St. Johns Cultural Council announces youth and adult winners of 2nd Annual Haiku Contest

The St. Johns Cultural Council is pleased to announce the youth and adult winners of the 2nd Annual Haiku Contest conducted during the month-long celebration of National Poetry Month in April. Contest categories included students ages 12 and younger; students ages 13 to 17 years of age, and adults ages 18 and older. The theme of this year’s contest was Spring and awards were presented at St. Augustine Poet Fest at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. on April 9.


In the 12 and younger category, Aika Matsuda won the contest for her poem, Caterpillar. She attends R.B. Hunt Elementary School and lives in St. Augustine.

Caterpillar by Aika Matsuda:

Caterpillar feet

Marching on the leaves of green

In the gentle breeze

Dr. Antoinette Libro: 
"This haiku catches an ordinary moment in nature as a caterpillar moves along a leaf of green, causing us to pause a moment and appreciate not only the specific image of the caterpillar, but also, the tactile imagery of the ‘gentle breeze’ that unites the two images and the haiku as well, which we can see and feel as we enter the moment depicted here."

Michael Henry Lee:
"Caterpillar uses beautiful concise language that is unpretentious to artfully describe an event in spring.  Haiku is a poetry of the senses and with Caterpillar the reader not only sees, but feels, smells and if you listen closely enough hears the insect making its way along a leaf."



In the 13 to 17 years of age category, Ella Belknap won the contest for her poem, Perfect Spring. She attends Alice B. Landrum Middle School and lives in Ponte Vedra.

Perfect Spring by Ella Belknap:

Fields of wildflowers

Take a moment to breathe

Now everything thrives

Dr. Antoinette Libro:
"An expansive look at nature, with ‘fields of wildflowers’ as its ‘season word’, or kigo, to behold as we rejoice in the coming season that renews the earth and our lives, as ‘everything thrives,’ striking a positive tone and capturing a sense of wonder."

Michael Henry Lee:
"A respite from the work and worry of human behavior in favor of nature's pleasures."



In the adult category, Pat Konover from St. Augustine won the contest for her poem, Branches.

Branches by Pat Konover:

Downed tree limbs

Form sculpture on the lawn

Spring Break


Dr. Antoinette Libro:
"The haiku paints a vivid picture of the havoc on the lawn, but what is surprising in the poem is that the havoc becomes a ‘sculpture’ on the lawn, artful in its arrangement, even though downed and broken. In addition, the haiku takes a turn when it arrives at the third line, for a double entendre is at work here; we not only allude to the stormy spring responsible for the ‘downed tree limbs,’ but also, reference to the annual respite from academic cares known as “Spring Break,” which adds another dimension to the haiku. It must also be noted that there is a ‘break’ or kireji in the third line of the haiku as well, juxtaposing one image with another."

Michael Henry Lee:
"A great example of juxtaposition with an ironic twist."


Honorable mentions were awarded in the 12 and younger category to Easton Crews for his poem, Spring Fun. He attends Otis A. Mason Elementary School and lives in St. Augustine.

Spring Fun by Easton Crews:

Get up out of bed

Get your bike and take a ride

Then do it again

Dr. Antoinette Libro:
"This playful, whimsical haiku recognizes the nature of ordinary life, what makes up our day and what pleases us, while expressing the repetitive nature of our days, even that which we enjoy such as riding our bike—as the truth becomes apparent and even humorous."

Michael Henry Lee:
"Sheer unadulterated exuberance that culminates in line three!"


And an honorable mention in the 12 and younger category to Anna Graves for her poem, Blossom Breath. She attends Alice B. Landrum Middle School and lives in Ponte Vedra.

Blossom Breath by Anna Graves:

Blossoms sprout again

Earth takes its first breath of spring

Color fills the world


Dr. Antoinette Libro:
"This haiku celebrates the arrival of spring, the arrival of new life, and how it invigorates us, as we bask in the ‘first breath of spring,’ in a few well-chosen words."

Michael Henry Lee:
"A lovely sequence of events depicting spring that skillfully employs a light anthropomorphistic device."


In the 13 to 17 category, honorable mentions were awarded to Charlotte Garcia for her poem, Outside and Perfect. She attends Valley Ridge Academy and lives in Ponte Vedra.

Outside and Perfect by Charlotte Garcia:

When I step outside,

lovely buttercups and sprouts

meet me at the door

Dr. Antoinette Libro:
"This haiku touches on traditional notions of stepping into the outdoors and noticing that which awaits us—here we have ‘buttercups and sprouts’ as its season word or kigo—to enjoy and to usher us into the outdoors. Stepping out is a specific moment in time that is nicely caught in this haiku."

Michael Henry Lee:
"This observation was clear and uplifting and captures the spirit of spring."


And an honorable mention in the 13 to 17 category to Addison Rennie for her poem, The Old Oak Tree. She attends Palm Valley Academy and lives in Ponte Vedra.

The Old Oak Tree by Addison Rennie:

Eggs from the bunny

Picnics by the old oak tree

The beauty of spring

Dr. Antoinette Libro:
"The imagistic rituals that accompany the arrival of spring are painted for us in this haiku, from the Easter bunny with eggs to the picnics under a favored ‘old oak tree’—such are the moments and pleasures that the season brings to us."

Michael Henry Lee:
"Light nostalgia effectively capturing memories of Spring."


Suki Litchfield from St. Augustine won an honorable mention in the adult category for her poem, Reward.

Reward by Suki Litchfield:

A yard of dead twigs.

Suddenly, pink azaleas—

just when I need them


Dr. Antoinette Libro:
"This haiku takes us into the season when after a long winter, one of the earliest flowers to emerge are the azaleas, providing a dash of color and life after winter, and the last line, where we have a break, or kireji in Japanese, signaled in English here by the dash, links human nature with nature, and the effect that nature has on our moods and feelings."

Michael Henry Lee:
"The welcome of spring and all its hope encapsulated in pink azaleas."


An honorable mention in the adult category also went to Shutta Crum from St. Augustine for her poem, Freedom.

Freedom by Shutta Crum:

children cartwheel

feet whirl above lawn

the flicker of fireflies


Dr. Antoinette Libro:
"This haiku presents the visual imagery of children in motion, a ‘kinetic’ image, as they turn cartwheels and whirl about the lawns. We then break from the children in the third line to the surprising visual imagery of the fireflies, which also ‘flicker’ perhaps mimicking the motions of the children, in their own way, drawing an insightful, vivid parallel with them."

Michael Henry Lee:
"A skillful use of juxtaposition between two spring images."


Judges included Michael Henry Lee, an internationally published, award-winning Japanese poetry stylist residing in Saint Augustine with work regularly appearing in numerous anthologies as well as highly respected print and online journals. Lee serves as Southeast Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America and is a founding member of The Ancient City Poets, and the Coquina Haiku Circle.

Dr. Antoinette Libro is the former Dean of the College of Communication and Creative Arts at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. She is a prize-winning poet and published author. Her haiku has appeared in An Anthology of Haiku by People of the United States and Canada, sponsored by the Haiku Society of America and Japan Air Lines. She resides in St. Augustine.

Three winners received a $100 prize, and their haiku will be published on the website, in the Cultural Council’s electronic newsletter, and in the AC PAPA literary journal produced by St. Augustine’s Ancient City Poets, Authors, Photographers and Artists group. Additionally, the honorable mentions will also be published on the website and newsletter. Each honorable mention received a $25 gift certificate to a local bookstore.

Post Date

April 14, 2022