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Sea Shell Game #19
Judge: Jane Reichhold
February 11, 1999

(Another quickie judging and we are all caught up on this feature!)


ROUND ONE

1

dewdrops on spider's web
glisten in morning light
moment of beauty


2

echoed strike
fills the dusty hall
eyes turn to hands

Ooooooo! and the ghost is gona getcha! At least it won this match as #2.

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3

fallen leaves
patterns laminated
in pond ice


4

ominous clouds
a dark office room
sluggish daybreak

Haiku written while observing nature or whittling away boring office hours. Take a walk with #3.

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5

crimson heart-shaped lips pout
as a mother's wrinkled hands cover deaf ears
the child's tears begin to fall


6

weeping willows whip
upon muddy brown wooded ponds
older couples kiss

Somehow I feel I am not totally clear about the action in #5. If mom's ears are deaf, why should she cover them? Why is the kid pouting? Maybe just go take a walk and observe a little peaceful nature. I am not sure what the author of #6 is saying about "older couples" but at least the scene is firmly in my mind. Thus, #6 wins this match.

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7

warm spring breezes
filtered by rusted screens
page through yellowed leaves


8

sailing across
deep, aqua ocean
summers adventure

The Japanese love to use the words sabi and wabi to describe poetry and have fought for centuries trying to define exactly what the terms mean. Ku# 7 is a perfect example of setting the atmosphere for which these terms are employed. #7 gets the match.

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9

hasten no waste time
death near and still you tarry
Buddha's alarm clock


10

Night covers the earth.
A dark silken cloth lying
gently upon us.

Even though the spirit of haiku often seems to rest on Zen thinking, any direct religious 'preaching' from any religion is unacceptable. Thus, #10 wins the match.

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11

The tiny babe
whimpering in the cold
who is there to hear?


12

In the dark of the night
deep in the pasture
a horse sleeps

Horses or babies? Which is more important to the haiku writer. Ha, horses win by a nose in #12.

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13

If you can deceive her
so gentle; what lies would you
sprinkle in my wine?


14

fruit
protected by skin
souls alike

As effective as the device is (speaking directly to the reader) is it not normally used in haiku. Issa, the old master was allowed to talk to bugs and small animals, but that was about as far as anyone got with this technique! Observe. Observe. Describe simply. #14 is closer.

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15

sun rises, sun sets
dark clouds, sunny days
good friends

16

springtime's beauty:
multitude of flowers
engulfs the pastures

I have on occasion (!) complained of haiku which are too choppy. It seems #15 wins the record for choppiness and loses this match.

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ROUND TWO

2

echoed strike
fills the dusty hall
eyes turn to hands


3

fallen leaves
patterns laminated
in pond ice

Two very similar ku in which 'everything' is done right. Still, #2 has an edge, for me, with the tickle in the last line. Such wordplays were popular in some periods of haiku history and I have liked this one enough to let it win the match.

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6

weeping willows whip
upon muddy brown wooded ponds
older couples kiss


7

warm spring breezes
filtered by rusted screens
page through yellowed leaves

Two good scenes are set forth. Notice the downer words: "weeping", "whip", "muddy", "brown", "older" in #7. Contrast that with "warm", "spring", "rusted" instead of brown, "yellowed" instead of dead or sere. Sometimes haiku writing begins with one's personal outlook on life. #7 wins for that reason.

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10

Night covers the earth.
A dark silken cloth lying
gently upon us.


12

In the dark of the night
deep in the pasture
a horse sleeps

What to write about? Horses or people? Something 'out there' or the humanity next to our skin? Haiku runs with the horses leaving #12 to win the match.

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14

fruit
protected by skin
souls alike


16

springtime's beauty:
multitude of flowers
engulfs the pastures

Though #14 really looks like a haiku, I am bothered by the word "alike" at the end. I am not truly sure what the author intends for me to think. If s/he means that fruit and our souls are both covered with skin, I do not need the "alike". Yet I am bothered by the idea that our souls are like fruit and end at our skins. The author is on the haiku path but wobbled on the philosophy curve. #16 wins.

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ROUND THREE

2

echoed strike
fills the dusty hall
eyes turn to hands


7

warm spring breezes
filtered by rusted screens
page through yellowed leaves

Here is a good place to compare atmosphere. Spooky, scary against gentle, old. I would go with #7.

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12

In the dark of the night
deep in the pasture
a horse sleeps


16

springtime's beauty:
multitude of flowers
engulfs the pastures

Both of these ku simply describe a scene. By using a judgmental word like "beauty" #16 stumbles letting #12 with its total simplicity take the match.

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ROUND FOUR

7

warm spring breezes
filtered by rusted screens
page through yellowed leaves


12

In the dark of the night
deep in the pasture
a horse sleeps

We end up with two very good examples of simple scenes simply stated. Sometimes, for me, a haiku can be too simple, as in #12 and I end up saying, "So what?". I like a bit more activity to wrap my mind around, to keep me thinking after the reading is over. #7 does that by starting out to speak of spring and yet by the end one has "yellowed leaves' implying something left from another season. Does the author mean 'tree leaves' of 'leaves of a book"? That kind of question engages me as reader and keeps me interested as I ponder. Good haiku technique that is not easy to do. Congratulations to:


7

warm spring breezes
filtered by rusted screens
page through yellowed leaves

Tom Harrison

Poems copyright © by authors 1999.
Comments copyright © Jane Reichhold 1999.
Feature copyright © AHA Books 1999.

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