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SEA SHELL GAME #45
Judged by Richard Watkins
September 19, 2001


1.
winter's crippled trees
limbs hanging over the path
spider legs dangling

2.
dandelion head explodes
into a feathered mess
nearby sparrows shudder

The basic images of these ku have potential. Unfortunately I get a sense of unease with the harshness of "crippled" and "exploded". I like the image of winter tree limbs ...but why must they be crippled? Similarly I wonder why the head explodes into a feathered mess and the sparrows simply shudder. Ku 2 is a bit extreme in its account of the event. So it looks like Ku 1 hobbles on crippled limbs to the next round.

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3
Autumn rain-
a grocery bag
rustles in the tree

4.
scented lilies -
the green grass stains
my knees

Very nice. . . both of these. Itís too bad about the capital letter in ku 3. That and the first line phrase of 4, even though "green" could be omitted, pass 4 on to the next level.

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5
flowers falling down
gracefully touch the water
float far far away

6.
draining clouds
scree straddles the mountains
purple knuckles brush on the sky

Oh dear.. the dreaded syllable stuffing strikes again in ku 5 with the extraneous double far. I would not think of leaves "gracefully" touching the water. Now for ku 6. I canít get a hold on draining clouds. Do you mean itís raining? The rest of the ku is disjointed especially when we come to purple knuckles. Purple knuckles?? That leaves me with going for ku 5 for the next round.

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7.
the trees talk and sing
stretch up toward the sun and smile
all in loneliness

8.
I WATCH THE CLOCK
THROUGH THE YEARS TIME
LEAVES ME FULL OF TEARS

I canít imagine a world of haiku reality where trees talk, sing, smile and experience loneliness. It strikes me as some sort of botanic Mary Poppins. But then when I read # 8 I think of Barry Manilow or Rod McKuen. This effort would be more suitable for their type of expression or perhaps greeting cards. So that leaves me with the choice of talking trees for the next round.

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9.
blue mountains -
a glider spirals
with an updraft

10.
seclusion
fishing boats at rest
iced to the dock

Now these are much better. Iím left with some minor points as the deciding factors. Would not "on" an updraft be better than with an updraft? And because I like whatís been done with "iced" I chose #10.

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11.
wild white feathers fly
around the battling geese
stale crusts are devoured

12.
plane ticket stub
tumbles in the streets
final destination

Ku 11 is a bit heavy with words such as white. Is that necessary? Instead of "stale crusts are devoured" which I find heavy. Why not something like. . . stale crusts are the cause. That would remove the verb as the last word and replace it with a desired noun. It looks like 12 wins by default.

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13.
a butterfly feasts
on glut of flowers
smog forecast

14.
dark hovering clouds
barren field of dreams
flowers blossoming

I canít see the connection between feasting butterfly and smog forecast. Actually I canít imagine a butterfly feasting now that I think of it. By the same token I have a problem with hovering clouds and barren fields of dreams. I suspect a thought is there some place but I canít see the connection. The first and last lines could be linked were it not for the barren dreams. Iíll go with #13 as the least confusing.

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15.
the gardener's fireworks:
little yellow flowers thrust skyward
on trails of rampant chlorophyll.

16.
calm as grass growing
you crept up on me, unseen
my sword still sheathed

Ku 15 starts out well. I like the gardenerís fireworks. Good so far. But then why go on about "little" flowers? I think of childrenís nursery rhymes. Surely thatís not the image you wanted. And would not the simple description of "green" be a better word than the cumbersome chlorophyll? It would say the same thing wouldnít it and present a cleaner or even more elegant image. But watch out! Thereís stealth among us. Calm grass creeping, sorry. . . calm grass growing. Howís that for an image? I canít say Iíve ever heard or even thought of the manner in which grass grows. Or for that matter Iíve never wandered around in it with my sword sheathed. Letís stick with the fireworks instead of sword play.

 

ROUND TWO

1.
winter's crippled trees 
limbs hanging over the path
spider legs dangling

4.
scented lilies -
the green grass stains
my knees

There is definitely a strong image in ku 1. Perhaps stark would be a better word. For some reason crippled reinforces the notion of winter and cold. Perhaps the  effect would have been sharper if the last line was placed first. Then you would have a bit of mystery or puzzle to be resolved with the other lines. Anyway the ku is worth more work. I like the economy of well crafted lines such as scented lilies but at the same time I am caught up with the notion of lilies being scented as in the recipient of some one/thing swanning around scenting lilies with an atomizer. You two poets have not given me an easy choice. I think ku 4 will have to go ahead. Thank you and by all means come back.

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5
flowers falling down
gracefully touch the water
float far far away

7.
the trees talk and sing
stretch up toward the sun and smile
all in loneliness

OK so here we have two ku that some of the basic elements of haiku according to some of the more experienced haijin; by basic elements I mean these two have the appearance of haiku in their structure, three lines, number of syllables and no capital letters. So that leaves us with their content. As youíll discover when you check out Reichholdís definition of haiku on the web, one of the many conventions of haiku is that they should be about nature. Both ku are okay in this regard.  But another rule, if you will, is that natural event should not be expressed in human terms or characteristics and boy! do we have problems in this regard with these ku. Writer of #5 have another go at the second line and gracefully.  Give it some thought. Iím sure you can come up with a more suitable substitute. Iím afraid that ku 7 has too many anthropomorphic projections to salvage it. It isnít that it is not a nice sentiment. It just doesnít belong in a ku.

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10.
seclusion
fishing boats at rest
iced to the dock

12.
plane ticket stub
tumbles in the streets
final destination

Iím missing something in ku 10. Iím alright after I get passed seclusion and like the business of the fishing boats iced to the dock. Notice I omitted the bit of resting fishing boats. Humans and animals are capable of resting. Inanimate objects such as boats are not capable of it.* Does seclusion infer the boats are at the far end of the dock? In #12, what would you think to reversing or placing the last line first? You could also generalize the stub by omitting plane. Just a suggestion. Iíll stick with the stub for the next destination.

(*jr comment: I would disagree with Richard's comment. While he is right, haiku avoids personification, we do have many accepted uses of personification. I think inanimate objects are often said to be Ďat restí or Ďcome to restí and are capable of Ďrestingí. However, for Richard, even this accepted idea may be too close to personification.)

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13.
a butterfly feasts
on glut of flowers
smog forecast

15.
the gardener's fireworks:
little yellow flowers thrust skyward
on trails of rampant chlorophyll.

I canít get the connection between butterflies and smog forecast. There is a bit of your private language that prevents me from making the connection. Letís pass ku 15 to the next round and see how it matches with another ku. 

 

THIRD ROUND

4.
scented lilies -
the green grass stains
my knees

5.
flowers falling down
gracefully touch the water
float far far away

For some reason Iím having a hard time making a decision with these two ku. Actually this is the second time Iíve written the commentary. This time it is final.  I like the brevity of 4. The writer of ku 5 has also done well and with more experience will be able to deal with the matter of syllables. Ku 4 goes to the next round.

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12.
plane ticket stub
tumbles in the streets
final destination

15.
the gardener's fireworks:
little yellow flowers thrust skyward
on trails of rampant chlorophyll.

So what am I to do? Ku 12 is very well done... itís clean and lean. Nice work on the phrases but I still hold to my earlier suggestion concerning the order of the lines. Ku 15 by contrast is cumbersome even though it does contain some interesting images. See my earlier remarks again. In my opinion ku 12 shows a better developed haiku style than #15 and therefore goes to the final round.

 

FOURTH ROUND

4.
scented lilies -
the green grass stains
my knees

12.
plane ticket stub
tumbles in the streets
final destination

Well in this situation, at least for me, the comparison has come down to the impact of the ku on my imagination. What images do they conjure? Mystery?  How do they engage me? Poetry is a connection between the poet and witness or participant. The better the understanding the better is the connection. In this case I can more easily identify with plane tickets than I can with stained knees. I like the irony of the last line in #12. So 12 goes through the last gate and final destination. Congratulations to all entrants. You made it a good set. Please come again.  

THE WINNER IS:

12.
plane ticket stub
tumbles in the streets
final destination

ADK

 

Poems Copyright © Individual Authors 2001.
Commentary Copyright © Richard Watkins 2001.

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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