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SEA SHELL GAME # 29
Judged by Jane Reichhold
April 8, 2000

ROUND ONE

1

bright summer morning
young cat soundlessly stalking
swaying blade of grass

2

In and out
the unintentional pattern
a breath of life

Ku #1 wins because it is composed of concrete images.

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3

String of trees fallen
Into the bowl of the valley
A broken necklace

4

Soothing vibration
Releasing the soul the spirit
Free of vocal bars

Again, ku #3 wins because it contains images of the physical world.

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5

Under the summer moon
tapping lightly in the breeze -
forgotten papers

6

Trees dipped in crystal
Diamond-scattered wind
Winter's fragile jewels.

Ah, now these are better matched both are filled with the physical world. I would pick ku# 5 as winner because it combines dissonant images in a simple but effective way.

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7

Computer Screen's Glare
Etching print across our minds
Storing Memory

8

Engulfed in peacefulness,
nothing seems to break the calming sound,
of mother nature basking in her glory.

Ku # 8 seems to achieve the singular honor of being totally abstract an absolute no-no in haiku. Ku #7 wins easily.

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9

Girls dance on the beach,
To entertain the young boys,
To oceans of music.

10

The winter winds waft
And my candle's flame flickers
As I sit writing.

Haiku is known as being spare, cool and objective and to this end, the author is always carefully hidden. Thus personal pronouns and references to the writer are avoided. Ku #9 wins.

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11

slices of leek
the outermost concentric ring
is the loosest

12

thunderously wet
raindrops fall into my mouth
giddy happiness

Though I love the feelings of joy and simple pleasures in #12, the lack of concrete images in the first and last lines weakens the ku as a haiku. Ku #11 wins.

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13

ship destroyed- the sea
brings life for the sand, alone
life is welcome there

14

holding a dog
old man seeking heat
in freezing rain

Ku #13 seems intent on teaching the reader some philosophical idea, which upon reflection is hard to imagine that there is more life on shore than in the sea. Haiku insists on being accurate and non-philosophical. Ku# 14 wins.

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15

smooth green-mottled rock
warm amid flat river-stones--
Look! the turtle moves!

16

leaf veins outstretched
life emanates in tiny threads
birth is evident

I wondered if the author of #16 meant imminent instead of "evident". The use of this 'abstraction' not only sets up this debate but also weakens the haiku. I would encourage the author to revise this poem. It has a lot going for it and is worthy of the time spent in doing some tweaking. Ku # 15 goes ahead.

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ROUND TWO

1

bright summer morning
young cat soundlessly stalking
swaying blade of grass

3

String of trees fallen
Into the bowl of the valley
A broken necklace

Ku #1 looks like the perfect haiku, yet I can feel the author counting syllables when I feel the lack of the 'a' before "young cat. . ." and another 'a' missing in the beginning of the third line.

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5

Under the summer moon
tapping lightly in the breeze -
forgotten papers

7

Computer Screen's Glare
Etching print across our minds
Storing Memory

Okay, as a reader, which ku gives you greater pleasure from subject alone? The natural world of a summer moon and breezes or a computer? It is fairly easy to slip into the gentler world of #5, isn't it?

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9

Girls dance on the beach,
To entertain the young boys,
To oceans of music.

11

slices of leek
the outermost concentric ring
is the loosest

Aside from the two divergent topics for subject matter, #11 would win because it has the proper 'two-part' grammar divisions for a haiku. Ku #9 has 3 complete line-end stops indicated with the punctuation, but when reading the ku, its sense sounds as if it is a sentence. Read each of them and listen to your own breathing.

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14

holding a dog
old man seeking heat
in freezing rain

15

smooth green-mottled rock
warm amid flat river-stones--
Look! the turtle moves!

Ku #14 demonstrates the problem of having too many gerunds in a ku. (Gerunds are words ending in -ing). Just a bit of awareness and rewriting and the picture would become closer to haiku. Still I wonder how the author 'knows' the man holds the dog for its body warmth? It is assumed here, but if this is true, then the poem should reflect this by being more exact by stating some aspect of this scene that verifies that this is so.

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ROUND THREE

3

String of trees fallen
Into the bowl of the valley
A broken necklace

5

Under the summer moon
tapping lightly in the breeze -
forgotten papers

The author of #3 is working with the technique of metaphors, something that needs to be very carefully handled (and hidden) in haiku. The metaphor has to work perfectly both ways. It works properly as it is stated but a "broken necklace" would not be in "the bowl of a valley". A good try, but an almost.

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11

slices of leek
the outermost concentric ring
is the loosest

15

smooth green-mottled rock
warm amid flat river-stones--
Look! the turtle moves!

Here we have excellent examples of two haiku techniques. Ku #11 is straight from Shiki's journal of how to report the here and now of every day occurrence in the simplest terms. The author has picked a common subject and reported his/her awareness of the thing perfectly. Ku #15 shows the much older technique of seeing one thing and finding out it is something else. Usually, in 16th Century Japan the confusion arose over whether those were snowflakes or plum blossoms or if the falling flower was a blossom or a butterfly. I can only call this a tie.

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ROUND FOUR

5

Under the summer moon
tapping lightly in the breeze -
forgotten papers

11

slices of leek
the outermost concentric ring
is the loosest

15

smooth green-mottled rock
warm amid flat river-stones--
Look! the turtle moves!

Each of these is an excellent haiku and would be a welcomed addition to any haiku magazine. However, if I have to pick one 'that pleases me' more than the others, I would go with #5. I like its air of mystery (called 'yugen' in Japanese). Under the summer moon one is not sure why the papers began to move. Is it only the breeze? Is the moon causing the breeze or is the papers' movement making the breeze? If the ku were happening at noon it would not be so spooky and thus so enticing. If I were a different person either #11 or #15 could be winners but I will take #5 for my winner.

5

Under the summer moon
tapping lightly in the breeze -
forgotten papers

J Chris Baltzley

Congratulations to J Chris Baltzley!

 

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

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

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