2nd Class Haiku Contest

This past Monday was my Oku no hosomichi class’s 10th class–only 5 more to go! It was also the night of our 2nd haiku contest.


About how I manage the contest: I set the deadline for the students to e-mail me their poems as the day before the class, which was Sunday. Then Monday afternoon before class I prepare the score sheets. Each student gets a score sheet with the poems listed in alphabetical order, which randomizes them. Students are then given about 15 minutes or so to read the poems and score each one from a scale from 1~5 with 1 being BEST and 5 being GOOD. As in golf, the lowest score wins.

After we tally the scores, and before I announce the winners, we discuss the day’s entries. I ask the students to comment on which haiku they enjoyed the most and why, and other things like which one did they score a “1” and why, etc.

Then after significant discussion, I announce the winner. Also, the poems are still anonymous at this point, which allows students to speak more freely. Sometimes during the discussion the actual winning haiku is discussed, unbeknownst to the class, which is really interesting I think. Other times in the past, a certain haiku has generated a lot of discussion, but has not won. The goal of this discussion is for students to express their opinions and think critically about the day’s entries. Also, I hope that it gives them something to think about for when they write their next haiku.

Finally, after I announce the winners, I ask the winners to comment on their poems and tell us a little bit more about the story behind them.

This type of activity takes about the whole 90 minutes of class, but it’s only successful if everyone participates and passes in their haiku (on time!). This week only one student didn’t hand hers in. She’s a med student, so I’m sure she’s pretty stressed out. For the 1st contest she handed in two, so I knew that this time it must have just been a mistake.

We had a tie for 3rd Place this time (last time there was a tie for 2nd). Here are this week’s winning haiku as voted on by the students themselves. (They have not been edited/proofread yet–they’re RAW HAIKU!)

-1st Place-
In dark silent night
Only frogs crying rice fields
Far from my hometown

-2nd Place-
Slowly life is dream
Snails lay off on hydrangeas
So they are my crave

-Tied for 3rd Place-
In morning mist
Subtly cloud looked
Take a deep breath


the rainy season
drops flow on my cheek
sad the spring end

The winner, T.U., won 1st Place both times so far! I was surprised and happy to see that he is really making an effort, and that it’s being recognized! I was also surprised at the consistency with which the class voted for his–keep in mind that everything is carried out anonymously.

Another repeat winner was H.M. who won 3rd Place in both contests! Again, what consistency!

Reading these haiku, one can obviously see some strange grammar mistakes or word-choice errors. We’ve discussed these in class and we’ll do some peer-editing next week. Needless to say, when they submit their poems for the 5th Annual Japan-Russian Haiku contest, I’ll help them polish up their haiku before they submit it.