf Press). She leads the Austin Haiku Study Group in Texas.
Her haiku have been published in Acorn, Bones, Bottle Rockets, Frogpond, Heliosparrow, Mayfly, Modern Haiku, Presence, The Heron’s Nest, Tinywords, and elsewhere. She has won awards in previous VCBF Haiku Invitational contests, and mentions in international contests such as Yamadera, Bashō, Golden Triangle, Betty Drevniok, Ito En, and Revista. Her work has been included in Wishbone Moon: Women’s Haiku Anthology as well as Haiku 21: An Anthology of Contemporary English-Language Haiku.
Beth Skala holds a degree in Far Eastern studies. Her memoir unSUPERvised: Growing Up in the 1950s is in haibun style. Other publications include: My Mary Bennet: Poems, Letters and MiscellaneaNot for Sissies: Poems on Aging; and Puttin’ On the Glam: Poems for Caregivers. Beth has won top British Columbia haiku four times in VCBF’s Haiku Invitational. She received recognition in the IAFOR Vladimir Devidé Haiku Award, Genjuan International Haibun Contest, Drummond Poetry Contest, and the League of Canadian Poets National Haiku Contest. Beth is a member of Haiku Canada, the Federation of BC Writers, and Pens Ultimate Nanaimo


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