2010 TLP Haiku Chapbook Competition Winner
All That Remains
By Catherine J.S. Lee
The winner of the second Turtle Light Press biennial haiku chapbook competition is Catherine J.S. Lee’s All That Remains. Almost every poem is exquisite in this collection about grappling with loss as the author tries to come to terms with the changing circumstances of her life. Lee has skillfully arranged the haiku in an emotional arc from the first poem to the last, taking us on an encounter with loved ones and places that she has cherished. Consider, for example, the following haiku:
mother calls me
by her sister’s name
And this one:
the name of the father
he never knew
Lee alludes to deep emotions and experiences without becoming sentimental, thereby allowing the reader to engage with the poems and to be moved by them. She records what Wordsworth calls those “spots of time.” Or, as R.H. Blyth wrote in his four-volume series on haiku, “those moments which for some quite mysterious reason have a peculiar significance. There is a unique quality about the poet’s state of feeling on these occasions.” For instance, in the opening poem that sets the locale, it’s the forbidden nature of a return to one’s childhood that is captured so well in this image:
no trespassing signs
where we used to play
Or, in the poem below, Lee evokes the memory of a scent that we might think is long forgotten but which is buried deep within us:
the lingering smell
of sun-dried linens
A short story writer for many years, Lee lives on an island on the coast of Maine and currently teaches in a high school special education department. She is a relative newcomer to the world of haiku, having begun two years ago, but she makes it look effortless. In our opinion, her poems carry an emotional weight, a significance beyond the surface of things; they are not just pretty images. Her voice is both evocative and mature; it deserves to be recognized in the haiku community and among a wider circle of readers.
Turtle Light Press released All That Remains in 2011. You may peek inside it and purchase it in our store.
Among the top contenders this year, one in particular stood out, and, as a result, the judges decided to award an Honorable Mention to Kathleen O’Toole’s Wing on Wing. An uplifting collection of haiku, it centers around the idea of flight as manifested through poems about birds, birth, death and sailing. Although this collection was not quite as thorough in its conceptual organization and the polished nature of individual haiku as the winner, O’Toole demonstrated a lot of forethought and an adroit use of the form in this wonderful volume. The judges therefore decided to recognize it with an Honorable Mention.
Turtle Light Press received 24 entries to its second haiku chapbook competition, three more than in the 2008 contest. Poets from all over the world, including the U.S.A., Canada, and England, sent in submissions. The judges were looking not only for stellar haiku but for a manuscript in which the poems were linked to each other in a meaningful way. They were interested in the “spirit” of the haiku form. They paid particular attention to the poet’s expansiveness of vision versus the closed sense of language and space – and were partial to the former. The judges were also looking for whether poets avoided clichés of language and idea, and whether they managed to achieve a natural and readable syntax.
Although the press will only publish one full-length collection, the judges discovered many extraordinary haiku poems in each submission. As a way to honor this work, Turtle Light Press has decided to publish a “Best of the Competition” e-anthology. It is hoped that all of those selected will want to participate in what promises to be a remarkable collection.
Rick Black, owner and founder of Turtle Light Press. He has won haiku awards in the U.S., England and Canada and has published numerous haiku in journals such as Frogpond, Blithe Spirit, Still, RawNervz, and Modern Haiku. His own haiku collection, Peace and War: A Collection of Haiku From Israel, is in its third printing.
Kwame Dawes, distinguished poet in residence and professor in the Department of English at the University of South Carolina. He has read widely and deeply about haiku and has published more than a dozen books of poetry and literary criticism. His latest project is a series of poems written in response to people with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica that can be found at: www.livehopelove.com.