8th PIHC 2018 – results

The 8th Polish International Haiku Competition (PIHC) 2018


First Prize

home-bound train—
bare aspens stitching
the earth and sky

Carl Seguiban, Canada

The carving of famous haiku on natural stone to make poem monuments, known as kuhi (句碑) has been a popular practice for many centuries in Japan. I’m told the city of Matsuyama has more than two hundred kuhi. I’m sure that, as haiku lovers, each and every one of us has certain poems etched in our minds, and for me this haiku carved a deep ‘kuhi’. Incidentally, in Tamizh, my mother tongue, kuzhi means a deep hole.

Let’s take L1: home-bound train. Personally, I’ve never liked two punctuation marks (here, a hyphen and an em-dash) together in one line. It seems too cluttered, as they seem to interfere with the silence, the space, the gap that often characterises a good haiku. Silences embedded in a ku facilitate ‘ma’ (the ‘unclutter’) — that beautiful aesthetic tool from Japan! But, here the two marks seem valid and essential to the fragment, which zeroes in on an emotionally charged person returning home.  I went back to this ku again and again and to the image, the feeling behind the words, and how it lends multiple layers of understanding to the reader.

As practitioners of haiku, we often realise — or rather, fail to realise — how a certain word brings the whole poem together. The word ‘stiching’ weaves its magic here! It is a beautiful example of ‘Zoka’ – the creative force of nature – life as one continuous flow of pulsating consciousness. One doesn’t have to be religious to understand the life force that acts without and within each of us.

A few years back, while reading about ‘Noh’ drama, I came across the term ‘kire-tsuzuki’ or ‘cut-continuity.’ This has fascinated me ever since. The commonest example of this is the pause between every exhalation of air from the lungs and the next inhalation. Another lovely example is our walk — we move one leg, cut the movement and move the other leg — the two actions together, cut and continuation, move us forward.

Add all of this together and you’ll know the reasons I picked this ku for the first prize.

home-bound train—
bare aspens stitching
the earth and sky

Second Prize

Women’s Day
she applies makeup
to her bruise

Indra Neil Mekala, India

Oh! This poem paints a typical FaceBook scenario! Everybody on social media is a success, a celebrity, beautiful, adored, happy, content … the list goes on.  How we mask our real selves to project an unmarred, unscarred façade to the world, a perfect cover, perhaps, to hide our insecurities and …

What do the words ‘Fuga No Makoto’ mean to a haijin? Poetic truth, sincerity and honesty,  according to Susumu Takiguchi. To see the world as it is, to know why we are doing certain things the way we do  … that quintessential quality elevates a haiku — or, in this case, a senryu — This hard-hitting senryu comes second for me.

Third Prize

gentle breeze
the lifted feathers
of a seagull asleep

Klaus-Dieter Wirth, Germany

In nine words, the poet has said everything s/he wanted to say. This haiku is a good example of brevity, conciseness without sacrificing the spirit of haiku. The consonance and sibilance of the ‘s’ sounds and the assonance of vowels ‘e and a’ are handled masterfully to lend a musical quality to this ku. When I read it aloud, as I usually do with my poems, I found the internal rhythm striking.

This comes third for me.

The rest of the ten poems are all equally good but, as you know, each poet, each judge, comes to the table with his or her own experiences, likes and dislikes, and these are reflected in the poems they choose. If the same set of poems were presented to me a month later, I might choose different ones as my favorites.

(congratulations to all the 10 Commendations/ Honourable Mentions, which are arranged below in no particular order)

blue twilight
sitting on fallen leaves
the shape of a fox

Frank Williams, United Kingdom


summer night
from an open window
smooth jazz

Olivier Schopfer, Switzerland


dry lake
the splash of water
still heard

Stoianka Boianova, Bulgaria


full net
a fisherman and seagulls
haul the fish

Zvonko Jurčević, Croatia


vacant nest
in the broken lamp –
house for sale

Jerzy Małysz, Poland


all my wishes
upside down

Isabella Kramer, Germany


summer dawn
we jog from birdsong
to birdsong

Anthony Itopa Obaro, Nigeria


raking leaves
I watch the dogs
chasing the wind

Marina Bellini, Italy


fading light …
alone with the cry
of a cicada

Agus Maulana Sunjaya, Indonesia


steeple pierces
the leaden December sky
call of the crow

Boris Nazansky, Croatia


I thank Marta Chocilowska and Robert Kania for selecting 36 haiku from among 331 sent from 52 countries, which made my final selection job easier. I also thank the Polish Haiku Association (PHA) for placing their faith in me to judge the 8th Polish International Haiku Competition in 2018. Thanks to every poet who sent in their best. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your poems.

Kala Ramesh
8th January 2019

331 participants from 52 countries: Argentina (1), Australia (7), Austria (2), Bangladesh (3), Belarus (1), Belgium (2), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2), Brazil (3), Bulgaria (17), Canada (10), Colombia (1), Croatia (41), Denmark (1), France (4), Germany (16), Ghana (2), India (21), Indonesia (4), Iran (2), Ireland (1), Israel (2), Italy (15), Japan (2), Kenya (1), Lithuania (5), Macedonia (3), Malta (2), Montenegro (3), Nepal (2), Netherlands (3), New Zealand (6), Nigeria (4), Norway (4), Pakistan (2), Philippines (5), Poland (18), Portugal (2), Romania (19), Russia (5), Serbia (6), Singapore (3), Slovakia (1), Slovenia (2), South Africa (1), Sri Lanka (1), Sweden (2), Switzerland (3), Turkey (1), Ukraine (1), United Kingdom (18), USA (47), Vietnam (1)

Kala Ramesh (deputy editor-in-chief of The World Haiku Review) – Final Judge
Marta Chocilowska (President of the PHA) – Pre-Selector
Robert Kania (Treasurer of the PHA) – Pre-Selector
Krzysztof Kokot – (Honorary Member of the PHA) – Coordinator