2012 TLP Haiku Chapbook Competition Winner

The Window That Closes
By Graham High

Order this book here!

After a very close competition, the winner of the third Turtle Light Press biennial haiku chapbook competition is Graham High’s The Window That Closes, a threnody for his mother that movingly follows her illness and death over the course of a year. It opens with a poem that demonstrates High’s deft use of language and sets the scene of the ensuing drama:

high hospital bed
my mother and I must cross
the rift of waiting

Soon this rift is filled with the familiar elements of illness, death and grieving; they wait for doctors, for solitude, for each other; and, of course, for death to come to separate them by closing the window of his mother’s life. In the meantime, however, they have each other and the times that are left to them to cherish.

all sounds alarm her
the tea trolley’s dull rumble,
the distant church bells

sun rays filter through
the petrol station flowers –
her thin eyelashes

For us, High’s book demonstrates a complexity of language, a variety of syntactical structures and a keen sense of pacing. But most importantly, despite the sad inevitability of her death, the poems manage to draw us into a pattern of reflection and memory through the close and moving study of details surrounding their lives in the hospital and at home.

back home and she’s calm –
gone the workman’s rock-hammer
and the woodpecker

framed in autumn rain
a neighbour meets her gaze from
a facing window

In these poems, High takes us on an emotional journey that resists the temptation to succumb to the maudlin and overt sentimentality. While the ending is expected, he digs even deeper towards the end of the book in his search for solace.

dusty rectangles
where her paintings used to hang –
I close the door slowly

A painter and sculptor who lives in London, England, High came to haiku quite late, having written mainstream poetry since the 1970s. He entered both of TLP’s prior contests before being named this year’s winner. He has published six haiku collections and been editor of the British Haiku Society’s journal, Blithe Spirit.

You can now take a look at additional poems, read reviews or purchase The Window That Closes.

Honorable Mention

Among the top contenders this year, the judges decided to award an Honorable Mention to Duro Jaiye’s There Was a Time, which explores the African American experience of slavery and its aftermath in a short series of powerful poems.

whites only –
knowing the season
before she crossed it


bitter night –
smelling the heat
of a burning cross

The complexity of its emotionally-laden, imagined haiku and its clear narrative trajectory resulted in the judges recognizing this fine collection with an Honorable Mention.


Turtle Light Press received 36 entries to its third haiku chapbook competition, twelve more than in the 2010 contest. Poets from all over the world, including Canada, Denmark, England, Ethiopia, Japan, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand and the U.S. sent in submissions. It was a particularly difficult contest to judge because of the high level of the manuscripts and stellar haiku.

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.

Thank you again for entering the contest and entrusting your work to us!


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, an English professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the editor-in-chief of Prairie Schooner.

Order Graham High’s The Window That Closes

See “All That Remains” – winner of the 2010 TLP Haiku Chapbook Competition

See “Sketches from the San Joaquin” – winner of the 2008 TLP Haiku Chapbook Competition

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