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

2021 6th Annual H. Gene Murtha Memorial Contest Winners

First Place:

how white the shirt
of the rapist

— Arvinder Kaur

Second Place:

first cry . . .
I too am born
a mother

— Agnes Eva Savich

Third Place:

white privilege––
a protester asks
to use the bathroom

—Kelley White

Read all 2021 honorable mentions and judges’ comments (PDF)

Return to Issue

Tia Haynes Named Prune Juice Editor for 2021

Exciting changes to announce at Prune Juice Journal of Senryu & Related Forms:

November Issue #32 will be my last issue editing PJ, as it’s time to step aside and welcome a new rising editor, performer, and poet for whom I hold the deepest respect. I’m delighted to introduce everyone to the next editor of Prune Juice, Tia Haynes, who will begin reading submissions for March Issue #33 on Jan 1st, 2021.

Tia Haynes is an award-winning American poet and stay-at-home mom from Lakewood, Ohio. Her chapbook, leftover ribbon, shortlisted for the 2019 Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards, and she was one of 17 poets featured in New Resonance 11: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku, which won a 2020 HSA Merit Book Award for Best Anthology. She has served as a guest editor for #FemkuMag and The Haiku Foundation’s weekly column Haiku Dialogue, as well as co-judge of the annual Marlene Mountain Memorial Haiku Contest. Her poems can be found in journals such as Frogpond, Modern Haiku, The Heron’s Nest, Presence, and Contemporary Haibun Online.

Please join me in welcoming Tia Haynes to the family! I look forward to witnessing Tia take the journal to whole new heights in the coming years. 

And to all the amazing Prune Juice contributors I’ve had the pleasure of working with as editor over the past six issues, as well as through the 10th Anniversary Anthology celebrations, it’s been a profound honor to read and share your work with the world. Thank you for being my teachers and inspirations over the past few years, each in your own way. I will continue to follow and admire your work in the decades ahead. 


Brent Goodman

Editor (2019 – 2020)