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SEA SHELL GAME # 23
Judge: Jane Reichhold
October 7, 1999

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ROUND ONE

1.

springtime raindrops
patterns on the ground as
dropped leaves glisten


2

one man one woman
infinite river of time
separated swans


If one compares these two ku on the basis of which one follows the pattern of having just one break in the syntax, one can readily see why ku #1 wins this match. Though #2 is surely saying much more, the breaks at each line end signal a choppy haiku.

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3

The short crisp green grass
Grows tall in my very front yard
I watch patiently


4

people floating in
their oceans of dreams as others are
washed ashore like seaweed


Using the same criteria - line breaks, one can feel that #4 has no breaks at all while #3 wisely builds the break in with grammar. Both ku # 2 & 4 feel like more tanka material than haiku material to me. BTW, #3 wins the match even though it is padded to the max for 17 syllables.

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5

summer dusk
a chaffinch bathing
dips and splashes


6

a speeding flash
goes past me in a moment
a dog runs past me


These two ku exemplify two schools of haiku or two haiku techniques. #5 is a perfect example of Shiki's 'small sketch' - the ku needs only to paint a small scene accurately enough so the reader forms the picture in his/her mind. Ku #6 works with the riddle method of haiku which is older than Basho and something that Basho himself 'hated'. I like it. It adds pizzazz and gives my mind something more to do than just admire. The author of #6 correctly set up the riddle in the first two lines and then answers the unasked question with the third line. Unfortunately the phrase "past me" is repeated. A bit of rewriting would have corrected this. Thus, #5 wins the match.

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7

Sunlight pushes through
Warming the backs of bison
And hoof-trodden grain.



8

a pregnant pause lingers


It is not often we get one-line haiku in this contest but when we do, as here, the problem of line breaks still rears its ugly head. For my feeling, #8 is lacking a line or a phrase. Here the Japanese method of adding an element of nature-nature could make this ku very, very good. Add, in your mind, to the beginning: 'the fat cat', or 'spring rain' or ?? In order to do one-line haiku well one has to have practiced writing haiku until the rhythms are second nature. #7 wins the match.

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9

sun and wind sweep ground
around drifting cloud shadows-
summer canyon road


10

Field of orange pumpkins.
Waiting for their faces and
personalities.


See, both of these ku have their line breaks in properly. #9, not punctuated, still uses the dash correctly and ku #10 was consistent with all the punctuation. Though I loved the chuckle #10 gave me, haiku does not allow us to presume to know the 'mind' of the pumpkin: whether it is waiting, whether it knows it will get a face and or a personality. These are all properties of the human mind, the human reasoning. Ku #9 successfully avoids all the fun and wins the match.

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11

cheerful golden blonde hair
gently covers up
my screaming soul


12

a cigarette burns,
i watch it like a timeline -
the past in the ash....


As hard as it is to believe, for us Westerners, haiku does not give a damn about how we souls feel. Cool and objective does it. #12 is cooler, slightly more detached, but still unable to avoid giving the 'lesson' and thus, wins the match. Again, I would suggest both of these authors check out tanka as their ideas here would make marvelous, new, tanka.

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13

Farmer breaks soil, sows,
seed grows, farmer reaps harvest
soldier dead in corn row.


14

Flowing breezes sway
Rocking trees dance at dark
And the moonlight sings


Remaining in the same area of haiku discussion as above, one can readily see how one poem is concerned with philosophy and the human condition and the other is confined to describing nature-nature. Though I find #13 a very powerful poem, it is, not a haiku. This is simply not haiku thinking or haiku spirit. #14 wins the match.

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15

cheaper than my own
I found the dreams of others
down at the yard sale


16

dusting shelves
the old woman stops
to wind a music box


Cheez, what a bind I am in. I love #15. What a great little poem! I wish this is what haiku could be. #16 is conventional, perfectly written, perfect subject matter, perfectly thought. Nothing for me to complain about. Yet, #15 thrills me, breaks all the rules and therefore is my favorite. However, this is a haiku contest and so the match does go to #16.

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ROUND TWO

1.

springtime raindrops
patterns on the ground as
dropped leaves glisten


3

The short crisp green grass
Grows tall in my very front yard
I watch patiently


While the attitude of the author in #3 is very zen-admirable, the use of the personal pronoun blows the cover. It would have been so easy to substitute a viewed person to shift the action into neutral territory. You may think this is being picky, but such small features are what give haiku its cool character so lacking in our Euro-American poetry. Ku #1 takes the match.

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5

summer dusk
a chaffinch bathing
dips and splashes


7

Sunlight pushes through
Warming the backs of bison
And hoof-trodden grain


Ku #5 is built and looks as if it should be my pick for this match: no caps, no punctuation, a seasonal reference, a nice quiet scene. Everything is done just right. Shiki would have loved #5 and probably have been proud and pleased to have written it. But I like something in #7 much better so it wins the match.

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9

sun and wind sweep ground
around drifting cloud shadows-
summer canyon road


12

a cigarette burns,
i watch it like a timeline -
the past in the ash....


Well, since I am on this crusade against the personal pronouns, I shall be consistent by choosing #9 as winner. However, the thinking in #12 is so good I do hope the author considers making a tanka out of the ku. It would be perfect there.

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14

Flowing breezes sway
Rocking trees dance at dark
And the moonlight sings


16

dusting shelves
the old woman stops
to wind a music box


Trees can rock and breezes can flow in haiku but moonlight is 'not allowed' to sing. Also 'sings' is a verb - another no-no for ending a haiku. And three line breaks! ouch. #16 wins the match.


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ROUND THREE

1.

springtime raindrops
patterns on the ground as
dropped leaves glisten


7

Sunlight pushes through
Warming the backs of bison
And hoof-trodden grain


Aside from the fact that #1 ends with a verb, I also have trouble with the idea of 'dropped leaves', surely a symbol of autumn being in a poem with "springtime". I know that in the real world leaves do fall to the ground during other seasons, but it 'feels wrong' in spring. So # 7 pushes ahead to the winners' circle.

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9

sun and wind sweep ground
around drifting cloud shadows-
summer canyon road


16

dusting shelves
the old woman stops
to wind a music box


I cannot help myself. Something 'sounds' wrong in the words "sweep ground
around drifting" that limits my appreciation of this ku which basically has nothing really 'wrong' with it. Perhaps the author was too busy counting syllables to listen closely to what was being said inside? I don't know. But it feels as if just a few minor adjustments could have made this a knock-out ku. Maybe take out just the word "ground". I would love the idea of the canyon road and the sun and wind sweeping around cloud shadows. It is so close. And so #16 goes ahead.

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ROUND FOUR - WINNERS' CIRCLE

7

Sunlight pushes through
Warming the backs of bison
And hoof-trodden grain


16

dusting shelves
the old woman stops
to wind a music box


Ku #16 certainly deserves a place in a haiku contest because it is a perfectly made one. It accurately captures a moment of time, a tender moment in which the reader can ideally dive into a myriad of memories. A real heart tugger, this one. As I have been reading these ku, though, #7 has continually fascinated me. And finally I know why. It, too, like #16 paints a scene but it has something more. The secret lies in the verb "pushes through". By using just this phrase, the author has made the sunlight act in the same way as the brutish bison which have pushed through to trample the grain. This ties together the sunlight, the heavy bison, and the grain into one compact image. It is a little known technique (to use the verb as connective tissue in a haiku) but this author has done it brilliantly and well deserves to have first place in this contest.


7

Sunlight pushes through
Warming the backs of bison
And hoof-trodden grain

Rachael


Congratulations to Rachael for this poem and thanks to everyone else in this game. All these entries were good, publishable haiku.

Poems Copyright © Designated Authors 1999.
Page and comments Copyright © Ahapoetry.com 1999.

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