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Top Ten List


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 SIMPLY HAIKU'S 

"TOP TEN LIST"
of the World's Finest
LIVING ENGLISH LANGUAGE HAIKU POETS
for the year 2011

 

We are asked frequently who our favorite English language haiku poets are. We think of an English language haiku poet as someone who writes haiku in the English language, even though it may be their second language. We don't buy into the herd instinct connected with the vocal minority of haiku poets in the Anglo-Western world who think they own the genre and can do anything they want with the form, and pounce on others who disagree with them.

This small group is bastardizing the genre like a wad of play dough, having no set meter, negating the use of kigo, poo-pooing the value of zoka, and don't know the difference between a haiku and a senryu. They walk the walk and talk the talk, but their finished products are, more often than not, object- (mono, subjective) biased haiku look-alike free verse poems, or worse yet, non-poems like the one word object that Cor van den Heuvel says is the world's first one syllable haiku ("tundra," in his 1963 book, the window-washer's pail), which reminds Robert D. Wilson of the late 1960's and early 1970's when he was a hippie, and during a party, he and his friends would pass around a jug of Gallo Red Mountain wine laced with LSD. Poof! A neon light would flash off and on above the moment's Buddha, who would say something like, "Whoa man, that fucking plate is the end of the fucking rainbow," even though it hadn't rained, and the floor was dry . . . their synapses doing the hokie pokey in the key of D minor.

 We believe haiku is one genre that has one definition and is ethnic neutral. Zoka and kigo are mandatory. They are the heart of haiku. There is a metric schemata to follow within linguistic reason (S/L/S versus 5-7-5 onji), due to the longer tones of English language verbs.). The form of haiku was not what Matsuo Basho was referring to when he shared the following haiku with his disciple, Emoto Toko, in a letter:

don't resemble me ---
cut in half
a mush melon 

ware ni niru na futatsu ni wareshi makuwauri
I too resemble not two in is-split mush-melon 

Translated by Makoto Ueda
Basho and His Interpreters 

Basho was telling Emoto to have an original voice that didn't sound like an imitation of his phraseology and cultural interpretation. He wanted his student to be original and not a copycat. Basho didn't originate the 5-7-5 meter nor haiku, then called haikai.

He refined and legitimized it as a single genre apart from linked verse and tanka. It wasn't his form to change. Like a singer, the originality comes not with the genre of music, but with the original stylization it is sung in. 

Enough said! It is which great pleasure that Saša Važić and I present to the international public the top ten living English language haiku poets in the world for the year 2011. 

  

                                 And the winners are:

 

1. Claire Everett, UK

Everett's haiku show a deep respect towards nature. An animist, she sees all life as her equal, as you can see here in her poetry. She doesn't use nature as a backdrop to illustrate her haiku. 

    vagabond sun . . .
    nothing but ink to nail
    my shadow

The sun is a vagabond, always on the move, and she doesn't shy away from personification, seeing nature as her equal. The sun, a star, has a life of its own that we do not understand. It is never static, always changing, at one with the zoka. Everett was outdoors writing poetry, entranced by the sun, who as it wandered, so did her shadow. Having nothing with her but a fertile mind, a tablet, and an ink pen, she captured her shadow and the sun, by writing a haiku.

The haiku Everett has composed is not object- (mono, subjective) biased. It is activity- (koto, process) biased, focused on the creative power of nature, zoka.

    fading light . . .
    a swan asks nothing
    of the breeze

(Simply Haiku’s Featured Poet, Autumn/Winter 2011)

It is twilight dusk. In the water is a swan. When the winds begin to blow (Everett lives in the U.K.), they are cool, and perhaps blustery. The swan understands the creative power of nature, and accepts what the wind metes out, knowing it can't alter the winds force and course. It's while watching the swan's non-reaction, that zoka teaches Everett to accept what she can't change.

   of milled gold
   this moth-wing heart...
   autumn moon

(Simply Haiku’s Featured Poet, Autumn/Winter 2011)


 

 2. Ted van Zutphen, USA

     oh rock …
     how long will it take
     to wear you down?

     shrouded mountains ...
     your presence pierces
     the distance

     dawn moon ...
     the red river flows
     into its past

(Simply Haiku’s Featured Poet, Summer 2011)

 

 

3.  an'ya, USA

    silk strand-
    suddenly i've become
    a puppeteer

(Honorable Mention in Yellow Moon #13)

    bitter cold
    a juniper berry parts
    the jay's beak

 (The Heron's Nest Double Grand Prize Valentine Awards 2011)

    sunlit yard
    snow clumps on branches
    poised to fall

(Haiku Harvest 2000-2006, edited by Denis M. Garrison)

 

 

4. Susan Constable, USA

    rising tide
    a blue heron lifts
    the dawn 

    autumn rain . . .
    and still the creek
    is silent 

    a cloud
    drifts across the moon
    . . . autumn chill

 (Simply Haiku, Spring 2011)

 

 

5. Chen-ou Liu, Canada

    moonlit pond...
    a frog penetrates
    itself

(Simply Haiku, Summer 2011)

   holding
   winter moonlight in my hand
   length of the night

(Simply Haiku, Autumn 2011)

   winter dawn
   a butterfly wakes up
   in my dream

(Simply Haiku, Summer 2011)


 

6. John J. Han, USA

    Buddha’s birthday . . . 
    even a monkey sits still
    seeking answers

    start of winter…
    inch by inch, the fog
    swallows the sun

    autumn wind . . . 
    the name tag on a lost
    cat’s neck

(Simply Haiku, Summer 2011)


 

7. Ljubomir Dragović, Bosnia & Herzegovina

    odors of spring . . .
    a young bull's horns
    sharpened by the moon

    bright moon —
    water holds the mirror
    of all those present

    summer ebb tide —
    an urchin’s pace into
    the deeper sea

(Uska staza/A Narrow Road, Liber, Belgrade, 2011)

 

 

8. Marc di Saverio, Canada

    shadows of
    the blue spruce row over 
    flowerless graves

    (Simply Haiku, Winter 2010)

    first rain –
    all these finger-graven
    flowers in the snow

   (Haiku Scotland # 19, 2009)

    the scent . . .
    of a flower whose name
    I forget

  (Simply Haiku, Summer 2011)
 

 

9. Koko Kato, Japan

    On the straw Buddha's
    forehead, the Milky Way now
    letting down its tail 

    In the dead of night
    snow woman knock-knock-knocking
    upon the glass doors 

    A fine dust of light –
    the gingko leaves reflected
    falling through your eyes 

  (Ko, Vol. 26, No. 4, Autumn-Winter 2010)

 

 

10. Boris Nazansky, Croatia

    smiling
    a stooped old lady
    walking her years

    (Haiku No. 3, 1996)

    through the blinds
    a piece of early morning
    dancing on the wall

    (HEA Intl. Haiku Contest 1999, Hawaii, USA - 3rd Prize)

    country houses
    climb uphill closer and closer
    to the church

   (Vrabac/Sparrow, 27-28, autumn-winter 1999; 29-30, spring-summer 2000)

 

NOTE: Saša Važić and I read through hundreds of publications searching for the finest living English language haiku poets. The selection process wasn't easy. We didn't compare notes or discuss potential winners during the first few readings. We individually pared down our list until each of us had approximately ten poets. From there we worked together discussing the poets and their poetry. A winner wasn't selected on the basis of a few good haiku. Although three are listed under each poet, we selected poets whose haiku were consistently superior to other haiku poets. 

The selection process was also difficult because haiku poets are being taught a form of poetry that looks like haiku but isn't haiku. Every haiku had to be an activity- (koto, process) biased poem versus an object- (mono, subjective) biased poem that allowed room for a reader to interpret each haiku according to his or her own cultural memory, level of experience, education, etc. In a poem utilizing a minimization of words, the unsaid must play a part, thus the use of aesthetic styles. Saša and I excluded ourselves from the competition, thinking it unethical for judges to select their own or a fellow judge's work in a competition.

        don't resemble me ---

cut in half

a mush melon

 

I too resemble not two in is-split mush-melon

We are all individuals. Study, practice, read, until you develop a voice of your own: when people read one of your haiku without a name on it, they will know it is yours.