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Sea Shell Game #32
Judged by Jane Reichhold
April 13, 2000

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ROUND ONE

1
walking up air
this side of snow
window bug

2
Bejeweled in sunlight,
the trees wear their snowy gowns
to the winter ball.

Ah, the old art of personification making nature seem like one of us humans how deeply ingrained in Western poetry is this practice. Ku #2 is a perfect example of the device. How fresh and novel seem the Oriental poems which choose reality over fantasy. The Oriental philosophy understands that the world of nature is far richer than anything we humans can construct. That is why ku #1 wins this match.

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3
arachnid silk threads
concealing trapdoor spider
beetle unaware

4
a thin light
escapes from this heart
to free a soul from darkness

Oops, now we have philosopher up against reality. Again reality wins, along with #3.

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5
Yours is the love that
burns like no one else's.
Deep into my heart

6
the crunch of old snow
under a frightened doe's hooves
echoes through the land

And now Love goes up against the reality of haiku. Those doe hooves walk away with the win.

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7
Carbon embraces hydrogen,
Million years of light,
Did something move?

8
tainted midnight sky
though moonbeams are a blessing
the sun will shine through

Let's just point out that #8 keeps the haiku syntax and #7 has the dreaded three line-end breaks. Ku #8 shines through to win.

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9
Love a warm overtaking of the blood .
Hate a cold overtaking of the blood .
Your soul encased within the blood .

10
Dragonfly glistens
Around woodchips, glass and grass
Calm fly in storm eye

In the 60s, when I was green in free-verse, including the words 'blood' or 'bone' in one's poem was like a badge showing membership in the brotherhood of modern poets. Academics who only recognized the blood in a rare steak wrote poems dripping with the stuff. No wonder haiku proved such a refreshing change. Reality without the blood and guts. Ku #10 wins.

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11

on the white table
eye glasses stare blankly
at no one

12
Salt thick in the air
from the wind and the water
But not there at all

These two are well-matched. Both are working with the same technique of mind twisting. How similar these two are! But I will pick ku #11 to win because I like the way the "white table" adds to the sense of the ku.

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13
black tailed doe
two mothers watch
a wobbly fawn

14
Many tiny crabs
Traveling all together
Cover things with red

Ku #13 looks and acts like a model haiku. For a while I could not figure out why two does would be watching one fawn. But then it dawned on me the "mothers" could have been people. That gives the poem enough breadth to pull ahead of the crabby ku #14 which is not a bad haiku.

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15
I replenish the ocean
and kiss the maid
squeegeeing my shower

16
Ah yes yes yes yes
crimson petals seething with
radiant beauty

Oops, someone's mouse is wandering. We have ended up in the Bertha's Boudoir of heavy breathing. Ah, this is about haiku. Remember haiku? That cool stuff that stops at the waist and stays out of the bedroom (mostly, sometimes, in some people's hands)? What's a haiku judge to do, here? Ku #15 has more nouns and with those, wins the match.

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ROUND TWO

1
walking up air
this side of snow
window bug

3
arachnid silk threads
concealing trapdoor spider
beetle unaware

The battle of the bugs! ala haiku. One ku shows us what the author thinks ( that the "beetle [is] unaware" - who knows?) and the other simply describes what is observed. Observation wins over thinking in haiku - every time.

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6
the crunch of old snow
under a frightened doe's hooves
echoes through the land

8
tainted midnight sky
though moonbeams are a blessing
the sun will shine through

Haiku are normally set in the presence (because that is all one really has - who knows what will happen this afternoon?). Finding the future case in a ku is a pretty good indication that the poem has slithered quite far from haiku. Also the adjective "tainted" is much too judgmental for haiku. Ku # 6 wins the match.

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10
Dragonfly glistens
Around woodchips, glass and grass
Calm fly in storm eye

11

on the white table
eye glasses stare blankly
at no one

Ku #10 uses "fly" and dragonfly" which is just a bit too much. Also, the ku has three line-end breaks. Ku #11 has the correct syntax and wins the match.

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13
black tailed doe
two mothers watch
a wobbly fawn

15
I replenish the ocean
and kiss the maid
squeegeeing my shower

The personal references ("I", "my") in ku #15 finishes its career as a haiku (among other things). Ku #13 goes into the semi-finals.

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ROUND THREE

1
walking up air
this side of snow
window bug

6
the crunch of old snow
under a frightened doe's hooves
echoes through the land

Upon closer inspection, ku #6 reads like a complete sentence. With a spot of rewriting this could be a much stronger contender. I do like the association of "the crunch of old snow" and the sound of "a frightened doe's hooves". This is new, and very finely perceived. Definitely a ku to hang on to, to rework and keep. Ku #1 goes ahead.

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11

on the white table
eye glasses stare blankly
at no one

13
black tailed doe
two mothers watch
a wobbly fawn

This is harder. Both are perfectly constructed haiku and each has solid points in their favor. I would call this a tie.

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ROUND FOUR

1
walking up air
this side of snow
window bug

11

on the white table
eye glasses stare blankly
at no one

13
black tailed doe
two mothers watch
a wobbly fawn

Even though all three are excellent examples of haiku, I pick ku #1 because I most admire the mind playing that happens in this ku. Reading the first two lines one does not know 'where' this ku is going to go. When seeing "walking up air" one can only ask, "Is this about a spider?" The second line only complicates the matter where is "this side of snow"? The answer to the riddle is accurate and succinct. We really do not need to know what kind of a bug it is, nor do we need to hear that a bug is crawling up a window. The author told us all we needed to know to understand her/his experience. Ku #11 is also using the riddle method but chooses to frame the grammar so it doesn't follow the typical grammar format which I found very interesting. The ku could have read: "on the white table /
staring blankly at no one / eye glasses " but I feel the author chose the very best way of stating the ku. Still, I feel the riddle in ku #1 has more new elements in it and wins this very close game. Congratulations to Stephen Amor for:

1
walking up air
this side of snow
window bug

Stephen Amor

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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