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SEA SHELL GAME #31
Judged by Jane Reichhold
April 11, 2000

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ROUND ONE

1
the yard
light and darkness divided
cold bars of the gate

 

2
Halting school bus
departing volatile children
tardy bell sounds, ding

There is an almost secret that the Japanese do not like our use of gerunds in haiku. I am unsure, now, where it originated, but the result has been make bells go off in my head when I find more than one gerund in a ku. This could even be a fable, but the idea persists like an terror in the night and makes me pick #1 to win this match.

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3
spires rise from dust
lone eternal footprints gleam
in the light of Earth

4
Seems the desert's sand,
A blanket of yellow earth,

shimmering with sun.

Have sci-fi haiku come to aha? If so, these authors have learned much already. The two parts of the ku are properly in place, the pictures are clearly there. These two are very evenly matched. I would pick #4 because it offers a comparison of the desert sand and the sun's shimmering instead of 'just' a scene description.

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5
Slanting winter sun
Gilding the opposite shore
Kindling reflection

6
Answering door bell in bathrobe,
Hair in towel, child clings to leg
"Are you busy???"

Though haiku are supposed to exhibit a sense of humor, small jokes rarely translate into haiku as is attempted in #6. Though one can 'do' a great deal with haiku, there are some tactics which never do work in haiku. Ku #5 wins.

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7
Split cedar stacked at river's edge,
Birds have already left
for Winter.

8
Sudden white on white
A snowshoe hare hunkered down
My heart beats faster

Ku # 8 loses out because of having the three line-end breaks. Ku #7 shows with its punctuation the right way to form the basis of haiku.

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9
Slight winds so quiet
Modest cries in willow trees
Scar faces of stone.

 

10
Mourn no more the dead.
They are long gone from this earth-
to a better place.

Is there anyone who would think I would pick ku #10? Even if flawed, ku #9 wins easily.

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11
NARCISSUS

Delicate flower
Over the water, praying
young beauty ripples

12
Winter sun;
melting snowflakes
hang from the boughs

As much as many poets may prefer the images, the sentiments, and the views of #11, it does not exemplify haiku. Almost no one these days uses a title for a single haiku. Using an image from our Greek literary history gets no one points, either. Go to nature, not literature, for your images. Sorry, wrong venue. Ku #12 wins.

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13
autumn night
full moon bathes
a sleeping village

14
yearbook with white ink
show up in sunlight someday
tiny cloud be brave

Sometimes when poets try to minimize their thoughts into 'haiku' the zipping process hits rough places and loses the reader as in #14. One of the ways of evaluating the progress of a haiku writer, or even a haiku reader, is to widen the gaps one must leap in order to understand the gist of the ku. I can feel the author stretching for a completely novel and original leap, an act I applaud, but something fails to jell for me. Ku #13 wins.

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15
afternoon shadows
joining chairs upon the lawn
teacups on a tray

16
Leave changing outside
telephone ringing inside;
winter arrives

Maybe I need a vacation. Again I fail to follow the leap in #16. Wait, if the author meant to type 'leaves' the ku becomes much more interesting! Nice idea. Worthy of working with a bit more. However, the three line-end breaks cuts its career short as a contest ku.

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ROUND TWO

1
the yard
light and darkness divided
cold bars of the gate

4
Seems the desert's sand,
A blanket of yellow earth,

shimmering with sun.

These two are fairly close. The three line-end breaks in #1 bother me but the idea behind the ku is new and well expressed. When having to decided which haiku, of an evenly matched pair, is 'better', I would tend to go with the brighter image. Ku #1 is a scene in black and white, and very well-done, but the warmth and color of #4 pushes it slightly ahead.

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5
Slanting winter sun
Gilding the opposite shore
Kindling reflection

7
Split cedar stacked at river's edge,
Birds have already left
for Winter.

After typing in my previous 'opinion' here is a warm, radiant scene in #5 and I find #7 the better ku. Perhaps it is the stifling symmetry of those three gerunds guarding the sentences that throw me off. The double use of the word "kindling" as a verb and a noun is excellent. Many ideas come from the third line. But I agree with myself; the gerunds were the drawback.

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9
Slight winds so quiet
Modest cries in willow trees
Scar faces of stone.

12
Winter sun;
melting snowflakes
hang from the boughs

Ku #9 has the dreaded three line-end stops. Otherwise, it is a very sensitive and interesting haiku. New, and well seen; and now so close. Ku #12 goes ahead.

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13
autumn night
full moon bathes
a sleeping village

15
afternoon shadows
joining chairs upon the lawn
teacups on a tray

Both of these are faultlessly constructed haiku and could be published just as they are. However, when comparing them against each other I find small things to pick apart on #13. One, "full moon" always implies 'autumn'; two, a full moon only shines at night (all other phases 'can' be seen before or after night) so there seems some useless repeats in these words. Three, the verb "bathes" bothers me. It is a 'new' impression of how the moonlight pours down but somehow it does not feel accurate enough. How can the villagers be "bathed" by the moonlight as they lie sleeping in their houses? Ku #15 goes ahead.

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ROUND THREE

4
Seems the desert's sand,
A blanket of yellow earth,

shimmering with sun.

7
Split cedar stacked at river's edge,
Birds have already left
for Winter.

Both of these ku have tiny, unhaiku aspects which to my taste, only improves their status. Both use the comparison tactic. Ku #4 is easier to understand so that makes me pick #7 to win this match.

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12
Winter sun;
melting snowflakes
hang from the boughs

15
afternoon shadows
joining chairs upon the lawn
teacups on a tray

Again, two excellent haiku. I love the way the author of #12 used "melting" as both a functioning verb ("winter sun melting") and the adjective for "snowflakes". The scene is perfectly clear. Nothing detracts. It is an image the mind delights to linger on. Here again we have a 'battle' of lights and darks. Shadows have been overused in English haiku to give the sad, mysterious air of #15. Yet I am greatly attracted to the ku probably for the way the author uses the word "joining". This idea actually dispels much of the 'darkness'. Ku #15 wins by the tiniest margin.

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ROUND FOUR

7
Split cedar stacked at river's edge,
Birds have already left
for Winter.

15
afternoon shadows
joining chairs upon the lawn
teacups on a tray

I wondered why the author of #7 included the words "at the river's edge" but upon reflection, I see how wisely this offers us a clue of how the winter birds left (by following the river). Also, using the word "split" for cedar also sets up an echo of 'split' as in 'to leave' which is very nice. Just looking at #7 one feels off-balance and normally this would make me disqualify the ku, but here, with the subject of leaving, the off-balanced lines 'feels' right. It bothers me in #7 that winter is capitalized. I was close to calling this a tie, but at the last second my admiration for the quiet action going on in #15 wins me over. I love all the joinings that the shadows bring: joining two chairs together, joining the chairs to the lawn, joining the cups to each other and to the tray. The whole scene gets drawn together by the increasing length of the shadows. A very sensitive rendition that wins this game. Congratulations to Kirsty!

15
afternoon shadows
joining chairs upon the lawn
teacups on a tray

..................Kirsty

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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