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SEA SHELL GAME #22
Judged: Jane Reichhold
October 6, 1999


ROUND ONE

1

"Day or two, or more,"
he answered. "Or maybe less."
Words do not express!

2

Mouth turned down
Pain and Agony clear
broken Hearts cause broken Souls

This is a haiku contest and haiku use concrete images, right? No abstractions? Right? So, with the word 'mouth' poems #2 wins.

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3

green and ugly
the creepy tomato worm
smash it!

4

The amazing birds
beautiful and familiar
They are all the same.

One of the basic motifs of haiku is the close observation of nature. If this were all, #3 would win this round, but the violence and lack of reverence for life in the last line keep this one from winning. Poem #4 fails to appreciate the differences between birds and the uniqueness of nature but still it feels almost gentle next to #3. Poem #4 wins this round.

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5

shimmering light-drops
I'm glowing in happiness
sunkist and grinning


6.

Divorce means it is
time to curve body inward
beginning again

Typically the subjects for haiku do not include violence, war, situations of unhappiness like divorce or the pain of loving. Still, #6 made me think of the divorce diet: no fat, no salt, no money, no sex and in this case, no haiku. Pick another genre for recording your personal moments. At least #5 is positive, and with that, wins the round.

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7.

Serpent wings unfold
Revealing treacherous fangs--
Too late--I'm bleeding


8

lovely butterfly,
prancing from flower to flower,
vain and useless

I am trying to remember when I last saw a serpent with wings, and how the wings could cover up the fangs. . . Perhaps I live in the wrong neighborhood. At least I have seen butterflies going from flower to flower and judge that to be a haiku activity. #8 goes ahead with fluttering and without the blood and gore.

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9

parched soil
trees shedding
brown leaf showers


10

here she comes again
the banana popsicle
will she burn her tongue?


Clueless in cyberspace. I simply cannot figure out what is happening in #10. On my ignorance, #9 wins the round.

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11

Scorpion poised

In my ear the sea stirs calm
Mottled sharply clean.


12

White line traveling
traffic going the wrong way
unsuccessful sperm


If you, also, are chuckling after reading #12, you will know why the match goes to it. All of which is rather unfortunate, because #11 is a very good haiku. I have read it over and over and as I do my ideas about it change. What bothers me most about it, and finally, why it lost the match, is I have a hard time posing a scorpion by the sea. If the noun had been lobster or crab we would have had a winner here.

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13

nights grow long, days short,
aspen and birch change color,
soon comes a cold wind.


14

empty bottle
on fencepost glints -
glass shower

-{ }-

As you may have guessed, I would complain about #13's many breaks - insisting that a haiku have only two. And them comes #14 and I am unclear if the bottle breaks or not! At least the ku accurately shows only one break, properly shown by the dash. I am not clear about the graphic: is that the unbroken bottle? #14 cops the match.

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15

A bride; a thief,
watched the moon hide
against clouds.

16

Wind tousles and lifts
the ink dark hair from his brow
the way I'd like to.

I know it is really hard for those of us raised on Euro-American poetry to put aside our interest in ourselves when writing poetry. But one of the main tenets of haiku that fascinates us, is the ability to do exactly that. I must admit I love both of these verses and almost wish haiku could be stretched to include such expressions of feeling. Still, knowing there is a form better suited for these ideas (tanka) I only wish both authors would explore tanka, and use these ideas there. For the grace of including the moon gets #15 this win.

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ROUND TWO


2

Mouth turned down
Pain and Agony clear
broken Hearts cause broken Souls


4

The amazing birds
beautiful and familiar
They are all the same.


Ku #2 loses simply because such sad and depressing expressions are not a part of haiku as is the philosophy as given in the last line. Wrong contest. #4 wins this match.

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5

shimmering light-drops
I'm glowing in happiness
sunkist and grinning


8

lovely butterfly,

prancing from flower to flower,

vain and useless

Ku #8 commits several haiku no-no with the adjective 'beautiful' in the first line and the judgment of 'vain and useless' in the last line. Who says butterflies are useless? or vain? Not only are these statements 'wrong', they are unhaiku-like. #5 wins the match.

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9

parched soil
trees shedding

brown leaf showers


12

White line traveling

traffic going the wrong way

unsuccessful sperm


One could almost give the win of the whole contest to #12 just to immortalize the first "unsuccessful sperm" - surely a first in haiku. The author has successfully 'compared' two very unlike aspects - sperm and traffic, and found a similarity which relates to both of them. However, #9 is very good and deserves to win the match.

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14

empty bottle
on fencepost glints -

glass shower

-{ }-


15

A bride; a thief,

watched the moon hide

against clouds.

Ku #14 looks and acts like a very good haiku, yet I am unsure about what is happening in the poem. #15, though flawed by being in the past tense, at least gives me enough clues to ponder.

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ROUND THREE

4

The amazing birds
beautiful and familiar
They are all the same.


5

shimmering light-drops
I'm glowing in happiness
sunkist and grinning

I am having such a hard time combining the ideas in #4. If one truly finds birds beautiful and amazing (too many adjectives for haiku) how can one feel they are all the same? Usually when one studies an aspect of nature closely, one comes away feeling how unique it is. The conclusion (not welcomed in haiku circles) also has a downer feeling - just not where we should be going with the observations in haiku. #5 wins.

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9

parched soil
trees shedding
brown leaf showers


15

A bride; a thief,
watched the moon hide
against clouds.

I keep asking myself: what does a bride and a thief have in common with each other? And then in perfect haiku tradition comes the answer - hidden behind clouds like the moon. This is so good because it is so unusual. The only fault I can find to keep #15 from being a winner is that the verb tense is in the past. Haiku should be written as if the action is unfolding in the present tense. What do I do with #9 which is a perfect haiku?

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ROUND FOUR - WINNERS' CIRCLE

5

shimmering light-drops
I'm glowing in happiness
sunkist and grinning


9

parched soil
trees shedding
brown leaf showers


Ku #5 cannot win because it is too full of life, full of happiness, joy of living. Haiku is simply not that exuberant. And the use of the personal pronoun - I! -- so excited about the person's very own life. Sorry, just not cool enough, sere enough to be a good haiku. For that we have ku #9. Now, that is a prize haiku. A bit sad, an observation of nature-nature (no human-nature) with a twist in it (dried leaves raining down sound like a shower). Everything is perfect and #9 wins.

parched soil
trees shedding
brown leaf showers


Oliva Monell

Congratulations to Oliva Monell for perfectly made and observed haiku.

Poems Copyright © Designated Authors 1999.
Pages Copyright © ahapoetry.com 1999.

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