This year’s inaugural St Johns Cultural Council Haiku Contest was a smashing success with over one hundred individual entries and over four hundred poems. Competition was close and it was very difficult to select just a few from among them. Everyone was a winner who took the time and effort to create and submit their haiku.

Category One: Adult (ages 18 and older)

First Place                  

Barrie Levine


Beach day

the sky writer’s message

drifts into the blue

Barrie began writing in a bereavement group after her husband passed away in 2013. In 2017, she started a blog with grief and healing essays and then, she found haiku, the practice of which has been joyful and life-affirming.

Barrie’s poem is a lovely concise image, so critical to a good haiku poem, and reflects a deep understanding of haiku structure and content. The poem “shows” and doesn’t tell, which is a primary literary device intrinsic to Japanese poetry. It is the kind of poem that is clearly seen in the mind’s eye and its image remains for further appreciation.      –by Michael C

“School Vacation” by Barrie Levine captures the essence of a well written haiku. It appeals to the senses with strong visual imagery and effective diction. As the skywriter’s message grows ever more faint, it also expresses the fleeting or ephemeral nature of reality. We also have a break or pause after the first line, or kireji, in Japanese, which is an important structural aspect of haiku. The next time I see a skywriter’s message on the beach I’ll be reminded of this resonant haiku.   –by Antoinette Libro

Honorable Mention (alphabetically by author)                               

Jessica Bergstol   


A child’s eyelashes

Nestle like corn silk in husk

On a sleepy cheek

Jessica is currently an ELA Tutor at Ponte Vedra High School. Her undergraduate degree is in English and she has always loved the written word but not especially poetry. However she holds haiku, cinquains and sonnets in high regard because of their orderly appearance, discipline and their ability to pack so much meaning in so few words.

Jessica’s poem has a lot going for it: an image that is clearly grasped and understood by the reader. I like the comparison of a child’s eyelashes to corn silk nestled on a sleepy cheek. — by Michael Henry Lee

“Evening” by Jessica Bergstol, compares a child’s eyelashes to ‘corn silk in husk,’ with imagery that appeals to the visual as well as the tactile senses, presenting a tender moment that expresses affection by showing instead of telling, an essential tenant of haiku.  –by Antoinette Libro

Shutta Crum


evening wheeling

reminders of things undone

blackbirds roost

Shutta Crum is an award -winning poet and children’s book author with numerous poems published worldwide. According to Crum, haiku is a new creative form that she has just begun to work in. “Murmuration” is a great example of juxtaposition; birds swirling around before going to roost and the things, for whatever reasons, we humans have yet to complete. The poem also demonstrates one of the primary haiku literary devices of ma (space, or emptiness between things). The abstract and the concrete play well off one another.    – -by Michael Henry Lee

“Murmuration” by Shutta Crum takes us deep into the evening, when we put things away, done or undone, but which continue to wait for us, just as “backbirds roost.” This haiku imparts a mysterious feel as the imagery deepens with each line, known as yugen in Japanese aesthetics.   –by Antoinette Libro

Category Two: Students (ages 13-17)

First Place 

Sami Lowinger

“Apple Picking” 

The scent of crisp air,

all through the apple orchard.

Leaves crunch at each step.

Sami says that reading and writing poetry is a way of expressing thoughts that allow for individual interpretation from the reader. She also finds poetry to be “a timeless window to the soul”. Sami’s poem is a delight, because it immediately transports the reader directly into the orchard. Sight, sound, smell.  — by Michael Henry Lee

“Apple Picking,” by Sami Lowinger, takes us into the apple orchard with a few well-chosen words arranged in the traditional form of three lines of 5/7/5 syllables. It appeals to our sense of sight, smell and hearing, all creating a vivid and most engaging experience as a result.
–by Antoinette Libro

Honorable Mention (alphabetically by author)

William Camp

“Mornings on the Beach”

Palm sways in the wind

Lone surfer gets a barrel

Slice of paradise

William’s poem is light and full of easy to appreciate imagery. William is a Shel Silverstein fan who is new to haiku but is no doubt up for the challenge.  — by Michael Henry Lee

“Mornings on the Beach” by William Camp expresses the exhilaration of a surfer on the beach with specific diction that paints a vivid picture, allowing us to enter the moment and experience that striking ‘barrel’ imagery that he rides all the way to paradise.   –by Antoinette Libro

Savannah Schnabel

“The Eyes in the Trees”

When the night is young

They blink out from the treetops

Glowing like starlight

Creative writing is a passion for Savannah. Her appreciation for mystery and depth (referred to as Yugen in Japanese) is aptly reflected in her poem. Exactly whose eyes are in the trees? This leaves the reader’s imagination to complete the poem, according to their own experience.   — Michael Henry Lee

“The Eyes in the Trees” by Savannah Schnabel describes a moment in time, when the eyes of creatures, yet unnamed, “blink out from the treetops.” The intriguing imagery captures the imagination and the haiku moves from the ‘blink’ in the trees to the starlight that glows, zooming out and expanding the depth and breadth of the haiku. –by Antoinette Libro

Category Three: Students (ages 12 and younger)

First Place

Emmitt Cortese


Spilling from the sky

Gently churning waterfall

calmly flows away…

Emmitt is brand new to haiku, but his waterfall poem is full of imagery and is well crafted. The reader comes away with a vivid waterfall experience.  –by Michael Henry Lee

“Waterfall” by Emmitt Cortese describes the fall of water with energetic diction that expresses the movement with imagistic words such as ‘spilling’ and ‘churning.’  –by Antoinette Libro

Honorable Mention (alphabetically by author)

Lily Morgan King


Piper eats my bread

Piper doesn’t share with his friends

Piper steals my heart

What more can I say?  Piper stole my heart, too.   – by Michael Henry Lee

“Bread” by Lily Morgan King refers to the actions of “Piper” and leaves the reader to complete the meaning of the haiku, as to who Piper may be, with an affectionate and playful tone at work.     –by Antoinette Libro