First Place Winner



each evening seems even


then it takes the river

to smooth a thousand stones


an'ya's winning tanka immediately arouses our curiosity with its one-word mystery for Line One: "without..." The first thought for the reader may be to add the word "you" to this line, but upon reflection, there are many possibilities: the loss of one's self through illness or the loss of meaningful work, a family home, or beloved pet. So, a story all in one word, and a juxtaposition with the next four lines that not only describes how endless the grief of loss can be, but manages to tell us that it can wear one down to almost nothing. An outstanding tanka that harmonizes human emotion with not only a meaningful description of nature, but also includes the traditional Japanese tanka use of the word "thousand" for emphasis.--Linda Jeanette Ward, Judge

Honourable Mention - Linda Jeanette Ward, Judge

gibbous moon

the cosmos reposing

in its round

your body spoons a chair

that holds me to the bone


Honourable Mention - Debbie Strange, Judge

spring raindrops

spreading into circles

on our lake

a pair of ember-geese

glide through eternity


Honourable Mention - Debbie Strange, Judge

at boot camp

we were taught the art

of marching

I tap that cadence now

with a three-prong cane



Runner-up tanka:


one more time
on our favorite beach
you in your urn and me
in a lone state of mind


My runner-up shocked me and made me grieve, its first haiku lines full of the warmth of a long relationship. And then the loss and loneliness on this familiar beach. It haunted me and stays with me. Only after choosing my shorter shortlist (27) did I analyze beyond the feeling impact – why, what made these good? I’m of the school that tanka are five lines balancing shorter and longer, but the 5- 7-5-7-7 syllabic count is a bygone. Meaningful economy is what matters – the poetic phrase. Each line, whether it is a single word or a full 7 syllables, must have importance, weight. Furthermore, I saw that the best tanka have a pivot, a key line somewhere that both anchors and opens the poem to further meaning. In the winner: ‘how rough it is’. In the runner-up, ‘together’. Among honourable mentions, the tanka ‘on the lip’ pivots in its penultimate line ‘begging to be freed’. I then considered words and sounds. Although my first call to a poem was its hit to my gut or heart, I found how words/sounds vastly contribute. Meaning is essential of course, but look at my winner. The hard ‘k’s’ – bark, black oak -- among the open ‘o’s’: oak, rough, foraging, forest, without. These sounds bind the poem, reinforce it. Similarly, in my runner-up, the ‘o’ and ‘u’ sounds of one, more, on, our, favorite, your, urn, lone.-Susan Lee Kerr, Judge