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Sea Shell Game #47
Judged by Richard Watkins
October 12, 2001

 
FIRST ROUND
 
1.
August sun,
the first yellow leaves
on the birches

2.
attic shelf
children's school books
filmed with dust

 Ku 1 has helped me clarify the matter of capital letters.  In this case August is capitalised because it is a proper noun.  To insist that it be written in small case, i.e. august, would change the meaning.  I have yet to locate a reason for this restriction of capitalisation in traditional haiku other than it has been accepted as one of the conventions.  But having taken care of that minor point I am no closer to a decision about these two ku.  There is a sense of colour  beyond the leaves implied in ku 1 and perhaps a feeling of approaching autumn.  The feeling of ku 2 for me is one of nostalgia.  Although the children may have left home remnants of an earlier, hopefully, care free existence remain.  Who knows perhaps to be reclaimed or cast away when the home no longer exists, either way a poignant thought.  Since one of the basic conventions of haiku is that it reflects nature  I choose ku 1 for the next round.

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3.
the cricket chirps
beneath the rotting log
white mushrooms grow nearby

4
dandelions nod
seeds loosened by the wind
gliding through the fence
 
The last word in ku 3 interferes with an interesting potential perspective.  By omitting that "nearby" the poet would have allowed for a more clearly defined image.  Then the reader could pause after chirps to establish the fragment followed by the  phrase, to use Reichhold's term.   Otherwise one ends up with a long phrase of two lines.     Ku 4 on the other hand offers an image of movement.  Attend to the verbs used and you'll see it is a gentle movement...nod, loosened, gliding. Initially I was  puzzled why "gliding" was used instead of "glide" then I later realized that the gerund gives the poem a sense of the moment i.e. happening in the present.  Ku 4 to the next round.
 -----------------------------------
5
twenty-three black cows
graze in a sunny pasture
one watches me

6.
this unsettled day
when all that is for certain
is the weight of rain

Here we have the rare occasion when two ku present opposite feelings.  I am amused by the 23 black cows chewing their cuds and having a look around all except for one.  But isn't that often the case with cows?  At least with the ones that live at the bottom of the hill at my place.  Ku 6 on the other hand offers a different more pessimistic tone.  Perhaps it is very appropriate in these times but for the moment I'll go with that one watchful cow for the next round. 
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7.
morning frost~
the paperboy's footprints
wind down the block

8.
elm shadows-
sidewalk slabs
uprooted

Well there is no questions about the kigo, season word, in the case of key 7.  In some circles kigo are an absolute requirement but not in these circumstances.  What we have here is a straight forward image on a cold morning, nothing mysterious...prosaic for that matter.  Not so with the next ku, #8.  Here we have a touch of the shadow world and its impact on our perceptions.  This has definite possibilities.  Let's pass this one up and see what develops. 
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9.
Bird song
glides on a note
alto wings

10.
caught by the stoplight
circles widening
in a puddle

What would have happened if the fragment, alto wings, had been placed at the beginning of ku 9?  That would have established a touch of mystery to be re-enforced by the play between alto wings, song and note.  Also notice the focus on two senses, i.e. auditory and visual.  We hear the song and see the bird glide.   I can't grasp the connection between stoplights and  circles widening so we'll glide on to the next level with birdsong.
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11.
Rashly stepping out
A winner is defeated
Athlete's foot

12.
starless night ~
on my black coat
snowflakes

There is no question in my mind between these two ku.  For one reason there are capital letters in ku 11 and for another I'm missing something in the chain of thought.  So ku 12 moves ahead.
 --------------------------------
13.
A cushion of air
carries dried flower petals
earthward their job done.

14.
Yellow flowers fall
Flaming arrows fly
Beautiful silence

There is a very nice thought in ku 13.  If anything the ku is verbose and perhaps cumbersome, eg wouldn't "down" serve as well as "earthward"?   As I say I like the image but I think it needs more work.  OK so first off the capital letters rise up followed by the brevity of the lines.  Can you tell us more about the flying flaming arrows?  At this point I'm tempted to say "So what?"  Let's follow the petals and drift down to the next round. 
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15.
beauty is the key
feelings are the unlocked door
use your mind to love

16.
silent on the ledge
a cat seems not to notice
this praying mantis

Writer of 15 check out the information on the ahapoetry website for haiku.  It might help you realise some of your goals for poetry.  Ku 16 goes to the next round. 

 

SECOND ROUND
 
1.
August sun,
the first yellow leaves
on the birches
 
4
dandelions nod
seeds loosened by the wind
gliding through the fence
 
A quick comparison of these two and I have no problems sending ku 4 to the next round. 
 --------------------------------
5.
twenty-three black cows
graze in a sunny pasture
one watches me
 
8.
elm shadows-
sidewalk slabs
uprooted
 
The matter is not so clearly cut in the case of these two.  Part of my problem is I can recall seeing scenes described in both of these delightful ku.  Let's go with subtlety and look into the elm shadows in the next round. 
 --------------------------------
9.
Bird song
glides on a note
alto wings
 
12.
starless night ~
on my black coat
snowflakes
 
Ku 9 presents a nice combination of senses and cohesion in the selection of words but I really like the image or contrast of a starless night played off against the whiteness of the flakes on the black coat.  Nice touch. Please advance to the next round ku12.
 ------------------------------
13.
A cushion of air
carries dried flower petals
earthward their job done.
 
16.
silent on the ledge
a cat seems not to notice
this praying mantis
 
I like the idea of a cat and praying mantis being in close proximity.  Perhaps the cat is copping a bit of a snooze in the warm sun as the mantis checks out his surrounding environment with his antennae.  Both ku present natural occurrences but I like the cat and mantis one best.  Please advance. 
 

THIRD ROUND
 
4
dandelions nod
seeds loosened by the wind
gliding through the fence
 
8.
elm shadows-
sidewalk slabs
uprooted
 
I had second thoughts on this pair.   Actually I asked for some consultation and references on the nature of haiku.  I even hesitate to use the word nature because, to me, haiki is a very illusive something.  I mentioned the subtlety of elm shadows earlier.  So let's have a look at that shadow.  They could include the leafy foliage of the elm and copy the shape of the roots beneath or uprooting the cement slabs.  Of the two ku I feel this one is the more engaging of the two and therefore choose it to advance to the next round. 
 ------------------------------
12.
starless night ~
on my black coat
snowflakes
 
16.
silent on the ledge
a cat seems not to notice
this praying mantis
 
Ku 12 is very efficient in that an entire scene has been presented in just seven words.  That takes skill and effort.  Can you feel the scene?  A dark, starless and cold night.  Contrasted with that are the snowflakes, white for an instant after they land on the coat, then dissolved to crystal droplets on the fabric of the coat. One can almost feel the cold seeping in through the coat on that starless, dark night.  A very strong ku.  Compared to the cold dark night I see here in #16 a contented cat dozing on a stone ledge in the midday sun, perhaps even purring a bit.  Do cats purr in the absence of humans?  In contrast to that tranquility is the praying mantis whose antennae are twitching and trembling as they gather information from the surroundings.  How do they read the cat?  Is the cat really not aware of the insect?  Or is it perversely playing cat and mouse or mantis if you will?  This presents a contrast between the two critters.  The contented cat and the disturbed mantis.  I don't know can one speak of a mantis being disturbed?  Perhaps this is where the Zen nature of haiku enters. And perhaps I am dithering.  Starless nights offers a good deal more than cats and mantises.  It is more open.  Starless nights to the final round.

 

FOURTH ROUND
 
8.
elm shadows-
sidewalk slabs
uprooted

 

 
12.
starless night ~
on my black coat
snowflakes

 

 
Now having arrived at this point I realize I'm in over my head in choosing the best of these two.  For that reason I defer to the editor of the game.  Over to you Jane.

I find that both of these haiku are interesting for their first lines. See how no other phrases could be substituted for these? This is called being exact and poetry is nothing if it is not precise. I can only agree with Richard that we have a tie on our hands. Congratulations to donald j. lanska f and to gill for two excellent haiku.

The Winners are:

elm shadows-
sidewalk slabs
uprooted

donald j. lanska

 

starless night ~
on my black coat
snowflakes

gill collingwood

 

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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