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Sea Shell Game #49
Judge Richard Watkins
November 12, 2001


FIRST ROUND

1.
steaming like a horse
through brittle, crackling leaves
i know you will come

2.
Fourteen drops of blood
A new dirt mound in a field
No kind words for him

Both of these efforts present rather startling images. In the case of
steaming horses are we talking about an arrival or a climax? Either way
this seems to be too intensely personal to fit a traditional haiku
situation. Ku 2 presents the morbid picture of the grave of an unfortunate
put away with no kind words. As yet I can't grasp the significance of the
drops of blood. Perhaps when I return to this pair I'll have some insights.
In the meantime it's steaming horses by a nose...or whatever.

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3.
 crow-lined sky
 electric words
 scatter dark clouds

4.
my wailing children
they cry to me with voices
begging for knowledge

Ku 4 has obviously been padded to meet the 5-7-5 restriction not to mention
the heavy use of personal pronouns that puts the focus entirely on a
personal matter. There would be some merit to the effort by eliminating the
pronouns and extra words but even then it would still be short of a
traditional haiku. Ku 3 for the next round.
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5.
Rain on an oak leaf
is sipped by a finch
Cold wind spills the drink

6.
before sunrise-
waking to the last
pulse of crickets

I can imagine the situation although I'm not sure that a finch would be
drinking in a wind strong enough to tip the leaf. In comparison #6 contains
the structure of a well written ku in the fragment first line followed by
the phrase. It goes to the next round.

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7.
dog shit
piled beneath
spring roses

8.
Two feet up
Two feet down,
hot sand dunes.

Dog Shit! indeed. A quick survey of my garden experts revealed no knowledge
of dog shit being intentionally piled beneath spring roses by humans.  Let's
hope if it were done by dogs that the roses were thornless.  The actual
structure is a crude  as the content in that there are no line breaks and
the sole redeeming factor is  the association of something lovely and
fragrant can come from something the opposite.
To my knowledge, limited in the area of dog shit,  it was once used to tan
hides.
# 8 is also very abrupt, crudely so.  I presume the feet reference is to
people and not measurement as some may take it.  In case what we have here
is a "So what?" attempt at haiku.  Hot sand dunes and all if you're
interested in the nitty gritty as you suggest perhaps you should check one
of the many websites dealing with the subtleties of haiku.  Now having said
that I must now select #7 for the next round.
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9.
gaps in the clouds -
a small boy climbs
up the slide

10.
Fulcrum moment
sunrise and moonset
balance the sky

Ku #10 almost swung the balance between these two ku but a closer look revealed
wasted or inefficient effort.  Have a look at "fulcrum moment" which refers
to balance and again it is repeated in the last line.  Having witnesses
something like that once I can appreciate the effort.  For the moment I'm
going with the small boy climbing to the clouds.

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11.
old stone fence
standing silent and strong
straight-edge straight

12.
poppies blaze
small suns
light summer fires

Ku #11 certainly offers a strong image. Perhaps too strong and unyielding
especially with all those alliterative "s". Have another go at the last line
in #11 and see what you can substitute for the double use of straight.
Perhaps you can break free of the limited image of a rigid fence. At any
rate it does not offer the resilience and life shown in #12.

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13.
winds sweeping the grass
make a painful howling sound
shaken from the sleep

14.
april daffodils
may when the rain stops
more bloody wasps

In the sense of syllables #13 is very proper but that's about as far as it
goes. There is a connector missing in there that makes for confusion. What
is shaken from the sleep? There are too many intangibles hanging around.
That leaves daffodils rising to the next round.

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15.
a japanese babe
it gurgles in its pram
kuchy kuchy ku.

16.
chirping of crickets
sunlight dances on water
tranquil resting place

There is a disquieting abruptness in both these ku. Or perhaps it is a
clumsiness. I am very drawn to the humour of #15 even though some of the
words are superfluous e.g. "it" and the disqualifying choice of a human
subject.  #16 focuses on a natural scene and is therefore more in accord
with traditional haiku content.  That is not to suggest it is free of flaws.
Why say "chirping of crickets" when chirping crickets would have sufficed?
"Sunlight on the water" instead of the dancing business.  Unless of course
we have a case of syllable stuffing.  Nonetheless I am advancing 16 to the
next level.


SECOND ROUND

1.
steaming like a horse
through brittle, crackling leaves
i know you will come

3.
crow-lined sky
electric words
scatter dark clouds

Well I can't say the image in #1 isn't vivid. For that matter it is
multi-sensory with a steaming, offering a visual as well as odoriferous,
horse romping through the fallen, brittle leaves. Actually it's quite a
sight. Even though it is multi-sensorial it is also limited to one image. The
presence of the pronouns distracts and emphasizes the human element; a topic
usually not welcome in traditional haiku.  I'm finding #3 difficult for
different reasons. I can marginally deal with a "crow-lined sky" despite my
initial confusion as to the meaning.  Then I encounter electric words. So
far I don't feel the separation of elements in a haiku i.e. the fragment and
phrase. I think the choice of "words" is responsible for that.  For the
moment I am passing this ku to the next round.
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6.
before sunrise-
waking to the last
pulse of crickets

7.
dog shit
piled beneath
spring roses

By comparison with #7, ku 6 goes to the next round.

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9.
gaps in the clouds -
a small boy climbs
up the slide



12.
poppies blaze
small suns
light summer fires

Look what we have here...blaze, light, fires. I once read that good haiku
have a connection between the first and last lines as #12 has. But the
writer ties them together even further with the words, "small suns" as
poppies are. My garden's full of them at the moment. Notice what has been
done with the word "light".   Is it used as a verb in light the fire or as a
adjective describing summer fires?  Intriguing.  What would have been the
effect if light had been placed at the end of the second line?  I like this
ku.  In #9 we have a small boy climbing the slide perhaps in his mind up to
the clouds.  When you were that age did you ever lie on your back in a field
and watch the cloud roll by?  Imagining shapes and animals in them as they
were sculpted by the wind.  This is a tough call but I'm going for 12 which
I see as more directed toward an event in nature.
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14.
april daffodils
may when the rain stops
more bloody wasps

16.
chirping of crickets
sunlight dances on water
tranquil resting place

Neither of these has much depth or challenge to them.  Let's have a look at
april daffodils and those  bloody wasps. The glaring fault in this ku is the
judgmental "bloody" not that I don't sympathize with the writer but the
emotion is out of place in haiku. The phrasing is also awkward.  As it is
there are four breaks in it.  Imagine that it was punctuated;
april daffodils.
may ,when the rain stops;
more bloody wasps.

The forced syllable count in #16 interferes with the structure and limits
its impact.  Among other things I fall to see how sunlight dancing on the
water is tranquil.  But of the two I chose it for the next round.


THIRD ROUND

3.
crow-lined sky
electric words
scatter dark clouds



6.
before sunrise-
waking to the last
pulse of crickets

Of the two ku #3 presents a more vivid and natural image.  Although the
picture in #6 is pleasant and even languid I go for the more dramatic
representation in scatter clouds.

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12.
poppies blaze
small suns
light summer fires

16.
chirping of crickets
sunlight dances on water
tranquil resting place

In comparing these two ku 12 wins in a blaze.

FOURTH ROUND

3.
crow-lined sky
electric words
scatter dark clouds

12.
poppies blaze
small suns
light summer fires

In the finalist of this set we have two distinct and totally different
pictures of nature scenes.  #3 with its electric words speaks of a stormy
sky with dark foreboding, almost menacing, clouds; rather gothic.  Their
formats are very similar with well defined fragments and phrases and to me
each offers excellent juxtaposition.  On that subject though I think #12 may
have the edge.  They both have strong, efficient use of language.  I am
impressed with how language has been utilized in poppies.  I am less
impressed with what I consider the obscurity of electric words.  Yes, I
think on the basis of the language poppies resonates to a greater degree
than electric words and in so doing offers a more positive, refreshing
image.  I must say this has been one of my more difficult choices and I
thank all of you who participated in this set.  I declare poppies the
winner. Congratulations to ADK for this fine haiku!
poppies blaze
small suns
light summer fires

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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