H. Gene MurthaH. Gene Murtha

(19 October 1955 – 9 October 2015)

H. Gene Murtha, a poet and naturalist, was born on 19 October 1955 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gene had a difficult childhood when he and four of his siblings were placed in foster homes between 1960 and 1962. Thankfully later they were reunited with their birth mother. In the early 70's he was a model, and male dancer, but later he became a Naturalist and Environmentalist, and his primary interest was the preservation of the New Jersey wetlands, and specifically the prothonotary warbler, that migrates to the USA.

Gene has been writing on and off for more than four decades, and first discovered haiku, and/or haiku like poems in the works of Carl Sandburg, and Wm. Carlos Williams, and in many of the beat poets, including:  Kerouac, Snyder, and Ginsberg. He started to write haiku himself in the late 1999, and began seriously applying to the form in 2002. He was also a performance and free verse poet.

Gene served as tanka editor of a short form poetry online publication Notes from the Gean and was a member of The Haiku Society of America, The Tanka Society of America, Haiku Oz, the Pennsylvania Poetry Society, Mad Poets Society, and The Nick Virgilio Haiku Association. Gene sponsored and judged the first haiku contest for the inner city children of Camden, New Jersey for the Virgilio Group, of which he is a lifetime member. With renku partners William J. Higginson and Paul MacNeil, he was co-inventor of the single-words shisan renku entitled, Cobweb.

H. Gene Murtha's work was included in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years [edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns] (W.W. Norton and Company, 2013). He was one of seventeen poets featured in A New Resonance 6: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku (Red Moon Press, 2009). His work has now been published in Japan, Australia, and the United States.

H. Gene Murtha passed away on 9 October 2015.


Some of his awards include:

  • Special Mention, The Heron's Nest Valentine Award (2003);
  • Readers Choice Award, White Lotus 3 (2006);
  • Special Mention, The Heron's Nest Valentine Award (2006);
  • and Runner-up, Innovative Category, Haiku Now! (The Haiku Foundation, 2010).


Selected work:

spring mist –
a mallard paddles
through our stillborn's ashes


(The Heron's Nest 4:11 (2002); Special Mention, The Heron's Nest IV Valentine Awards issue (2003); Mad Poet's Review 17; Memorial Day (Murtha, Golden Swamp Warbler Press, 2005); A New Resonance 6: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku (Red Moon Press, 2009).


where my brother stood –
twilight chill

(The Heron's Nest vol.6, 2006 and was included within the Special Mentions section for the year.)


starry night --
reeds bow
in a loon's wake

(“Treetops”, November 2002, and Mad Poets Review 2002)


caught in a dew drop --
the empty swing

("The Heron's Nest" vol. 5 #2, 2005)


summer haze--
a crow flaps free
of the asphalt

(Frogpond, vol. XXVII:1, 2004)


dawn bumps the Jesus fish

(Runner up, Innovated category, Haiku Now 2010)


sudden chill . . .
he slips into
his daughter's bed

(Moongarlic vol. 1:1)


first light . . .
slow to rise
a phoebe's tail

(Biding Time: Selected Poems 2001-2013 by H. Gene Murtha)

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)



Some tanka:

in my pickup
I look thru the rearview
snagged by a pin oak
the same garbage that
Hilary Tann writes about

Hermitage 3:1


brushing off sand
I walk what's left of
the pine dunes
my time here passes by
like the birds overhead 

Ribbons 5:2


people change
like the color of
a bunting
I feel at peace
when I'm alone

Rusty Tea Kettle 1:1 


Sunday morning
reading the obituaries
calling daddy
the same name
Sylvia Plath does

Rusty Tea Kettle 1:1


I sold everything
except my navajo cross
so precious
this god I hold dear
the same god I gave up

Ribbons 6:1



Biding Time


Read his haiku