13th PIHC 2023 – results

published January 09, 2024

The 13th Polish International Haiku Competition (PIHC) 2023                                             results since 2011

comments: Charles Trumbull


First Prize

so much fruit
on the cherry tree

Wiesław Karliński, Poland

The first line of an old song from the Shaker religious community in America is “’Tis the gift to be simple.” Simplicity is an essential element of haiku as well, and this verse beautifully illustrates that proposition. We are not told who is returning or to what, but we can assume it is a homecoming, perhaps of a soldier or a student. Whoever it may be is glad to be back and excited to see this dear place prospering, as expressed by the happy discovery that the familiar cherry tree is bearing so well. Even the poet’s lineation — lines of 2, 3, and 5 syllables makes this haiku seem to swell with delight.

Second Prize

autumn garden
her loneliness
changes colour

Mohammad Azim Khan, Pakistan

As autumn descends, the landscape loses bright colors and takes on muted shades of orange and brown. Similarly, we’re told, the human subject’s inscape also changes color, but what seems to be implied in this haiku is that the quality of her loneliness does not change but remains constant.

Third Prize

graduation day
how small the world
through grandma’s glasses

Christof Blumentrath, Germany

On first reading this haiku seemed to present an unflattering judgment about an older woman and her inability or disinclination to see the larger picture. Rereading it, however, I began to think that the situation was actually one in which poet was describing the woman’s pride in her grandchild’s accomplishments; that is, on this auspicious occasion the grandmother’s focus was entirely on the graduate. Then again, it could have been the older lady who was graduating, and the poet is admiring her single-mindedness in accomplishing this goal so late in life. In either case, I was pleased by this revealing mini-portrait of the poet’s grandmother.

10 Commendations (not ranked)

Although it was not intentional, I see that for honorable mention I selected several haiku that deal with “big picture” social and political issues, for example, climate change:

global warming –
migratory birds
stay home

Aljoša Vuković, Croatia

he resurgence in the 21st century of attrition warfare:

a hundred years on
Christmas again
in the trenches

Marjolein Rotsteeg, The Netherlands

And the various crises over refugees and displaced persons:

at a fence
leaves are piling up –
asylum center

Willy Callens, Belgium

This verse might be taken as an eerily contemporary remake of Buson’s Blown from the west, / fallen leaves gather / in the east [trans. Robert Haas, The Essential Haiku].

Other honorable mentions have to do with more traditional haiku topics such as the weather. The first killing frost may well mark an absolute border between two seasons:

the first frost
ending and beginning
at the same time

Andrius Luneckas, Lithuania

Atmospheric changes may sometimes be auditory as well as temporal:

a new sound
of the wind

Sława Sibiga, Poland

Seasonal changes can cause a poet to lose concentration. This happened, for example, to American poet Yu Chang: wildflowers / on both sides of the road / I miss the exit.

first snowfall
finding more reasons
not to write

M. R. Defibaugh, USA

and atmospheric changes may be auditory as well as temporal:

early spring
the garden and I
work on each other

Julie Schwerin, USA

The heart-rending implication of the following verse is amplified by the irony that red roses traditionally symbolize love, passion, and vitality:

Valentine’s Day
a bunch of red roses
on the roadside cross

Sue Courtney, New Zealand

The meaning of the next haiku shifts drastically when one considers that “pot” can mean either the trap in which a crab is caught or the vessel in which it is cooked.

low tide…
a crab scuttles across the bottom
of the pot

Greg Schwartz, USA

For the last honorable mention I selected this breezy little haiku with its slightly erotic overtones:

summer dress
all the ways breeze
finds its way in

Vandana Parashar, India

My thanks go out to Marta Chocilowska and the officers and members of the Polish Haiku Association for the great honor and pleasure they have given me by permitting me to judge the 2023 contest.

The 353 submissions received by the contest coordinators tended toward the three-line, five–seven–five–syllable, left-justified format that has been traditional for English-language haiku, although there was some variation. All submissions contained words indicating seasonality, as specified in the contest regulations. From my first reading of the submitted work I found it relatively easy to compile a shortlist of 50 poems. This was done by first eliminating haiku with clear faults, such as typographical errors, poor English, or obvious efforts to achieve a 5–7–5 format by “tontoism” (omitting articles) or padding (adding unnecessary words). Then, because I still adhere to the notion that the essential characteristic of haiku is the juxtaposition of two concrete images, I scrutinized any haiku that substituted an abstraction (such as “mood” or “the unknown”) for a concrete image, that contained multiple season words (whether of the same or different seasons), or resorted to Western-style tropes such as metaphor (e.g., considering water sounds as a lullaby), simile (e.g. soldiers falling like snow), and especially personification (e.g., butterflies kissing flowers or leaves drowning). Still, I admire the inventiveness and craft of all the poets who participated in the 2023 PIHC.

Charles Trumbull, Final Judge

Thanks to all 353 authors from 50 countries who have sent their haiku to the 13th Polish International Haiku Competition (2023). Haiku was received by Marta Chocilowska who sent them anonymously to Charles Trumbull, who made the final verdict.

Australia (13), Austria (2), Azerbaijan (1), Bangladesh (2), Belgium (5), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2), Brazil (1), Bulgaria (14), Canada (9), Columbia (1), Croatia (38), France (8), Germany (9), Ghana (2), Greece (1), Hungary (1), India (32), Indonesia (2), Ireland (2), Italy (12), Japan (1), Lithuania (7), Montenegro (3), Nepal (1), Netherlands (3), New Zealand (5), Nigeria (2), North Macedonia (1), Norway (10), Pakistan (1), Philippines (7), Poland (17), Portugal (1), Romania (25), (2), Serbia (10), Slovakia (1), Slovenia (2), South Africa (2), Spain (4), Sri Lanka (2), Switzerland (4), Trinidad and Tobago (1), Türkiye (1), Ukraine (2), United Arab Emirates (1), United Kingdom (16), USA (60)

All the best in 2024.

Charles Trumbull, former President of the Haiku Society of America – Final Judge
Marta Chocilowska, President of the Polish Haiku Association – Pre-selector
Krzysztof Kokot, Honorary Member of the Polish Haiku Association – Originator

January 09, 2024