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Japan Air Lines National Haiku Contest (1964)

Japan Air Lines sponsored a haiku contest for poets in the United States in 1964. This was the first and by far the largest competition outside Japan; some 41,000 entries were received in 17 contests arranged by local radio stations. Prominent Zen specialist Alan Watts was the contest judge. Watts selected one National Winner and eighty-three semifinalists, whose winning haiku were published by JAL in a booklet, Haiku ’64. The 1964 JAL contest is commonly believed to have been the catalytic event in American haiku.

In the early years interest in haiku was stimulated across the United States by several contests sponsored by Japan Air Lines. In 1964 something over 41,000 haiku were submitted to their National Haiku Contest. Seventeen contests conducted by radio stations in different parts of the United States screened the entries, and five winners from each local contest were submitted for final judging by Alan Watts. The selection of Watts, not himself a haiku poet but rather an expert on Zen, to judge this seminal contest reinforced the notion that haiku is informed by Zen. In his introduction to the conference chapbook Haiku ’64, the JAL contest compendium that contained the 84 semifinal haiku, Watts wrote, “Haiku represents the ultimate refinement of a long tradition in Far Eastern literature which derived its inspiration from Zen Buddhism.”  This was a view that was certainly held by the leading haiku specialists of the 1960s and undoubtedly influenced the course of American haiku for years to come.

Japan Air Lines published the 84 national entries in a booklet titled Haiku ’64. James W. Hackett was declared the National Winner and won the grand prize of two round-trip tickets to Japan. 

The names of the National Winner and the 83 Runners-up, as well as their winning haiku, were published in a chapbook, Haiku ’64, by the Japan Air Lines Foundation in Tokyo.

In the table below, winners’ names are styled as published in Haiku ’64, except that they have been rearranged alphabetically by last name. Poets whose names are marked with a link are known to have continued to write and publish haiku.

JudgeAlan Watts
Number of entriesMore than 41,000
National WinnerJ. W. Hackett, San Francisco, California
Runners-up (83)Betty Bardshar, Coronado, California
Mrs. Louis A. Bassion, Atlanta, Georgia
Glenn Beaudry, Dallas, Texas
Jean Berggren, Cleveland, Ohio
Judith B. Biehl, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Thomas H. Birch, Cincinnati, Ohio
Wendy Bleiman, Northridge, California
Richard L. Brown, Dallas, Texas
Mrs. William C. Cook, Denver, Colorado
Mr. Alvaro Cardona-Hine, North Hollywood, California
Andrew N. Cothran, Riverdale, Maryland
Dorothy Downs, Atlanta, Georgia
Marion Doyle, Hooversville, Pennsylvania
Nadine DuHamel, San Diego, California
Grace S. Dunn, Boulder, Colorado
James E. Dyer, Fort Worth, Texas
The Rev. J. E. Festle, Milford, Ohio
Robert G. Frost, Greensburg, Pennsylvania
Evan H. Gentry, Houston, Texas
Dr. Charles B. Gillespie, Decatur, Georgia
Charles Glover, Portland, Oregon
Johanna Gravell, Houston, Texas
Charles Harbaugh, Seattle, Washington
Lorraine Ellis Harr, Portland, Oregon
Cristina Harris, Portola Valley, California
Leonard Helie, New York, New York
Marcia Helland, Denver, Colorado
Adele R. Heller, Silver Spring, Maryland
Karl F. Heumann, Bethesda, Maryland
Joel Holmberg, Boston, Massachusetts
Charles W. Jorgensen, Detroit, Michigan
Sally F. Kanaga, Redlands, California
Karin Kuish, Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan
Kathy Lang, Seattle, Washington
L. Leonowich, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Louise Lessin, Brooklyn, New York
James Levey, Cleveland, Ohio
D. A. Levy, Cleveland, Ohio
Robert F. Mainone, Battle Creek, Michigan
Dave Martin, San Francisco, California
Sharron McCuistion, San Francisco, California
Mrs. J. Danford McDonnell, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Grady L. McMurtry, Washington, D.C.
Jessie S. Melvin, Milton, Massachusetts
Janet Michelena, Akron, Ohio
Jack L. Mitchell, Redlands, California
Edward Morin, Cincinnati, Ohio
Katherine Mormino, Los Angeles, California
Matt Movesesian, Forest Hills, New York
Mrs. S. W. Newman, Portland, Oregon
Mary Ellen Olmsted, Wilmington, Delaware
John T. Parker, Palo Alto, California
David Peterson, Bothell, Washington
Beverly Planinsek, Laughlintown, Pennsylvania
Elizabeth Pollock, New York, New York
Carolla Postlewaite, Littleton, Colorado
Marjory Bates Pratt, Pennington, New Jersey
Lyndall Procter, Levittown, Pennsylvania
John M. Purcell, Cincinnati, Ohio
Thomas D. Redshaw, Marblehead, Massachusetts
Mrs. Ralph V. Righton, Stone Mountain, Georgia
Sylvia Roller, El Cajon, California
Phyllis Roth, Brooklyn, New York
Sara Margaret Sanford, Portland, Oregon
Mrs. T. F. Schneider, Dallas, Texas
Bertha Wilcox Smith, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Richard S. Sparer, Hollis, New York
Robert Spiess, Madison, Wisconsin
John Stadler, Ann Arbor, Michigan
James T. Staples, San Diego, California
Judy T. Sternbergs, Cincinnati, Ohio
John Tagliabue, Lewiston, Maine
Don Tarabochia, Seattle, Washington
Dudley Trudgett, Los Angeles, California
B. M. VanBrooks, Dallas, Texas
Connie Vecchione, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mrs. Arthur Verharen, Portland, Oregon
David Ward, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Diane A. Wax, Austell, Georgia
Mike Weaver, Arvada, Colorado
Lloyd C. Welling, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Mrs. Veris A. Wessel, Seattle, Washington
Hans A. Zutter, Warminster, Pennsylvania

COMPILED BY: The Haikupedia editors

SOURCES:  Haiku ’64. Tokyo: Japan Air Lines Foundation, 1964.

Charles Trumbull. “The American Haiku Movement—Part I: Haiku in English.” Modern Haiku 36:3 (Autumn 2005), 33–73. Available online in The Haiku Foundation Digital Archive at http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/omeka/items/show/1155.

Charles Trumbull. “Shangri-La: James W. Hackett’s Life in Haiku.”  Peter McDonald, ed., Juxtapositions: The Journal of Haiku Research and Scholarship 1:1 (2015), 45.  Also available on The Haiku Foundation website: https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/juxta/juxta-1-1/.

Updated on December 26, 2023