Judged by Carole MacRury, Michael Dylan Welch, and Edward Zuk

2008 Best Canadian Poem

a winter blizzard
I turn my calendar
to cherry blossoms                     

                      Marilyn Potter
                      Toronto, Ontario

2008 Best Youth Poem

evening prayer—
the cherry petals stick
to the pane

                      Damian Margolak
Kielce, Poland


Visit The Haiku Rock at VanDusen
Botanical Garden, celebrating
the first three years of the top
Haiku Invitational poems.

2008 Best B.C. Poem
late for work—
cherry petals
in my hair                       Jessica Tremblay
                                     Burnaby, British Columbia

2008 Best U.S. Poem

cherry blossoms
the baby’s hair too fine
to hold a ribbon

                      Ferris Gilli
                      Marietta, Georgia

Best International Poem

in clearing mist
the creaking of a heavy oar . . .
cherry blossoms

                      Tito (Stephen Henry Gill)
                      Kyoto, Japan

2008 Sakura Award Winners
For the dolls’ tea
small fingers gather
cherry blossom petals

                      Cheryl Ashley
                      Nanaimo, British Columbia

a chessboard
abandoned in the park
cherry blossoms

                      Colin Barber
                      Marion, Arkansas

Reminiscing . . .
as her walker wheels
gather cherry blossoms
                      Una Bruhns
                      North Vancouver, British Columbia

early shift
the roadsweeper’s cart
fêted with blossoms
                      Helen Buckingham
                      Bristol, United Kingdom

the shared smiles
of passing strangers . . .
cherry blossoms
                      Karen Cesar
                      Tucson, Arizona

job interview—
through the office window
cherry blossoms
                      Amitava Dasgupta
                      Houston, Texas

cherry blossom . . .
trembling with the weight
of its bee
                      Billie Dee
                      San Diego, California

under the blossoms
business men
loosen their ties
                      Julie Downsbrough
                      Burnaby, British Columbia

my old cherry tree—
beneath its falling blossoms
his last resting place
                      Gill Foss
                      Maberly, Ontario

cherry blossom rain . . .
I take the convertible
back to the showroom
                      Alice Frampton
                      Seabeck, Washington

cherry blossoms
in the blind woman’s hand
                      Keith Frentz
                      Tauranga, New Zealand

cherry petals
into words
                      Zeljko Funda
                      Varazdin, Croatia

first cherry blossoms—
creaking swings
in the twilight
                      Damien Gabriels
                      Leers, France

the rest of the day—
cherry blossoms
to spare
                      Gary Hotham
                      Zwingenberg, Germany

senior’s arm
rests against the branch
with no cherry blossoms
                      Jean Anne Jorgensen
                      Edmonton, Alberta

wheeling herself
to the living room window . . .
cherry blossoms
                      Darrell Lindsey
                      Nacogdoches, Texas

on a leafless bough—
the evening star
                      Peggy Lyles
                      Tucker, Georgia

cherry blossoms—
our moonlit walk
becomes longer
                      Tomislav Maretic
                      Gornje Vrapche, Croatia

cherry buds
my daughter tries on her first
                      Jacek Margolak
                      Kielce, Poland

his children’s names
forgotten . . . he asks about
cherry blossoms
                      Marilyn Murphy
                      Providence, Rhode Island

on the empty bench
where we last kissed
cherry blossoms
                      Neil Muscott
                      Peterborough, Ontario

cherry blossoms . . .
a child asks
if they are real
                      Rita Odeh
                      Nazareth, Israel

storm warning lifted
her car sheds
cherry petals
                      Richard R. Powell
                      Nanaimo, British Columbia

stolen kiss
under the cherry tree her cheeks
the colour of petals
Katarzyna Predota
Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki, Poland

blossomy footpath—
difficult for the snail
to wend its way home
                      Gabriel Rosenstock
                      Dublin, Ireland

wash day
grandpa’s pant cuffs
full of cherry petals
                      Marilyn Sandall
                      Seattle, Washington

tattoo booth
she inquires about
a cherry blossom
                      Grant D. Savage
                      Ottawa, Ontario

cherry blossoms
collect at the base of the tree
her painted toes
                      Trish Shields
                      Courtenay, British Columbia

a cherry petal settles
in the other chair
                      Judt Shrode
                      Tacoma, Washington

calving season
cherry blossoms fly
from kicked-up heels
                      John Stone
                      Elverta, California

neglected garden—
the slow drift of cherry petals
from my neighbor’s tree
                      Sasa Vazic
                      Batajnica, Serbia


2008 Adult Honourable Mentions

dusky full moon—
the shadows of cherry blossoms
across the path
                      Sharon Hammer Baker
                      Findlay, Ohio

petals drift
from the busker’s flute
decorating his grey hair
                      Winona Baker
                      Nanaimo, British Columbia

shaking off
cherry blossoms
the deaf dog
                      Roberta Beary
                      Washington, District of Columbia

branches of blossoms
fill the viewfinder
a child skips by
                      Jeannine Bertoia
                      Surrey, British Columbia

cherry blossom
the bees read each petal
in detail
                      Tony Beyer
                      New Plymouth, New Zealand

cherry blossoms
a young girl dances
along the boulevard
                      Leonie Bingham
                      Stony Chute, Australia

cherry blossoms
falling; we too
                      Peter Brady
                      Gatineau, Quebec

dappled shade
the toddler’s fist spills
cherry petals
                      Nathalie Buckland
                      Nimbin, Australia

Fluttering down
through driving hailstones . . .
cherry blossoms.
                      Matthew Coleman
                      Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

wrinkled hands
reach to touch it –
cherry branch in bloom
                      Sonia Coman
                      Cambridge, Massachusettes

Mother’s Day picnic
pitchers of pink lemonade
among the blossoms
                      Pamela Cooper
                      Montreal, Quebec

Cherry blossoms—
Young lovers shake fallen
petals from their hair
                      Jeff Crawford
                      Surrey, British Columbia

The white cane
caresses the low branches—
a smell of blossoms.
                      Willy Cuvelier
                      Gullegem, Belgium

evening breezes
stir the cherry blossoms—
a newborn’s sweet breath
                      DeVar Dahl
                      Magrath, Alberta

On the old bench
two lovers illuminated by
the cherry blossoms
                      Magdalena Dale
                      Bucharest, Romania

weeping cherry
my sandwich peppered
with pink petals
                      Susan Delaney
                      Plano, Texas

frog chorus—
half hidden in blossoms
a heron scans the pond
                      Elehna de Sousa
                      Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

Carpet of blossoms—
my granddaughter in her pink dress
does a twirl
                      Lesley Donaldson
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

tea leaves—
a wandering blossom
begins to melt
                      Jamie Edgecombe
                      Devon, England

tropical holiday
away from home
I dream of cherry blossoms
                      Tracie Fisher
                      White Rock, British Columbia

raincoast garden
cherry petals land
on the seaweed mulch
                      Ann Forest
                      Cortes Island, British Columbia

a blanket
under the cherry blossoms—
two freckled faces
                      Laryalee Fraser
                      Salmon Arm, British Columbia

after lovemaking
cherry blossoms
                      Marco Fraticelli
                      Pointe Claire, Quebec

Cherry blossoms!
The tax computation
falls onto the grass.
                      Volker Friebel
                      Tuebingen, Germany

in a gust of petals
his old box camera
pink pink pink!
                      Lin Geary
                      Paris, Ontario

grumbling husband—
all over his car
sodden cherry blossoms
                      Ann Harreby
                      Coquitlam, British Columbia

Amidst the blossoms
I thought I saw
Her smile again
                      Neil Hershfield
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

patio breeze
leaving the blossoms
                      Jim Kacian
                      Winchester, Virginia

Cherry blossoms
we wear
our party clothes
                      Doris Kasson
                      Belleair Bluffs, Florida

after returning the ring
cherry blossom rain
                      Deborah P. Kolodji
                      Temple City, California

stairs covered
with cherry blossom petals . . .
piano music
                      Anthony Anatoly Kudryavitsky
                      Dublin, Ireland

reading Chekhov
with cherry blossoms blooming
in grandma’s garden
                      Natalia Kuznetsova
                      Moscow, Russia

cherry blossoms . . .
paper lanterns glow pink
under the stars
                      Catherine J.S. Lee
                      Eastport, Maine

cherry trees in bloom . . .
the cracked sidewalk
of the science museum
                      Paul M.
                      Bristol, Rhode Island

fine mist falling—
cherry blossoms stick
to the duck’s back
                      Curtis Manley
                      Bellevue, Washington

date under a cherry—
the lovers leave with petals
still on their car
                      Dubravko Marijanovic
                      Zagreb, Croatia

cherry blossoms
a child’s arms back and forth
to make a snow angel
                      Terra Martin
                      Toronto, Ontario

cherry blossoms!
we remember
to exhale
                      Scott Mason
                      Chappaqua, New York

on a storm-drain grate—
cherry petal . . .
                      Vicki McCullough
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

Behind cherry blossoms
Two blue tracksuits
A quick kiss
                      Helen Moon
                      Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

waking up at night
whiteness of cherry blossoms
is the only light
                      Lukasz Muniowski
                      Plonsk, Poland

gentle breeze
curtain folds catch
the first cherry petal
                      Boris Nazansky
                      Zagreb, Croatia

evening joggers
along the roadside
spent blossoms
                      Roland Packer
                      Hamilton, Ontario

pavement café
my cup overflowing
with cherry blossom
                      Katrina Shepherd
                      Dunblane, Scotland

sudden shower
you kiss
each petal on my face
                      Sandra Simpson
                      Tauranga, New Zealand

through the hedge
one by one
cherry petals
                      Karen Sohne
                      Toronto, Ontario

whirl of cyclists
windswept cherry blossoms shift
to yet another spot
                      Carmen Sterba
                      University Place, Washington

pink snow—
already the cars fashion
new ruts in the road
                      Richard Stevenson
                      Lethbridge, Alberta

morning stroll—
first cherry petal
I become the breeze
                      Maria Steyn
                      Johannesburg, South Africa

the toddler’s toes
pink cherry petals
                      Andre Surridge
                      Hamilton, New Zealand

first blossoms . . .
grandmother reaches
for the newborn
                      Theresa Thompson
                      Lufkin, Texas

Swaying here, swaying there
from the cherry blossom tree
a wet pair of pants.
                      Tina Tran
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

again and again
in the reflecting pool
cherry blossoms
                      Charles Trumbull
                      Evanston, Illinois

cherry tree in bloom—
a bride blushes
beneath her veil
                      Ursula Vaira
                      Lantzville, British Columbia

with a minimum
of restrained brush strokes—
mum’s cherry blossoms
                      Geert Verbeke
                      Flanders, Belgium

lovers’ path
two bluebirds disappear
into cherry blossoms
                      Marilyn Walker
                      Madison, Georgia

My old cat listens
to the falling pink blossoms
under the cherry tree
                      Blaine Weiss
                      Langford, British Columbia

funeral day
the cherry blossoms
about to break
                      Sheila Windsor
                      Worcester, England

walking with him
through cherry blossoms
remembering you
                      Laquita Wood
                      Washington, District of Columbia

the day you leave—
first blossom
opens on my cherry tree
                      Helen Yong
                      Christchurch, New Zealand

family picnic
a child slips cherry blossoms
behind granny’s ear
                      Quendryth Young
                      Alstonville, Australia

2008 Youth Sakura Award Winners

a picnic day

today’s weather:
cherry blossom
                      John Chung (17)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

I lick the foam
from my milkshake—
cherry blossom
                      Sophia Frentz (15)
                      Tauranga, New Zealand

fallen petals
it’s a pity to take
the next step
                      Mateusz Sionkowski (17)
                      Torun, Poland

cherry blossoms
I walk on and on
not stopping once to say grace
                      Janice Yang (6)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

Cherry blossoms—
Petal after petal
The only movement
                      Sherry Zhou (9)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

2008 Youth Honourable Mentions

Squishing petals
Little boys
Drinking pink lemonade
                      Heather Berringer (11)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

around the moon
a garland of cherry blooms
in the young lovers’ eyes
                      Héloïse Bonnet (15)
                      Rodez, France

Snowing in spring?
Rubber boots and scarf
Oh! Cherry blossoms
                      Alicia Chung (11)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

The sweet flush of youth
My daughter’s glowing pink cheeks
Soft cherry blossoms
                      Alana Cook (16)
                      Maple Ridge, British Columbia

Cherry blossoms—
the ball bounces
pink waves of flying petals
                      Olivia Feng, age 11
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

the bouquet
of pink blossoms
a poem for my eyes
                      Zoe Sweetgrass Forest (11)
                      Cortes Island, British Columbia

The whisper of the wind—
the song of the blossoms
completes the silence
                      Natasha Hemer (12)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

Cherry blossoms everywhere
like eyes
they see through me
                      Catherine Kwok (17)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

An early morning
the cherry blossoms
against the pane
                      Heather LePard (12)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

My heart and my mind
are overflowing with dreams
to bloom like blossoms
                      Jessica Lao (11)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

The flute plays
a haunting crescendo
blossoms twirl
                      Iris Lo (16)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

Soft as your skin
Cherry blossoms caress my face
I long for you
                      Megan Lozada (17)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

fallen to the ground
cherry blossoms find me
lying on the ground
                      Jana Markovic (10)
                      North Vancouver, British Columbia

A hot spring day
Shining off cherry petals
                      Charlotte McNeil (10)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

cherry blossoms
adorn my poodle
her eyes light up
                      Jadah Pereira (8)
                      Miramar, Florida

pink petals fall
reminding me of the days
when you were still here
                      Valerie Shim (16)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

Cherry trees
White petals falling to the ground
Into my apple pie
                      Victor Tang (10)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

I can feel their movement
I can hear their music
Cherry blossoms
                      Alexa Uppal (11)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

Falling pink petals
Like winter
In spring
                      Leena Yamaguchi (11)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

Forever in bloom
Cherry blossoms caught in the wind
Inked onto my skin
                      Stephanie Yee (17)
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

softly on the ground
beautiful cherry blossoms
falling everywhere
                      Karsen Yolland (13)
                      Agassiz, British Columbia

2008 Judges’ Comments

“The primary purpose of reading and writing haiku is sharing moments of our lives that have moved us, pieces of experience and perception that we offer or receive as gifts. At the deepest level, this is the one great purpose of all art, and especially of literature.”
—William J. Higginson, The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku

A common quality of poems selected for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s 2008 Haiku Invitational is how they capture moving moments. The images move us as readers by conveying the feelings of experiencing blossoming cherries. These poems are gifts not only to the poets who wrote them, but to all of us who read them.

This year we expanded our selection categories to include a best British Columbia poem, in addition to best poems for Canada, the United States, elsewhere internationally, and for youth. It has been the haiku committee’s dream to have these winning poems engraved in stone. On April 3, 2008, this dream came true. The top 2008 poems, together with the top winners from 2007 and 2006, have been sandblasted into a stunning haiku rock at the new Honorable David Lam Cherry Grove at Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden. We are grateful to the garden for providing a beautiful home for the haiku rock and to its staff for expert installation. We also thank Northwest Landscape and Stone Supply for donating the beautiful basalt column, and thank Bob Tiller and his staff for sandblasting the winning poems into the stone. Generations of visitors can now enjoy these poems in a spectacular garden setting. If you live in or near Vancouver, or might ever visit, we hope you will take the opportunity to see the garden so you can enjoy the haiku rock yourself.

For this year’s Haiku Invitational, we received nearly 800 haiku. They came from 36 countries, our most yet, including Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Kenya, Nepal, Israel, South Africa, and many other countries. In addition to our selection of the top five haiku, which we comment on individually below, we’ve also selected a large number of Sakura Award winners and Honourable Mentions for adults and youth. We are pleased to offer our congratulations to these poets and our thanks to everyone who entered.

The real prize, of course, is writing the poetry itself—and being more keenly aware, through haiku, of the seasonal changes around you. As the cherry trees bud and blossom in spring, or as you recall this fleeting time in other seasons, we encourage you to write new haiku for your own enjoyment, and possibly to submit for our festival next year. We are grateful for your gifts of haiku, and look forward to new exchanges in the years ahead.

Carole MacRury, Michael Dylan Welch, and Edward Zuk, judges

2008 Best Canadian Poem

a winter blizzard
I turn my calendar
to cherry blossoms

Marilyn Potter
Toronto, Ontario

Marilyn Potter’s haiku is unusual for evoking cherry blossoms out of season. The poem is set in winter, yet cherry blossoms are still present in the mind of the poet, who turns to them for relief while being snowed in. I admired this haiku not only for the surprising appearance of the blossoms, but also for its longing for the cherry trees, spring, and everything that they represent. I also liked how an iconic Canadian experience, a blizzard, is connected to the cherry blossoms in a natural way.

Edward Zuk

2008 Best B.C. Poem

late for work—
cherry petals
in my hair

Jessica Tremblay
Burnaby, British Columbia

This poem presents a clear image with utterly direct and simple words. Jessica Tremblay tells us she is late for work and that cherry petals adorn her hair. It is easy to understand that the beauty of the cherry blossoms has entranced her so much that they’ve made her late for her daily obligation. Not only is she late for work because she’s been enjoying the blossoms, she doesn’t even brush them from her hair, thus prolonging her appreciation of their splendor.

Michael Dylan Welch

2008 Best U.S. Poem

cherry blossoms
the baby’s hair too fine
to hold a ribbon

Ferris Gilli
Marietta, Georgia

The image here is one of a young family under the cherry blossoms, perhaps enjoying a picnic. It’s a celebratory sort of day, and a parent or grandparent feels an impulse to decorate the baby’s hair with a ribbon. The baby is still too young to have grown thick enough hair, a fact that echoes the newness and ephemerality of the cherry blossoms they’re enjoying. The leap we make between the poem’s two parts enables us to feel, without being told, the joyousness and beauty of the occasion, tinged with the melancholy feeling that accompanies an awareness of fleeting beauty.

Michael Dylan Welch

2008 Best International Poem

in clearing mist
the creaking of a heavy oar . . .
cherry blossoms

Tito (Stephen Henry Gill)
Kyoto, Japan

This haiku’s subtle and sensory word choices capture the essence of a single moment in time, and the poem continues to reverberate long after we read the last line. This poem resonates not only with the sound of the oar but also with the oar’s heaviness juxtaposed against the lightness of mist and blossoms. Even the rhythm of the language evokes the slow stroking of oars. Our senses are heightened, as they would be in a mist, and we are placed immediately into this moment from real life. Both the spirit of haiku and the spirit of the cherry blossom season abound in this excellent and enduring haiku.

Carole MacRury

2008 Best Youth Poem

evening prayer—
the cherry petals stick
to the pane

Damian Margolak (age 16)
Kielce, Poland

In Japan, the cherry blossom is often connected with spiritual experiences. In a famous waka (31-syllable poem), the poet Saigyo (1118–1190) wishes to be buried among his beloved cherry blossoms so that he can be with them even in death:

I pray that I will die beneath the blossoming cherry,
In spring, the month of flowers,
When the moon is full.

(modified slightly from a translation by Daisetz Suzuki)

Damian Margolak’s haiku also links the cherry blossoms to a spiritual longing. Although there would seem to be little connection between the blossoms and a prayer, we are meant to feel that deep and powerful forces are at work in the juxtaposition of the two images. In particular, we are left to wonder whether the petals on the windowpane are themselves an answer to the prayer or if they are, perhaps, a sign of what is to come.

Edward Zuk