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SEA SHELL GAME #17 entries
A QUICKIE JUDGING by Jane Reichhold

(Meaning not that the poems are not pondered at length, but that the comments are kept to a tolerable minimum.)

1

Gently blowing wind,
runs over my face and hair.
Crisp, free, autumn wind.


2

many seasons
this great tree has known
old wounds too


The author of #1 is working with the concept that a haiku must have 5-7-5 syllables in each line. Can you see how many words are 'wasted' and repeated? This is called "padding" a haiku - just putting in words the experience does not truly need just to get the count right. Can you see why #2 wins this match?

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3

Dawn gathers jewels
Of snow frozen in moonlight,
Dreams melt in her hands.


4

Red leaves loneliness
Enfold the mistress running
Dew rests on her shoes


Both of these poems 'feel' as if written by the same person. Both have the use of Western poetry personification. In #3, the dawn has hands, and in #4 the leaves are capable of loneliness even though haikuists would allow the "Dew (to) rest on her shoes" which shows a certain inconsistency in this 'rule'. Not judging these as haiku, but as small poems in the European sense, I would find them almost equal - both rather lovely. For the sake of the contest, I will give #3 this match.

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5

Wind blows over me
Hear the autumn leaves crunching,
What is this season?


6

In a tree swing,
Higher and higher he swings.
Summer sun shining.


Whoever sent in #5 believes in hiding the answer in the question. Too easy for haiku. And not subtle enough. The match goes #6.

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7

Lamp in the corner;
cut crystal and gold
but never turned on


8

The sun rises high
Through the dewy leaves of trees
ever so softly


One aspect of haiku writing is to simply present a pleasant aspect of nature. The author of #8 has attempted this, though for many writers finding this ku in their notebooks would find a more concrete third line. The author of #7 also paints a small scene in a few words, but uses the third line to state a simple fact that has the potential for a deeper meaning. Thus #7 wins this match.

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9

walking through the trees
noticing the pretty leaves
watching them die away


10

sitting here watching
you murder and rape the world
i change the channel


Both of these ku show by the verb forms and the pronouns that the major interest of each of these authors is not the world around them, but the world of their own actions - the least interesting aspect of haiku. This has been done, when the author wants to applaud his/her admirable behavior as in #10, so this has precedent. However, the three gerunds in #9 firmly knock this ku out of the race.

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11

summer's dark green grass
cradles the crushed white blossom
careless little feet


12

Iridescent blue
Midst dappled greens flickering.
Stellar bird observes.


Both of these ku set up interesting scenes with the first two lines, and each of them fall down with the third line. In #11 the use of "careless" little feet sounds a bit too judgmental for haiku. The ku # 12 has a more neutral standpoint and therefore wins this match.

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13

October hunters
Gray squirrels stock winter pantries
Cold acorn carnage.


14

The stormy black sky
Was about to burst with rain
drip, I felt a drop


The use of the personal pronoun in #14 pushes the author forward into center stage -- the middle of the ku - where no good self abashing haiku writer wants to be. I am also disturbed by the past tense of
" was" in the second line. Leaving this word off, would have made the action as immediate as the rest of the ku tries to do. Ku #13 goes ahead.

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15

loves' petals full bloom
suddenly thorns prick my heart
tears of blood flow deep


16

sky below me
clouds drift
through puddles


If you wish to overtly express your feelings, you had best leave haiku alone until you are able to talk about the world beyond the edge of your thin skin. One of the reasons people find haiku so refreshing is haiku's absolute rejection of the subject and handling of our Western poetry as exemplified in #15. Thus, #16 wins this match.

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ROUND TWO

2

many seasons
this great tree has known
old wounds too


3

Dawn gathers jewels
Of snow frozen in moonlight,
Dreams melt in her hands.


With the first glance at these two submissions, one can see that the author of #2 has set aside of Western poetry attributes to eschew the use of caps and punctuation. The 5-7-5 syllables add to the information that the author has only begun to try at writing haiku. The third line makes totally clear that this author is still firmly ensconced in learned poetry use of metaphor. This does not mean that I do not find #3 lovely - it is, very lovely, but it is a long way from being a haiku. The ku #2 shows the way to win in a haiku contest.

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6

In a tree swing,
Higher and higher he swings.
Summer sun shining.


7

Lamp in the corner;
cut crystal and gold
but never turned on


The author of #6 comes so close to taking this match. The idea is perfect and there is an almost perfect twist within the ku. If the author had simply written 'summer sun' for the third line, the poem could have shown that both the sun and the child were climbing higher and higher. I suspect the desire for 5-7-5 syllable use lured the author into stating too much (in the usual way - using too many verbs). Too bad. It was close. Still #7 wins this match.

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10

sitting here watching
you murder and rape the world
i change the channel


12

Iridescent blue
Midst dappled greens flickering.
Stellar bird observes.


It seems these two ku have about an equal amount of drawbacks. The caps and punctuation in #12 bothers me, as does the ku ending with a verb. I am puzzled by "Stellar bird". Does the author mean a Stellar jay? What is the purpose of "observes"? It seems to me the author is talking about the bird's flying among the leaves. If so, how can it be "observing"? At least #10 engages me emotionally and thus wins this match.

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13

October hunters
Gray squirrels stock winter pantries
Cold acorn carnage.


16

sky below me
clouds drift
through puddles


As lovely as the sounds in "cold acorn carnage" are, and as marvelous as the twist from the idea of "October hunters" hunting squirrels, to finding out that the hunters are really squirrel seeking acorns shows a perfect use of the technique in haiku somehow the simplicity of #16 is much more haiku-like. Sorry, that is the way it is.


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ROUND THREE

2

many seasons
this great tree has known
old wounds too


7

Lamp in the corner;
cut crystal and gold
but never turned on


In a haiku contest, it is sometimes the very smallest thing that swings the decision. Both of these ku could easily be published in any haiku magazine. One has for its subject a man-made object within a man-made dwelling. The other one uses a tree for its focal point. Haiku is about getting outdoors and experiencing that natural world. Thus, #2 goes to the final round.

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10

sitting here watching
you murder and rape the world
i change the channel


16

sky below me
clouds drift
through puddles


Again, one poem indoors watching the boob tube and the other has the author outdoors discovering a paradox of nature. Is there any argument? Thus #16 goes to the final match.

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ROUND FOUR

2

many seasons
this great tree has known
old wounds too


16

sky below me
clouds drift
through puddles


So we end up with two excellent haiku. Both have ideas that are perfect haiku material - in fact so perfect that neither are exactly new to me. Both use valid haiku techniques. Ku #2 uses association but showing that the tree and the author have their wounds. Ku#16 uses paradox in an unstated riddle. The sky is below me - how can that be? The question is answered perfectly by elaborating on the vision of the sky (with clouds that drift) and then saving the answer until the final word. Perfect. Yet, I would pick #2 because it has the traditional haiku shape with the longer middle line. Also, with a bit of rewriting, the author of #16 could have gotten rid of the personal pronoun and found the short-long-short line arrangement.


The winner is:

2

many seasons
this great tree has known
old wounds too

Gerla

Poems are copyright © by authors 1999
Comments and contest copyright © Jane Reichhold 1999.

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