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Friday, May 23, 2003

tinywords contest report - a final note

One of the judges, encyclopedist Charlie Trumbull, maintains a database of about 90,000 published English-language haiku -- by his estimate, about half of the haiku published in English to date. He used this database to check many of the entries (and all of the winners) to see whether they'd been published before. There were no matches.

tinywords contest report - general commentary from some of the judges

The judges had a wide range of opinions regarding haiku in general and the contest entries and finalists in particular. Some felt having a kigo (season-word) is unimportant, others felt it to be critical to the success of a haiku. Some had strict notions of what constitutes a true haiku, others took a more liberal approach.

Here's a sampling of their comments.

"In general, I found the level of submissions to be unexpectedly high. That is, there were two dozen haiku that it would not be scandalous to select as winners, IMHO."

common problems
"I should mention that Iím a modernist who doesnít care for syllable counting or about the presence or absence of season words. Also, if a poem grabs me, I donít care if itís technically haiku or senryu.

"Here are (to my taste) the most common problems among the submissions, in no particular order:
Wordiness--often, but not always, the result of syllable counting.
Sentences--rather than juxtaposing two images the writer gives us an unpunctuated sentence
Poem covers action over time--rather than a haiku moment
Titles--I believe haiku should be untitled"

on selecting haiku
"My method was to print out all 346 haiku. On first pass, late last night, I eliminated all clear losers, resulting in a shorter list of 76.

"As an aside: I automatically eliminated any entry that contained a grammatical error or a typo, viewing these as a waste of my time and that of the submitter. I also eliminated any titled haiku on the grounds that a fourth line is a cheat. The most common failing of the eliminated haiku was the lack two clearly defined, objective images juxtaposed in an interesting and resonant way. For me, this is the essential trait of the haiku and what distinguishes it from other poetry. Some examples in this category had only one image, while some others had too many images and tried to tell a
story ("miniseries haiku").

"I find that I read haiku differently in the morning and the evening, so I waited till this morning to continue my judging. On second pass I read each of the 76 haiku carefully and eliminated all but 23. From this set I then took a positive approach and selected my five favorites."

on the winners
"I notice that the top five turn out to be rather extensively credentialed haiku poets. ...perhaps this demonstrates a bit of why when well-known poets try their hand at haiku they almost always fail miserably....it's not easy to just whip out a good haiku...apparently it takes a while to get that haiku attitude..."

more on the winners
"This spring night when I think silently about things that matter I'll digest my dinner of sunfish, take the phone off the hook so as to not be disturbed by telemarketers, and wonder how enormous the weeds will grow in my little peace garden."

tinywords contest report - how the judging worked

Now that I'm back from my vacation and have caught up a little bit, I'd like to post a few notes on the tinywords haiku contest.

It was important for this contest that the entries all be considered on a level playing field, without their authors being identified and without any glosses or explanations. In other words, the haiku had to stand or fall on their own.

To make this happen, I entered all haiku as I received them into a table that listed each haiku alongside its author's name and email address, in separate columns. I removed all formatting that could not be expressed in plain text (I preserved all punctuation and extra spacing, but removed fonts, bold/italic tags, and the like).

After receiving all 346 entries, I randomized the order of the list, so that multiple submissions from the same author would not appear next to each other. (One judge had requested this step, because sometimes a particular haijin's style is so distinctive that seeing two or three of their haiku together is enough to reveal their identity.) Then I numbered the haiku, removed the authors' names and contact information, and sent the plain, numbered haiku to each of the judges.

The judges had a week or so to read all the haiku and to nominate their favorites -- five nominations from each judge. I encouraged the judges to include their commentary as well. I compiled all of the nominated haiku into a single document that I then sent to each of the judges. The document also included the judges' comments, although without identifying which judge made each comment (so as not to prejudice the discussion).

The judges then discussed the merits of the various finalists, and then voted on the winners via a point system. Each judge had 20 points to assign, and they could give any of the nominated haiku anywhere from 0 to 10 points (but no more). I added up the totals, and that gave me the winners -- the one with the most points taking first place, second most points second place, and so on. I acted as tiebreaker where necessary.

The judging overall went very smoothly, with the judges contributing many thoughtful and insightful comments. Although there was a great diversity of opinion among the judges, the winning haiku was a clear favorite.

As editor of tinywords, I learned a lot from the process. The judges nominated haiku that I would otherwise have overlooked (and neglected a couple of my favorites, too). But watching them select the haiku, and hearing their reasons, was a real education for me, and I hope it will help me to improve the selections I make for the daily haiku on tinywords.

Friday, May 02, 2003

I'm very happy to announce the winners of the first-ever tinywords haiku contest:

first prize: Marjorie Buettner

second prize: Carol Raisfeld

third prize: Brian Gierat

fourth prize: Joanne Morcom

fifth prize: Margarita Engle

On behalf of tinywords and all the entrants, I thank the contest's generous contest sponsors:
deep north press, bottle rockets press, and haijinx.

I'm also especially grateful to the four judges: Mark Brooks, Charlie Rossiter, Charlie Trumbull, and Jeff Winke. They were very generous with their time (reading 346 haiku from about 120 individual contributors) and with their comments. I feel like I learned a lot about the process of reading and evaluating haiku from watching them work, and I'm grateful for that.

I also want to extend a word of appreciation to everyone who entered the contest. Thank you for helping to make it a success! Even if your haiku did not win a prize, I hope you'll consider submitting it to tinywords for possible publication here later on.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Haiku North America is a conference that happens once every two years. The next one is taking place June 26-29 in New York City. The lineup looks like a lot of fun, with talks by excellent haiku poets and scholars, a renku (naturally), and lots of readings and workshops. I wish I could go. The agenda is here.



editor / publisher: d. f. tweney (dft at tinywords dot com)
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Except as noted, all haiku are copyright (c) their respective authors.