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THE SEA SHELL GAME #14
Judge: Jane Reichhold
October 27, 1998


ROUND ONE

1

Cool bubbling water
Hitting smooth white pebbles
Gasping for breath


2

the air hit my skin
it cooled me off all over
thank god for cool days!!


It is interesting that two ku have such a similar subject matter. Perhaps it is due to the season in which these were contributed - so long ago in summer (sorry). Poem #2 bothers me by using the words "cool / cooled" both in one poem. Also, lines one and two seem redundant when one really thinks about what each one is saying. Therefore ku #1 goes ahead to Round Two..


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3

Eagle screeching song
Rushing breeze beneath his wings
Talons clutching food


4

crystalline glass shards
into each other ears ring
put on some shoes


Ku #3 has all the requirements of a haiku, except some might complain about the caps beginning each line. I am bothered by the choppiness when reading it caused by the end stops at the end of each line. In haiku two of the lines should connect in syntax, as #4 does. Therefore #4 goes ahead.

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5

light into pain
eye sees twice
window pane


6

inspired by love
carried out by your faith,
blooms one lovely poem


As charming as some might find the sentiment in #6, such poems are not haiku. Haiku try to avoid speaking openly of such abstractions as "love" and "faith" though very good haiku will take concrete images to portray such ideas. That's the trick in haiku. #5 goes on to Round Two.

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7.

Beautiful blue eyes
Pierce through my heart lovingly,
I long to see you


8

fire burning bright
in the darkness of the night
sending forth your light


If we honored #7 we could be starting a new style of haiku - love haiku! They could become even more popular than Spam haiku. However, until that becomes more widespread I am going to say that this subject matter is not really suitable for haiku. Haiku are usually 'cool', observant, with all the emotion covered up with sensory 'facts'. There is the Japanese genre called tanka which would welcome #7. While #8 is very close in having the same drawbacks, it squeaks to a win in this round.

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9.

Falling white magic
beauty at its very peak
transforms to brown mush


10

hot and sticky goo
flows while sucking on my blood ,
sugar rushing in


Haiku often use riddles as part of the enticement and word play. But I am having trouble figuring out what is happening in #10. Am I clueless? or lacking in worldly experience? A good haiku would give me an answer I could decipher. Ku #9 wins because I am too dense to figure out #10.

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11

Florida's fires burn
My thoughts here are much safer
Yet I crave a spark


12

snowflakes fall frozen,
wetting and chilling the bones
of children sledding.


Am I dense or what? Here again in #11 I am unsure of what the author is really talking about. Do we have a poet needing inspiration or a pyromaniac? The three end stops for each of the lines karate chops this ku out of the running. Ku #12 goes sliding uphill.

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13

blue and purple ah
frosty numb pain
my paws cold day



14

Little Butterfly
resting upon the flowers
spring is beginning


As I take these entries down from the server they fall into the order in which they are judged. Okay, then, why do we have two animal poems coming in here together? Actually #13 could be a haiku first - the first poem written by a non-human with paws. I know of only one case traditional haiku being written from the aspect of an animal - from a cat. But there is a new field here which is perhaps unscratched. As intrigued as I am by #13, most people would find #14 more like a 'real' haiku. To be safe, I will go with the crowd and send #14 ahead.

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15

eternity arrived
infinity collapsed
all stood still



16

Noisy cats won't stop
endless clamoring at night
i just want some sleep


After reading #15 I want to add the line: "and the haiku disappeared". For that is what happens here with all the abstract concepts. Mind-words. Traps. In haiku it is far better to have "noisy cats".

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ROUND TWO

1

Cool bubbling water
Hitting smooth white pebbles
Gasping for breath


4

crystalline glass shards
into each other ears ring
put on some shoes


These two ku are pretty evenly matched with their faults which are not all that bad. Ku #1 had those dreaded three line end stops which seem to upset me so much. The situation is made even worse by starting each line with a capital letter. Another red flag for judging are the three gerunds - words ending with 'ing'. For some weird reason these are to be avoided in English. Probably because they don't 'exist' in Japanese. Still the ku handles haiku focused material in a proper haiku-like way more than #4 does which slips into the next round.

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5

light into pain
eye sees twice
window pane


8

fire burning bright
in the darkness of the night
sending forth your light


Though some early translators of haiku (like Harold Stewart - A Cage of Fireflies - Tuttle) translated the Japanese into rhymed English (and some I rather enjoyed) it is usually advocated that one avoid rhyme in English haiku even though in Japanese there are only about 7 different sounds to end each 'syllable' which quickly adds a sense of rhyme to many ku. Perhaps #7 is a good example of why we should avoid rhyme. Used at the rate of three to a poem, we could quickly exhaust the possibilities. In addition, when reading #8 I have the feeling someone left out the word "Tiger". Ku #5 which also has rhyme (!) goes ahead by default.

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9.

Falling white magic
beauty at its very peak
transforms to brown mush


12

snowflakes fall frozen,
wetting and chilling the bones
of children sledding.


Ku #9 has in it only one 'concrete' image - brown mush. I know what the author means but 'mush' is usually corn yellow. The use of "brown mush" seems to stand for 'dirty snow' which is part of this riddling haiku. Haiku is much more inclined to give you the facts straight without calling snow - "falling white magic" or "brown mush". Beauty is simply a no-no word in haiku. Compare these two poems and you will see why #12 goes ahead in this round.

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14

Little Butterfly
resting upon the flowers
spring is beginning


16

Noisy cats won't stop
endless clamoring at night
i just want some sleep


Ku #16 is in the style of many 'modern' haiku as written by the Japanese. The use of a personal complaint is being seen more and more in translated haiku magazines. I am not sure that I like the trend. There is tanka for such expressions. Why blur the edges between the two forms? I will pick #14 for its old-fashioned haiku ways.

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ROUND THREE


4

crystalline glass shards
into each other ears ring
put on some shoes


5

light into pain
eye sees twice
window pane


Though these two ku are in many ways evenly matched, I would pick #4 for its lighter, happier mood. Traditionally haiku avoid pain, death, disaster, war. Being a stoic haiku writer, one does not mention the aches and pains, but supposedly always looks on the brighter side of life. Haiku should be little thoughts you are delighted to pick up and carry like a smooth stone. #5 is too painful and jagged for pleasure. So #4 goes on to win.

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12

snowflakes fall frozen,
wetting and chilling the bones
of children sledding.


14

Little Butterfly
resting upon the flowers
spring is beginning


Both of these ku have a plethora of gerunds and other 'ings'. Especially in #12, with all the verb action, the ku feels crowded. I am wondering why I need to be told the fact that "snowflakes fall frozen". Also, I am wondering about those kids with "wet bones". It feels to me as if the author needs to be more acutely aware of how s/he is using words. Exactly what was the image and what did you want to say about it? Please try again. You are so close to saying something interesting. In the meantime, #14 flutters by to the next round.

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ROUND FOUR - WINNERS' CIRCLE


4

crystalline glass shards
into each other ears ring
put on some shoes


14

Little Butterfly
resting upon the flowers
spring is beginning


Though the phrase, "Little Butterfly" is simply too saccharine for me, ku #4 loses me in its second line. I would like a word-play on 'earring' and ear ring', but somehow the syntax fouls me up and leaves me uneasy. I am surely missing something vital, but from these words I cannot figure out what I even think the author thought. The author of #4 did make a good 'leap' from the subject of earrings to shoes with the connecting factor of obviously 'getting dressed up' in a way that I have never seen before and therefore wish to applaud. I prefer #4's modern 'feel' over #14. Though I must say, as traditional as #14 is, the thought is new and very sensitive. It gives a calm lovely picture "that spring begins with the butterfly's rest on a flower" which is very charming. Maybe if the caps were out and I did not feel "little butterfly" was a name. If the image is only a small butterfly, then that is exactly the right image for the rest of the thought - that spring begins with a small butterfly's resting on a flower. I suppose one could argue that a butterfly can only rest on one flower at a time. The poem would become 'stronger' if the focus was narrowed down to one flower - as is so often done in haiku. Still, it is the best of this lot!


THE WINNER OF THE SEA SHELL GAME #14 IS:


14

Little Butterfly
resting upon the flowers
spring is beginning

DaniloCeli


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