Cynthia Rowe: winner – Grand Prize: 1st Place in 2015 World Haiku Contest

Australian haiku poet Cynthia Rowe has won the Grand Prize: 1st Place in the 2015 World Haiku Contest, with the following haiku:

bare branch
the wild persimmon

Another entry by Cynthia was one of five haiku to gain an Honorable Mention in the same competition:

old railway track
a tumbleweed skips
through wild grass

Comments about Cynthia’s winning poem – provided by the judge for this contest, Alan Summers – can be read below:

‘I tend to be both a writer and reader of haiku that embrace the many stances and approaches to the genre, including very contemporary styles, but this poem just kept coming back, and coming back, and the more it came back the more I fell in love with it.

This feels like a very traditional haiku, and very simple on one level, on one layer. It’s a bare branch that holds a wild persimmon flecked by snow. A stark beauty of colour amongst the backdrop of bareness and white.

The most famous persimmons are Japanese and they “… like to grow along the edges of things; fields, roads, rivers, rail roads, fences, trails …” and that’s the way of many a poet too. We are often on the edge reporting back to the main areas of society, if they, if we, will listen.

When the power of the seasonal allusion device kigo is utilized, that they are not merely weather news announcements, then the haiku becomes even more than the sum of its parts. Like a good novel, a haiku can open a door to another world, or many other worlds.

The first line starts me thinking of Basho and his crow: The famous haikai verse, which is actually 19-on (5-9-5 Japanese units of sound) is about a dying tree where a crow perches. We now know that the crow flew away to become an even greater poet, no longer shackled by security and concerns, and that crow was Basho himself.

Basho’s famous bare branch haikai verse, which was written in 1680, denoted the year when the poet moved from financial security to live a much more insecure and frugal lifestyle. And so I see this haiku of a wild persimmon as a mark of bravery, and allegorical, as something internal and that something external is also shifting. It is also a breathtaking stark beauty of a winter scene, when all is still for a moment, a fleeting moment, and there is this one single fruit on a bare branch flecked with snow.

“There is hardly a woodland creature that doesn't like the persimmon...” and it’s the same for a poet, especially reading this haiku.’