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The Sea Shell Game #1

Judge: John Hudak
Date: June, 1996

ROUND 1

1.

The gentle breeze
ripples the water
and salt fills the air
.

2.

train whistle
across paddy field
running children

Although the use of "paddy field" bothers me, I feel "train whistle" the better of these two haiku. "gentle breeze" is flawed for lack of place being unclear: am I on a boat or at the shore...I assume a boat, since salt water usually goes along with waves crashing.

Perhaps we are on a sail boat, I have no idea. Paring down the adjective "gentle" and removing "and" is even better:

breeze ripples the water
salt fills the air

Still there is a lack of interest. Something like:

wind ripples the water
saltcrust on my nostrils

"train whistle" is a little better, but still lacks resonance. The train whistle causes the children to run, but what for? Food, visitors, clothes, what? Cause and effect.

3.

river bank
pussy willows
growing out of sand

4.

twinkly eyes:
in her little palms
my melting chocolate

"riverbank" is a picture only, lacking resonance beyond the picture.

"twinkly" is an unnecessary adjective. "brown eyes" would be interesting if it were true. "twinkly eyes," even being the better of the two, could use som more work and thought.

5.

honeysuckle and bird song
sunrise glows behind
nearby hill

6.

almond petals fall --
roaches mate
behind peeling wallpaper

"almond petals" is interesting, but disgusting. The thrid and second lines could be switched... in fact, "roaches mate" could be dropped completely without harm. I've never seen roaches mate, as they are jittery creatures that rarely stick around for people to view.

"honeysuckle" at least is an observable haiku. Perhaps the "and" could be ditched and an interesting "honeysuckle bird song" discovered. "glows" is perhaps simple, but trite... maybe "aura," would be better, but that doesn't seem right either. "honeysuckle" is the better of these two in any case.

7.

catamaran
guided by wind and birds --
dolphin ahead

8.

street-light goes out
and reveals
a half moon

A "catamaran" is guided by the person steering and the wind - the "birds" are there, but have nothing to do with the guiding. What is the dolphin doing... "breaking through waves"? The "birds" are also there, but what do they have to do with anything. Maybe this haiku could be worked on by thinking about the catamaran's sails and the bird's wings.

"street-light" is a pretty simple haiku where a streetlight goes out, perhaps in the morning, perhaps, as street-lights do, at night for no reason, revealing "a half moon." Like a light going out, the haiku goes out also. Perhaps haiku don't always have to continue resonatating on and on, and can paint a simple ending picture, but if there is to be any furthering, more needs to be revealed. This haiku stills holds more than the previous, and is therefore the winner.

9.

winter stillness...
the last leaf on the bush
curling into itself

10.

the morning glory:
a trumpet that says nothing
but the color blue

"the morning glory" is more or less a poetic observation of a morning glory. It can be shortened to:

morning glory:
blue trumpet

Morning glories tend to wind around and climb nearby objects with their deep-blue flowers pointed toward the sun.

morning glories:
at every turn of the vine
a flower

I've occasionally seen the morning dew on the flowers and rain caught in the flower wells.

"winter stillness..." The last leaf on the bush curling into itself.

I don't understand the first line, although I like the last two lines.

The first line almost contradicts the "leaf...curling into itself." Perhaps "curled" would be a better and truer observation. As for "stillness," the winter is quiet and sounds are dampened by snow, travel slower through cold air, but I'd have to disagree with "stillness." Better possibly:

winter
the last leaf on the bush
curled into itself

or perhaps "early winter" or "mid-winter." This haiku is the winner in this pair.

11.

nearly spring --
robins peck winter grass
flecked with flakes

12.

winter sunrise
silver tracery
turns to gold

"nearly spring--" is the better of these two haiku. "nearly" could be changed to "early" or "almost." I don't think it is really possible to observe "flecked" grass, but there could be another word that would work here better.

With "winter sunrise," maybe what appeared to look silver now appears to be gold. "tracery" is a poetic word that I don't think works well here. I think it is best to stick to concrete observations over poetic embellishments.

13.

Rutted highway
salty rain
the mirror lies

14.

Alone in house
dog startles then listens
answering machine

In "Rutted highway, " why is the rain "salty"? Are we near the ocean?

Is the mirror in a puddle? Does the mirror lie because objects appear closer than they really are?

"Alone in house" is the better of these two entries, but I wonder...

if the dog is alone, who saw this? The haiku is a bit awkwardly arranged, and could be worked on a little more to smooth out the rough edges.

15.

Softly falls the rain -
Earth 'neath budding tree greets each
Drop with gentle plink!

16.

old brick house
white long johns hanging out
a third floor window

"Softly falls" is a small free-verse poem. The use of "'neath" is a poetic convention best dispensed with in haiku, lest we retreat to old english.

"old brick house" is the better of these two entries. The white long johns and the red brick contrast is nice and the images hold up as a haiku, but I don't see any real significance in it being a third floor window.

long johns
flap against brick
from an upper window

ROUND 2

2.

train whistle
across paddy field
running children

4.

twinkly eyes:
in her little palms
my melting chocolate

Between these two, I choose "twinkly eyes:" since in "train whistle" I am still not clear why the children are running. "twinkly eyes:" has better possibilities of improvement by changing "twinkly" to something else.

5.

honeysuckle and bird song
sunrise glows behind
nearby hill

8.

street-light goes out
and reveals
a half moon

"honeysuckle" strikes me as the better of these two by a slight margin...mostly because there is something going on behind the hill, whereas "street-light" is interesting, but doesn't hold as much resonance.

...................

9.

winter stillness...
the last leaf on the bush
curling into itself

11.

nearly spring --
robins peck winter grass
flecked with flakes

The choice between these two is very difficult. "winter stillness..." appeals to me more because of the trueness of it...I wonder why robins would peck at grass, being there aren't any bugs around...they might be pecking for worms...hmm.

14.

Alone in house
dog startles then listens
answering machine

16.

old brick house
white long johns hanging out
a third floor window

"old brick house" is the better of these two haiku. "Alone in house" is a little too awkward in construction and wording.

ROUND 3

4.

twinkly eyes:
in her little palms
my melting chocolate

5.

honeysuckle and bird song
sunrise glows behind
nearby hill

"twinkly eyes:" is a little better than "honeysuckle," because there is more of an observable haiku. "honeysuckle" seems to be observable, but confusing, since it could also be smelled,the "bird song" can only be heard and the "sunrise glows"...too many mixed up senses.

9.

winter stillness...
the last leaf on the bush
curling into itself

16.

old brick house
white long johns hanging out
a third floor window

"winter stillness..." is the better of these two, in the present states of these two haiku..."old brick house" could be improved with the previous recommendations.

ROUND 4

4.

twinkly eyes:
in her little palms
my melting chocolate

9.

winter stillness...
the last leaf on the bush
curling into itself

"winter stillness..." is the overall winner...it has the most resonance, whereas "twinkly eyes:" falls marginally shorter of resonance.

Jeanne Emrich wrote the winning poem. Congratulations to her!

Thanks to John Hudak for judging.

Poems are Copyright © Authors 1996.
Comments are Copyright © John Hudak 1996.
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