Martin Lucas Haiku Award 2020 – report

First prize

one pane missing blue sky

Brad Bennett

Second prize

hair clippings
the ex-con sings them
into one pile

Mike White

Third prizes

years since we spoke
still—this yearning  
lost sisters

Vera Constantineau

hide and seek
I disappear into
the sound of rain

Jacquie Pearce


    deep inside
her sequin clutch
    dark matter

Scott Mason

bottling honey the sounds it holds

Bob Redmond

close of day
a crow plucks out
the last colours

Debbi Antebi

the path
they told me not to take
       wild hare

Seren Fargo

I treasure my memory of the August afternoon I spent with Martin Lucas at a gathering of haiku poets close to his hometown of Preston, England. For this reason, it was an honour to judge the 2020 Martin Lucas Haiku Contest.

Judging this contest during the third full lockdown of a year of lockdowns was an absolute pleasure. I spent several days with the long-list. All the entries I read had that special something which makes reading well-crafted haiku a delight. Eventually my preferences took hold and I arrived at my short-list of 14 haiku. Then the hard work began. I read each haiku aloud several times. Put away the short-list. Then came back to it. I repeated this process multiple times before making my final selection of four prize winners and four highly commended. 

The first prize winner is a one-line haiku consisting of only five words. There are two images, a window with one of its panes missing and the blue sky. The pairing of these two images tells the reader or listener something that will differ based on that person’s experience, and that experience will evoke the reader’s response to the haiku. I chose this haiku as the first prize winner for its simplicity of language and imagery. For what it says about the weather, blue sky, and what it doesn’t say, no season word. This highly crafted haiku leaves space for the reader to fill in what’s missing. The brevity of this emotionally resonant prize winning haiku took my breath away.

The second prize winner is my favourite kind of haiku. One that immediately invites the reader to be either a distant participant or a close observer. We don’t need a season word to feel the ex-con’s joyous freedom as he or she sings while sweeping hair clippings. Again, what is left out, the sweeping, is as important as what is left in, the singing. This haiku speaks to us of the beauty in small things, ‘hair clippings’, and small deeds, ‘sings them / into one pile.’ I enjoyed reading this haiku aloud and invite you to do the same. 

The tied third prize winners both display a sense of longing for something that cannot be reclaimed, which is a universal experience. In the first haiku there is an estrangement between sisters, who perhaps were once childhood confidents. The second haiku speaks of the loss of one who has outgrown childhood games but still retains some knowledge of that time by disappearing ‘into the sound of rain.’ Both these prize winners draw the reader into the haiku. Both contain universals which evoke a plethora of emotions imbued with a sense of mystery. 

All four unranked commended haiku are excellent. Each offers something unique to the reader. From the great unknown dark matter hiding inside a sequinned purse, to the buzz of bees retained in a bottle of honey, to a crow plucking colours from the sky, and finally to the chance encounter of a wild hare on a certain type of path.These are haiku to be savoured, to be read again and again. 

Thank you for trusting me with your work. Congratulations to all!

— Roberta Beary