2008 TLP Haiku Chapbook Competition Winner

Sketches from the San Joaquin
By Michael McClintock

The winner of the first Turtle Light Press biennial haiku chapbook competition is Michael McClintock’s Sketches from the San Joaquin. This volume, rooted in the San Joaquin Valley of California, movingly captures in understated yet powerful language his family’s agricultural links to the land as well as the flow of seasons.

McClintock reminds us that it is possible to combine the preoccupations of Western lyric form with those of traditional haiku to pleasing effect. One has the sense that he has found in the sparseness and precision of the meditative manner of haiku an opportunity to reflect on space and time – granting even the most intimate detail a simplicity that allows it to resonate with mood and meaning. To be able to achieve this quality while offering us insight into the details of his own life amounts to quite an accomplishment.

For example, one senses the author’s abiding attachment to the valley in the two haiku below:

above the trees
a mountain has melted
into haze

all there is
between heaven and earth –-
towering clouds

The movement in McClintock’s subtle and deft use of language hints at the changes yet to come in his own family. In the following haiku, McClintock further demonstrates his own deep connection with the land as well as how it links him to his father:

done for the day
my dad brings to supper
the smell of turned earth

hefting a plum –-
I know by heart
my father’s orchard

With each successive poem, McClintock leads the reader more deeply into the valley and his remembrances of life there. Turtle Light Press published Sketches from the San Joaquin in the fall/winter of 2008. It is a memorable, poignant collection of haiku that will be savored for a long time to come. You may take a look inside here.

Turtle Light Press received 21 entries to its first haiku chapbook competition. Poets from all over the world, including the U.S.A., Canada, England, Germany, Romania, and Nepal, sent in submissions. A number of strong contenders vied for the top prize, including Pamela Babusci’s I Traveled A Moonbeam Tonight, Tom Clausen’s Taking Me Back, Alice Frampton’s Cabin Fever, Garry Gay’s Hailstones, Barry George’s City Canyons, LeRoy Gorman’s Mostly Rain, Graham High’s Stack Of Burning Twigs and George Swede’s Joy In Me Still.

The judges were looking not only for stellar haiku but a manuscript that displayed a unity in the sequence of poems. They were interested in the “spirit” of the haiku form. The judges paid particular attention to the poet’s expansiveness of vision versus the closed sense of language and space – and were partial to the former. Some pieces achieved that sense of space easily and naturally, others less so. They were also reading these poems as poems – looking for whether they 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 some 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” anthology with selected poems grouped according to themes. Individual authors will be notified in the coming months of the poems that have been selected for the 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, was recently released.

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 his own poetry and literary criticism. He is a frequent commentator on poetry both online and in newspapers.

View the guidelines to the 2014 TLP Haiku Chapbook Competition

Read about the winner of the 2010 TLP Haiku Chapbook Competition

Read about the winner of the 2012 TLP Haiku Chapbook Competition


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