“Nick Virgilio Writers House Poetry: Volume 1” now available

For the first volume of poetry from the Nick Virgilio Writers House, we have chosen to include the Japanese poetic forms: haiku, senryu, and tanka. As Nick once put it, “A haiku is a record of emotion which somehow links human nature to all nature through keenly perceived experience.”

Copy of Copy of _A haiku is a record of emotion which somehow links human nature to all nature through keenly perceived experience._.png

The authors we included either wrote their poems at our opening or they responded to a request for submissions. The list of contributors includes correspondents with Nick and/or friends of the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association. You can buy it today on Amazon!

Winners of the 2019 Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition

Contest Winners 2019.png

We are pleased to announce the six winners of the 2019 Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition for students grades 7-12 sponsored by the Haiku Society of America. This year, the contest drew 2,835 poems from 1,033 young poets who represented 46 states and 9 countries.

Annually six poems are selected as unranked winners. The winning poets and poems for 2019 are listed below, along with comments from the judges Brad Bennett & Hannah Mahoney.

We want to thank the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association and the Haiku Society of America for this rewarding and vibrant opportunity. We thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries for this year’s Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition. These poems were authentic messages from teenage writers, reflecting on their lives and baring their souls.

As we read and reread, and then selected our top six, we were informed by some criteria for haiku and senryu excellence. We were looking for a keen observation of a haiku moment, an effective juxtaposition between concrete experiences, and the kind of precision that is found only in this short form. We were interested in fresh poems with new takes on experiences. We were also looking for depth or resonance. The poems that we selected all lingered in our minds because of their successful craft. Lastly, we wanted poems that represented authentic adolescent creativity and voice. We are inspired by these young poets and hope that they continue to thrive with this form that we love. Congratulations to the winners!

— Judges Brad Bennett & Hannah Mahoney


year’s end
the smell of gunpowder

Spencer Hollberg, Grade 8
Atlanta, GA

This is a deceptively simple haiku with suggestive depths. At first reading, it describes a well-observed moment: the quiet after New Year’s Eve fireworks. Then we contemplate the poet’s choice of the phrase “year’s end.” This is an intriguing emphasis, connoting a reflecting back. And the evocation of gunpowder brings to mind the many occurrences of violence both around the world and near to home, making the pause felt at the end of the haiku a hopeful but uncertain one. We appreciate the duality of this haiku, its ambiguity, dreaming room, and possibilities.

sliding home
the familiar taste
of Georgia red clay

Lucas Tangpricha, Grade 7
Atlanta, GA

This is a joyful and comforting poem. The glee of playing baseball or softball on a beautiful day. Rounding third and nearing home plate. Diving into a headfirst slide, going all out to avoid the tag. Scoring an important run. Tasting victory. This experience is also comforting because of the double meaning of home. The familiarity and solace of home allows room for that joy to billow up. This poem is well constructed and slides smoothly off the tongue. This haiku scores in our book!

mountain road
the high-pitched sounds
of spring peepers

Lilly Margolis, Grade 7
Atlanta, GA

This is a wonderfully composed haiku. It includes a lovely parallel juxtaposition between the height of the mountains and the height of the pitch. Pitch obviously refers to the quality of the frogs’ musical sound, but also to the steepness of a mountain slope. Both are high; both are intense. This poem also delivers a contrast between the enormity of mountains and the comparatively tiny size of the frogs and their peeps. In fact, the word peepers seems to make the frogs and their calls even tinier. Well done!

twist by twist
knot by knot
mother braids my hair

Lilly Margolis, Grade 7
Atlanta, GA

We were first drawn to this haiku by the lyrical repetition in the first two lines, skillfully conveying the familiar motions of a daily task. It lingered in our minds due to the emotional depth of its image, expressed by the just-rightness of twist and knot. We have a sense of the complexities of a mother-child bond: affection, conflict, understanding, misunderstandings, the parental legacies we rebel against and eventually distill in our own lives. This is a tender and affecting haiku.

fence hole
the cat with a nicked ear
slips through

James Propst, Grade 8
Atlanta, GA

This is a sly poem, one that slipped into our consciousness, curled up, and settled in. Perhaps the author is describing the local stray, a veteran of turf wars or cruel humans. Perhaps the author identifies with this cat, still surviving despite the many trials and tribulations of adolescence. We all want an escape hatch, and this cat has found one. Both the cat and this poem are resourceful, sly, and surviving.

spring fever
back to
the chemo ward

Vlad-Sergiu Ciobîcă, Grade 12

The first line of this haiku connotes the restlessness of early spring. The second line hints at a returning, the cycle of seasons. Then the third line hits us in the gut. The literal meaning of fever comes to mind as we realize that the return is not to the ease of springtime but to harsh fluorescent lights, IVs, side effects, uncertainty, and fear. We admire the effective juxtaposition of fragment and phrase, as well as the reticence at work, in this powerful and memorable haiku.

Each winner receives a $100 scholarship award and a copy of Nick Virgilio’s Selected Haiku, as well as a subscription to the HSA publication Frog Pond.

This year, as always, the poems offered fresh looks at key human emotions – from nature and the seasons to love, loss, grief, hope, fear and joy. At the essence of haiku and senryu is the power of being in the moment and capturing that moment in a few expressively chosen words that let the reader recreate that experience.

It is for that reason that the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association and Writers House is using writing arts and poetry, especially haiku, at the core of our mission to promote literacy and self-expression. We believe that this meditative approach is crucial to helping youth and adults become engaged members of their communities.

We have approached this mission by serving as the home for programs like Mighty Writers Camden – which serves students ages 11 to 17 in daily after school and evening writing programs in our Writers House. We also host poetry readings, literary events, and writing workshops including haiku workshops, and we create resources and trainings by teachers and for teachers.

This fall, we will be holding an event for teachers (watch our website for details) that will be taught by haiku poet Tom Painting. It is a testament to the power of his excellent teaching that five of the six winning poems in this completely anonymously-judged competition were written by students of Painting, who teaches at The Paideia School in Atlanta, Georgia. The additional winner is from A.T. Laurian National College high school in Botoșani, Romania where teacher Cezar-Florin Ciobîcăhas also had winners from his class in past years.

This year’s judges were Brad Bennett and Hannah Mahoney. Brad Bennett is an elementary school teacher in the Boston area and has been teaching haiku to kids for over twenty years. Brad’s haiku have been published in a variety of journals and magazines. He is a member of the Summer Street Haiku Group, the Boston Haiku Society, and the Haiku Society of America. His first haiku book, a drop of pond, published by Red Moon Press, was awarded a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award for 2016 by The Haiku Foundation) Hannah Mahoney lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and works in children’s publishing. Her haiku have appeared in a variety of print and online journals, and she is a recipient of the Kaji Aso International Haiku Award and the Kaji Aso International Senryu Award. As always, the judging is completely anonymous with all poems submitted to the judges in a random order list with no identifying geographic or demographic information. 

Our Year in Review

We are writing today from the second floor of the Nick Virgilio Writers House, our freshly-renovated and newly-opened space at 1801 Broadway in Camden, NJ. In one corner sits Nick Virgilio’s typewriter, his brother Larry Virgilio’s boots from the Vietnam war, and his mother’s sewing machine. On the walls hang many of Nick’s haiku, alongside poster boards about superheroes and hip-hop made by Camden kids who participate in Mighty Writers programs. There are assorted cozy chairs arranged in a circle in one room, but it’s about 5:00 PM on a Monday, so there are also 10 kids sitting at a big table working on their homework now that they’ve finished writing poems inspired by their lives.

Haiku North America


The Nick Virgilio Haiku Association successfully premiered the film "Nick of Time...Nick of Time" at Haiku North America in Santa Fe, NM in September 2017 to an enthusiastic audience of poets from all over the world. The film was part of a double feature with a previous documentary by Sean Dougherty called "remembering Nick Virgilio."

The film is of the play "Nick of Time...Nick of Time" written by Camden native award winning New Jersey playwright and founding producing artistic director of South Camden Theatre Company, Joseph M. Paprzycki

The play probes the roots of Virgilio’s writing and his drive that spurred him to draw such beauty and universal connection from nature, from urban observation and from his personal loss. It features some of Virgilio's work and highlights his influencers, from Camden poet Walt Whitman to his own brother Larry.

The play was produced by board member Henry Brann, directed by John Doyle of Iron Age Theatre, filmed by Marc Brodzik of Woodshop Films and Andrew Geller, featuring actors Bob WeickRocky Wilson and Ned Pryce.  The new production will eventually be part of the inspirational and educational programming at the Nick Virgilio Writers House. Watch for an announcement of a South Jersey screening. 

Winners of the 2017 Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition

And the Winners are ... 

2017 Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial
Haiku and Senryu Competition

Linda Papanicolaou
Brad Bennett

This year there were almost 6,000 poems entered in the Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition. It is impressive and very heartening that so many students entered their poems. We were especially struck by the range of emotions embedded in the poems, from hope and glee all the way to pain and loneliness. We hope that poetry, and haiku in particular, continues to provide an outlet for these young writers to express these feelings through concrete imagery.

What did we look for in these haiku and senryu? We looked for a fresh and successful rendering of a moment observed, a deft portrayal of concrete sensory experiences, an allusion to emotions rather than personal revelation, simple language, and a strong voice, all of which are necessary when writing excellent haiku and senryu. We were also looking for a distinctive young person’s voice in each of the winning poems. 

We felt honored to be asked to judge this contest. We very much enjoyed the whole process, from reading the poems, to rereading the poems, to rereading the poems again, to discussing the poems we most appreciated, to whittling all the wonderful poems down to a mere six winners. There were many more that deserved praise. But the final six resonated for us. Their writers showed creativity, voice, and knowledge of the craft of writing a successful haiku. Congratulations to the winners!

In the summer heat
endless jump shots
on a broken hoop

    Stephanie Okeke
    Gardena, CA
    Grade 12

This haiku very effectively accentuates how oppressive a heat wave can be. The word “endless” is the first indication that this heat has gone on long enough. Not only that, all the basketball player has to shoot at is one “broken” hoop. That’s disheartening!  The writer, by carefully selecting these words, has masterfully alluded to feelings of loneliness and boredom, perhaps as oppressive as the heat. But we can also appreciate the writer’s dedication to practice. Well executed!

tea leaves
she stirs them
for something better

    Olivia Shannon
    Atlanta, GA
    Grade 7

One of the common themes of the human condition is to want to change our lives for the better, especially if we’re struggling with something. We often go to great lengths to shake things up, but sometimes we do little things to make a difference. Like stirring some tea leaves. So this poem connects with a universal desire. In addition, the unknown subject “she” brings some wonderful mystery to this poem. Is the writer speaking autobiographically? Is it about someone important in the writer’s life…a friend, a mother, a sister? The meaning changes depending on this choice, and that ambiguity gives this senryu added intrigue and resonance.

Amber alert
one desk

    Campbell Serrano
    Atlanta, GA
    Grade 7

A common misperception about a senryu is that it’s a humorous poem that focuses on human foibles. Not so—as this poem shows, it can also be about deadly serious matters, and emotion. The effectiveness of this poem lies in its minimalism and its shape, an inverted triangle that narrows to one start word, “empty”, on the third line. Rather than telling—or even showing—the emotional responses of the other students, the emptiness of that desk places us in the classroom, feeling directly the unspeakable fear of a child’s kidnapping. 

our parrot shrieks
my father’s name
in my mother’s voice

    Cole Mitchell
    Newport Coast, CA
    Grade 12

This is a classic, wonderfully funny senryu. Since parrots learn what they hear often, it speaks volumes about the dynamics of a household in which the mother’s and the family parrot’s voices mirror each other. The choice of a single word can make or break a poem. In this case it’s the opening “our”, which sets the poem within the child’s point of view and frames the joke with a knowing humor.

father’s silhouette
cut from the photo
his hand still on her shoulder

    Cole Mitchell
    Newport Coast, CA
    Grade 12

This is a powerful senryu. The author uses a concrete image, an altered photograph, to allude to some very strong feelings. Why is the father cut out? Is this a “broken” family? Is the father no longer living? Is the girl mad at the father? And even though an attempt has been made to cut this man out, his emotional impact lingers on. In addition, the last line is longer than the first two, and that adds to the lingering effect of the hand, and the pain.

millions of stars
my father
points out a planet

    Daisy Solomon
    Atlanta, GA
    Grade 8

The emotional strength of this haiku is its nostalgic evocation of childhood memories of stargazing on clear summer nights. How many of us have been taught by our fathers to pick out the constellations and planets? In its simplicity of words, this haiku is well crafted, with both cut and kigo (“a million stars” would be a late summer/early autumn reference), and the choice of imagery draws a wonderful contrast between the immensity of the night sky and the intimacy of a father teaching his child that some worlds are not quite as far away as the stars.

About our judges:

Linda Papanicolaou

A middle school art teacher and art historian, Linda Papanicolaou became interested in haiku and haiga in the late 1990s when she taught a 5th grade art lesson that combined leaf printing and haiku. The leaf prints were beautiful, the haiku not, and she realized she'd have to learn more about haiku. Although she never taught that lesson again, she has become a committed haiku poet who also writes senryu, haiga, haibun and renku. She has published widely and is a member of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, Haiku Poets of Northern California, and the Haiku Society of America. For the past twelve years she has edited Haigaonline. 

Brad Bennett

Brad Bennett is an elementary school teacher in the Boston area and has been teaching haiku to kids for over twenty years. Brad’s haiku have been published in a variety of journals and magazines. He is a member of the Summer Street Haiku Group, the Boston Haiku Society, and the Haiku Society of America. His first haiku book, a drop of pond, published by Red Moon Press, was awarded a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award for 2016 by The Haiku Foundation.

Nick of Time Play: The Movie

We need your help. As the Nick Virgilio Writers House in Camden, New Jersey nears completion, we are creating programming for writers of all ages. We are filming the play Nick of Time...Nick of Time, by award-winning South Jersey playwright Joseph M. Paprzycki, as the basis of a dynamic documentary, premiering at Haiku North America this Fall.

To complete this foundational programming, we need to raise $6,000. Your TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation supports this and future programs. 

By funding our project, you’re saying you care about inspiring (and aspiring) writers, you care about kids, you care about literacy and you care about building community resources in places in need. 

Thanks for helping. 
Actors Bob Weick (right) playing Nick Virgilio and Ned Pryce (left).

Actors Bob Weick (right) playing Nick Virgilio and Ned Pryce (left).

NVHA is Proud to launch its New Website

Welcome to our new website! We will be adding more and more content, news and updating our members, friends and supporters monthly on upcoming events, workshops and contests. Visitors to the site will be kept informed on the progress of our new Writers House as we get closer to our grand opening and ribbon cutting! We are very excited to get our website launched and welcome you to engage with us online. 

We also welcome participants in the annual Nick Virgilio haiku and senryu competition sponsored by the Haiku Society of America. This year we are asking for participants to make a voluntary contribution with their entries so that we can increase the amount of the scholarship fund and make the awards much more prize worthy! If our participants are able to donate a $1 or whatever they are able, it could make a huge difference and add a great deal of excitement to our competition!   

Our Writers House should be operational in the next few months and we will be sharing and working with some of our creative partners, not only in haiku and other forms of poetry, but in related literary fields to present some of the finest collaborative programming that you will experience anywhere. Our newly expanded and energized Board of Directors welcomes you to a very important year for the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association!

Thank You for Your Continued Support,

George Vallianos, President
Nick Virgilio Haiku Association

Nick Virgilio Writer's House

Opening in 2017-18

Writer's house located at Broadway & Jasper St., Camden, NJ. 

Writer's house located at Broadway & Jasper St., Camden, NJ. 

The time is near for the long anticipated opening of the Nick Virgilio Writer's House to open in Camden, NJ in late 2017 or early 2018.

One of the goals of the Writer's House is to create a series of writing workshops for children and adults to be at the new building– The Committee will identify existing writing workshops that can be replicated at the Writers House.  The children’s workshops will be based on curriculum develop that would address teacher educational mandates within New Jersey State Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.  The curriculum with be the basis for hosting student field trips and the eventual in-school programming. For adults, prioritize targets groups (i.e. advanced creative writing, beginners, or ESL) and host two workshops in 2017 and four in 2018.  This may also be considered under the speaker events if an established poet or professor offered a workshop.

Click images above to see full-size.

Tony Virgilio, Nick’s Brother at the doorway of the NVHA Writers House as it is being restored and remodeled and Tony anticipates fulfilling his dream of a Writers House named after his brother, Nick.

Tony Virgilio, Nick’s Brother at the doorway of the NVHA Writers House as it is being restored and remodeled and Tony anticipates fulfilling his dream of a Writers House named after his brother, Nick.

Would you like to help in supporting the Nick Virgilio Writer's House?  

Several years ago the Heart of Camden, with the urging of Monsignor Michael Doyle of Sacred Heart Church, acquired the vacant property on the corner of Broadway and Jasper with the intention of transforming it into the Nick Virgilio Writers House.  As the construction of the Writers House nears completion, the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association is preparing for a new chapter in its organizational history.    

1801 Broadway
Camden, NJ 08104


Below is a series of photos documenting the construction of the Writer's House during the summer of 2016 (click to see full size images and captions).

Nick Virgilio: A Life in Haiku (BOOK)

Edited and Introduced by Raffael de Gruttola, Afterword by Kathleen O’Toole

Nick Virgilio, who started writing in the 1960s and was a pioneer of American haiku poetry, penned some of this country’s most elegiac and memorable haiku. Born and bred in Camden, New Jersey, he was a legend to some, an inspiration to others. He spent countless hours in his cellar at his Remington typewriter, writing haiku about nature, the people of Camden and south Philadelphia, and his family. In particular, he detailed the deep sense of loss that affected him and his family when his youngest brother, Larry, was killed in Vietnam.


Edited and introduced by Raffael de Gruttola, a haiku poet and former president of the Haiku Society of America, Nick Virgilio: A Life in Haiku includes more than 100 newly discovered haiku as well as old favorites, essays on the craft of writing haiku, excerpts of an interview with Nick on “Radio Times” in Philadelphia, a tribute by Michael Doyle of Sacred Heart Church, family photos and replicas of original manuscript pages from the Rutgers University archive in Camden, N.J., where Nick’s papers are kept.

It is a perfect companion for haiku lovers, urban poetry enthusiasts, combat veterans and their families as well as high school and college writing classes. Students in particular will enjoy its easily accessible and deeply moving poetry, its glimpse inside the writing process and its encouragement of new authors.

An afterword by poet Kathleen O’toole spells out Nick’s legacy as one of the most beloved and influential haiku poets in America. Readers will gain a strong sense of this great haiku poet and his life in Camden as well as an appreciation of the power of haiku as a form of poetry.

NOTE: A portion of book sales go the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association. 

For Press, Book Details and other purchase options visit Turtle Light Press or purchase from our shop.