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SEA SHELL GAME #33
JUDGED by Jane Reichhold
April 24. 2000

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ROUND ONE

1
Clay and water move
together transforming shapes
to hold steaming tea.

2
stone floor warms
as it tastes the blood
drips down from above

Gothic haiku have trickled down to us here at ahapoetry! I have nothing against the genre except, according to the Japanese Law Against Personification of Inanimate Things "stone floors" cannot "taste the blood". Ku #1 wins the match.

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3
eagle flies away
into the red setting sun
i watch from the hill

4
Under the moonlight-
Tombstones in a patch of grass
are beehives by day.

I guess I am really bothered in #3 by the lack of an article (the or a or an) before "eagle". This is the kind of telegram-writing that does not need to occur in haiku just to make the lines short. One should use the grammar one needs. Never too much; just use all you need to make the ku sound right. Ku #4 gets another chance.

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5
iron railings,
irregularly spaced...
and the fallen leaves

6
battered old quilt
a jug of muscadine wine
cools in the creek

I suspect the author of #6 of being a romantic. I doubt s/he truly has a "battered old quilt" on the bed, the wine in a jug, or lives by a creek deep enough to be cool. This is what gives the dreaded 'desk-ku' their reputations.

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7
spring air in the trees
cherry blossom confetti
land among the leaves

8
The northern star
it guides me through this storm
home I will be.

The two personal pronouns in #8 are strikes against it. Plus, I can feel the author counting syllables. If "it" were left out of line 2 the ku would have had the proper syntax. Ku #7 wins.

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9
garden pond-
a Goldfish eats
the surface

10
Waves crash against rocky shores
foam rushes around contours of land
than returns back to sea.

Haiku usually focus on the small and immediate, with the holographic idea that seeing exactly the tiniest part also represents the complete thing. These two are good to show the difference between the different views of the world. Ku #9 goes ahead.

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11
Yesterday -- springlike
today -- late winter's return
crocus shivering

12
the first cardinal
a song of red
on melting snow

As much as I question the idea of a 'haiku moment' there is much to be said for the ability of a haiku to stay in the presence and to focus on one small blink of time. Though the author of #11 is wisely using comparison, it is not the comparison within a blink of time. Ku #12 shows us how to do it.

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13
breaking free:
a whole cove of ice
escapes in one piece

14
dripping water
from a poor rooftop
life in disguise

I do not understand the statement "life in disguise". Aside from being too abstract for haiku, I think it would be easily accepted that 'rain' represents 'life' -- not a mask or costume. But maybe I am missing something. Also I am bothered by the idea of calling the roof "poor".

That is a judgmental statement. If one wants the reader to know the roof covers a 'poor' house, one describes an aspect of the roof that informs of this condition. Ku #13 escapes with a whole win.

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15
Catch Mercury cross the
Sun in a filtered lens
Now how big are you?

16
Cracked, upturned clay shards:
the lizard wriggles between
and finds oasis.

Again we have a wide view matched against a tiny scene. Yet #15 has much going for it. It wisely starts big, takes the reader from the galaxy to a camera and then down to the little eye. Using a question is always a great 'hook' to engage the reader. The longer I study this ku, the more I find in it. At first, I was inclined to pick #16 as winner, but now thinking about it, I will take #15 as winner.

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ROUND TWO

1
Clay and water move
together transforming shapes
to hold steaming tea.

4
Under the moonlight-
Tombstones in a patch of grass
are beehives by day.

Though I love the thought expressed in #1, it reads as a complete sentence so it loses to #4.

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5
iron railings,
irregularly spaced...
and the fallen leaves

7
spring air in the trees
cherry blossom confetti
land among the leaves

I think the word "confetti" is singular so in #7 it should read "lands". Still I am puzzled by the thought that it lands among the leaves. Does the author mean the confetti comes from higher spheres and lands in the trees? Or do the petal float to the ground? But the leaves are not on the ground. When cherry trees bloom the leaves are barely emerging. Ku #5 wins with its good common sense.

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9
garden pond-
a Goldfish eats
the surface

12
the first cardinal
a song of red
on melting snow

Aside from the capital "G" in goldfish, #9 is a very good haiku and would go far in many haiku magazines. However, I am attracted to the phrase "a song of red" and follow my heart.

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13
breaking free:
a whole cove of ice
escapes in one piece

15
Catch Mercury cross the
Sun in a filtered lens
Now how big are you?

In #15 I am greatly bothered by the dangling article at the end of line #1. In my book of rewriting that is simply not done. Syllable counting is allowed except when it commits such outrageous outrages. Ku #13 wins.

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ROUND THREE

4
Under the moonlight-
Tombstones in a patch of grass
are beehives by day.

5
iron railings,
irregularly spaced...
and the fallen leaves

I can tell you that #5 will win this match. Both ku use the same comparison technique but #5 is more subtle leaving the reader to make the connection. With a bit of rewriting the author of #4 could have achieved the same result as #5 did and actually be more interesting.

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12
the first cardinal
a song of red
on melting snow

13
breaking free:
a whole cove of ice
escapes in one piece

It is at this point multiple judges could begin to argue. Both entries are good haiku, both are faultless in form. Ku # 13 is in the shasei style of Shiki of which I am not a fan. I do love the lyric aspects of "a song of red" very much. Shiki would cough violently and make rude noises as he waved the slip of paper containing #13 just daring me to over-rule him. So I will and send #12 into the final round.

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ROUND FOUR

5
iron railings,
irregularly spaced...
and the fallen leaves

12
the first cardinal
a song of red
on melting snow

I love the 'comparison' of iron railings and fallen leaves. This ku is complete in tone each image echoing the other. Iron railings 'fit' perfectly into an autumn scene. With or without the ellipsis at the end of the second line, the syntax reads a brief pause in that place. An excellent ku. You already know I am taken by #12 so I can only surprise you by declaring a tie. The winners are:

5
iron railings,
irregularly spaced...
and the fallen leaves

.....................Nigel Gibbions

12
the first cardinal
a song of red
on melting snow

....................lisbeth cheever gessaman

Congratulations to Nigel and lisbeth!

 

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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