2022 7th Annual H. Gene Murtha Memorial Senryu Contest Winners

First Place

cockroach…once more i beg forgiveness

Philip Whitley

We hate killing bugs of any kind, so just on that level alone it resonates with us. Taking it a step further, we also see this as metaphor for domestic violence. The perpetrator is the cockroach and the other person is apologizing for a mistake that is either real or just perceived by the other person, hoping it will stop them from whatever they’re about to do, which feels inevitable because it’s in their nature. We like how this senryu can be flipped around so that it’s not only the cockroach that could be stepped on, but a person too. For this reason, it was our top choice.

Second Place

and again
the white horse wins –

Joanne van Helvoort

This senryu, though seems simple, is loaded. The visual of merry-go-round fills the reader with a child-like joy. The first two lines show us that in their innocence, the children are racing each other on their horses but only a particular horse wins. Is winning of a particular horse even possible in the merry-go-round? This is where this cleverly crafted senryu takes us to a different path. Line 2 with “the white horse wins” makes us realize that this poem can actually be about the white privilege or the rich privilege. We all know how it works and how some people in power rig the whole system. It’s a vicious circle – common people work hard and strive for success, but it’s only the people in power who control the reins and reap the benefits

Third Place

first bite
your move now

Aka Moone

We love the humor in this one! The allusion to Adam and Eve and then a dare on top of it makes of think of the childhood game “truth or dare.” Using the Garden of Eden as a background, perfectly illustrates how fun it can be – do you tell the truth or take the dare? Was it in fact a dare all those years ago? It’s a fun thought, making this playful senryu one of our favorites.

Honorable Mentions
(in no particular order)

old flames
at the class reunion
not one match

Ron Russell

not me
the obituaries

Fred Andrle

a cheerio
in the pill box
fool me once

Ron Scully

eye of the storm
not even the wind
wants me

Stefanie Bucifal

phone call
the length of
a bottle of wine

David Grayson

middle school
even our breast sizes
have letter grades

Antoinette Cheung

a constellation
on her breast . . .
freckle envy

Julie Bloss Kelsey

my neighbors’ noises
all night long –
way to go crickets

Cristina Angelescu

nesting dolls…
how history
repeats itself

Laurie Greer

chrysanthemums trying on my wife’s kimono

Jacob Blumner

tent poles
testing the strength
of our marriage

Rich Schilling

cracks forming
in the heirlooms

Carly Siegel Thorp

cash flow
the hole in my pocket
bigger than I thought

Richard Grahn

national debt!
and you’re worried
about my credit cards?

Richard Grahn

deepest breath ever leaving the psych wing

Geoff Pope

carrying the coffin –
the undertaker says
i’m a natural

Stephen Toft

sand shifting pronouns

Jacquie Pearce

first cut—
the watermelon seller bites
into his profit

Kala Ramesh

hermit crab
where to begin

June Rose Dowis

hand-crocheted afghan. . .
too late to tell her
I don’t like maroon

Billie Dee

Smirnoff vodka
all my demons
in high spirits

Cezar-Florin Ciobica

Judges – Vandana Parashar and Susan Burch

Issue 36 – Haibun, Gembun, Rengay & Sequences


Answering Machine

Dad rings to tell us it’s prostate cancer. He’s phlegmatic; says that at his age he’ll most likely die with it than of it. We talk around the subject; he puts mum on. She’s worrying about us worrying so she’s overly upbeat. I tell her that we’ve sorted the passports and we’ll see them soon. We agree it’ll fly by.

The cat is still asleep in its patch of sunlight. Way above, the honey buzzards are still circling. Music still drifts from kitchen to garden. Nothing is different. Everything is different.

winter evening
in the shade of
his second shadow

Alan Peat, United Kingdom

Visiting the Past

Running along the length of Korea are majestic mountains. Covered in lush forests filled with aromatic Hinoki trees, they provide a comforting escape from the rush of city lives. For millennia these mountains have stood as sentinels, calmly watching the flow of time and the journey of humans.

rain forest café
the waiter in a zebra shirt
and leopard pants

Carol Raisfeld, USA


. . . When everyday is like yesterday
in dreary predictability
I seek succour in memories,
drown in nostalgia
savouring every lick, until its
sweetness too evaporates
until I turn to words
for sustenance, each stroke
relished and gourmandised
and hope reigns eternal . . .

stretching the day beyond her means tram stop

Madhuri Pillai, Australia


the dregs of nirvana

Thursday rain
he serves me leftovers
on the chipped plate

Kelly Sauvage, USA & Agnes Eva Savich, USA

minutes on the meter

high anxiety
the abyss
of an unfinished poem

Kelly Sauvage, USA & Robert Moyer, USA


Two Straws

50’s dance party
getting into
the swing of things

a trombone player

directing the band with his slide

her poodle dog skirt
from the thrift shop––
never been worn


a soda

with two straws

he waits for a slow dance
to ask her

In the Still of the Night

taking the long way


Angela Terry, USA & Julie Schwerin, USA

Om Shante Shante

a poker chip
nestled in the stone
Buddha’s palm

free from desire

Tao roulette

disgruntled patron
suing the casino
for bad feng shui

lost among slots

the endless chimes

of ten thousand things

losing streak
bad karma catches up

carpet maze

the way out the door

is within

Terri L. French, USA & Kat Lehmann, USA


Land of the Free

electric gate
Your Kind of Community
in glowing white letters

picket fences
a white man shadows
the black teen

thud of footsteps
one bark answers

ID check
the black teen’s shadow
slips out of the gate

Chen-ou Liu, Canada

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Issue 36 – Haiga


Debbie Strange, Canada

alimony I ask about the exchange rate

M.R. Defibaugh, USA (senryu) & Penney L. Mellen, USA (photo)

silence expands into
our future

Mariel Herbert, USA

wilted lotus . . .
every single chakra
out of alignment

Mark Meyer, USA

lead on, tiger!
new year swings in
by warm lantern light

Melanie Alberts, USA

lonely evening . . .
her memories fill
the empty sky

Milan Rajkumar, India

after the divorce
she smells his cologne
one last time

Poesy Sestina, USA (senryu) & Cottonbro, Russia (photo)

singular they rising from beneath the weight of a plural gaze

Robin Smith, USA (senryu) & Shloka Shankar, India (artwork)

after migration––
how gentle the wind
in her hair

Steliana Cristina Voicu, Romania

the universe
. . . whatever

Wanda Amos, Australia

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