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SEA SHELL GAME # 28
Judged by Jane Reichhold
February 21, 2000

ROUND ONE

1

First light snow;
on the deck--
tiny footprints.

2

Take me to a Place
Where I can watch the Sky fall
From a safe Distance.

As psychologically interesting as #2 is, unfortunately it has nothing to do with the art of haiku. Ku #1 wins the round easily.

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3

white winter moon
through an upstairs window framed
frosted fingerprints

4

As the waves wash up
Against the sand colored beach
A small crab finds peace

Ah, two haiku. Now this is better. However, ku #3 wins easily because I cannot figure out why the author of #4 uses the phrase "sand colored beach" which feels like the dreaded 'padding'. Also, the idea of a crab 'finding peace' (an abstract idea) is not haiku material. If the crab found a piece of something the ku would be on the right track.

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5

Running toward the mark
Knowing that I've done my best
Never giving up

6

a stormy winter
an angry and hurt lover
who is safe from these?

Lots of forbidden people in these two. The three gerunds (-ing) in #5 is a dead give-away that this ku misses its mark. Ku #6 at least has one mention of an element of the natural world and wins with that.

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7

rainbows contained in
a moon-like sphere
bubbles!

8

raindrops falling
on a new tin roof
nature's drums

These two are well matched. Both use the 'riddle' technique and both authors were wise enough to save the answer for the last line. I guess the "like" in #7 really bothers me. The author could have so easily have written "in the sphere of the moon" and had a very interesting ku going for him/her. Two words to avoid in Japanese genres: like, as. Therefore, #8 goes ahead.

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9

while some women are
tragically beautiful,
Some are just tragic.

10

quick summer shower
sparkle roses by moonlight
distant thunder roars

While I am not in favor of using the term, there is a genre called 'senryu' (sen-you-rue) which was made popular by the bar patrons of Old Tokyo and is still alive in small pockets yet today where putting down women (especially) contrasts with the simplicity and beauty of haiku. Ku #10 is closer to being a good haiku and thus wins the match.

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11

step into the shower
the water so cold
your heart jumps

12

Love tastes sweet
always ready to bite
sweet and delicious

Ku #12 has me giggling. Do we bite love or are we bitten? Either way, the poem is not a haiku. Ku #11 goes ahead.

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13

Snow dancing slowly,
With its playful tossing pal,
the harsh teasing wind.

14

Beauty and the beast
Together roaming the land
Mother nature rules!

The idea of "mother nature", as charming as we find it is a Western poetic idea, as is "Beauty and the beast" - three elements one can easily leave out of a haiku. Ku #13 at least has "snow" and "wind" - realities onto which you can hang your mind.

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15

If you must, then do...
If you don't, be confident...
My patience will wait...

16

midnight...no woman is alone gazing at the moon


Our philosopher loses to the woman gazing at the moon.

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ROUND TWO

1

First light snow;
on the deck--
tiny footprints.

3

white winter moon
through an upstairs window framed
frosted fingerprints

I wish the author of #1 had been more exact in the third line. How do the tracks look? What shape are they? There is so much 'room' in the ku - plenty of space to give the reader the rest of the lovely, quiet picture. Ku #3 goes ahead.

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6

a stormy winter
an angry and hurt lover
who is safe from these?

8

raindrops falling
on a new tin roof
nature's drums

Ku #6 is a tanka just waiting to happen. A little push and a shove and a few more words and it would be a perfect tanka. No matter how good it is, it will lose in a haiku contest. Ku #8 goes ahead.

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10

quick summer shower
sparkle roses by moonlight
distant thunder roars

11

step into the shower
the water so cold
your heart jumps

Interesting how these two 'showers' come together. Ordinarily I would give nature's shower precedence over a human-made shower and experience, but the three end-line breaks of #10 are just too much. Ku #11 goes ahead for having the proper construction.

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13

Snow dancing slowly,
With its playful tossing pal,
the harsh teasing wind.

16

midnight...no woman is alone gazing at the moon

Here is a good example of the way simplicity causes the poem to recede from the hand of the author. One can feel the excitement the author of #13 felt discovering the play of the snow with the wind. Yet, haiku tries to keep the author out of the poem as much as possible (not something most Western writers want to do). Haiku aims for cool, objective (not feelings or sentiments) portraits. Also, #13 has three breaks and loses.

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ROUND THREE

3

white winter moon
through an upstairs window framed
frosted fingerprints

8

raindrops falling
on a new tin roof
nature's drums

Ouch. How did the word "nature" get this far in the contest? Out with such a phrase. Besides it is unnecessary. And besides, a roof does not 'belong' to nature - it is a human-made thing. The winter moon rises in spite of the storm.

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11

step into the shower
the water so cold
your heart jumps


16

midnight...no woman is alone gazing at the moon


These two are very evenly matched. Both have humans in them which would place them as haikai (links within a renga) and for that both are excellent. While I love #11 for being immediate and accurate and new, #16 has the mysterious atmosphere so loved by haiku readers.

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ROUND FOUR

3

white winter moon
through an upstairs window framed
frosted fingerprints

16

midnight...no woman is alone gazing at the moon


Both of these are very good. There is much to ponder in each of the ku. The writer of #16 is well-qualified to write one-liners. S/he has the proper breaks, even the tender half-break after "alone". I have been sitting here trying to figure out how to write #16 without using the word "no". Haiku try to avoid the negative in any aspect, but it is so accurate and romantic here and adds the proper amount of sadness and mystery. But I am infatuated with the 'idea' in #3 that the winter moon is compared to a frosted fingerprint. If only it were one fingerprint! This match is either a tie or I declare no winner for a flawless haiku. Yet, I do like both of these so will declare it a draw. Congratulations to both winners.

3

white winter moon
through an upstairs window framed
frosted fingerprints

.......................................Mary Beth

16

midnight...no woman is alone gazing at the moon

..........................................................we'moon


Poems Copyright © Individual Authors 2000.
Commentary Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2000.

Let me read another Sea Shell Game .
Show me the form so I can my haiku.
Maybe I need to read up on haiku.

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