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SEA SHELL GAME #53 
Judged by Jane Reichhold
May 12, 2002

ROUND ONE

1.
warm trodden on sand
cooled off by quiet green sea
and wind blowing clouds

2.
new snow on the walk
deepens toward nightfall
time taking time
While it is easy to be seduced by the serene images of perhaps a
tropical island in #1, and it is a good example of Shiki's "shasei" style
of just presenting what is in a simple language, I demand a bit more from
haiku a mystery, an idea, a thought that I have never before thought.
Therefore, #2 goes to the next round.
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3.
the showering rain of colors
fell on the canvas fertilizing
my spirit once again

4.
the cat's company
more appreciated tonight-
her lawyer's papers
Although I like very much what has been realized and seen in #3, I
do know the feeling, I am bothered by the past tense of the verb
(fell) and also, the fact that the ku is a run-on sentence. I wondered why
the author used "showering rain" when one or the other of the words would
have been enough. There is a lot of abstract thinking in this ku: the
lyrical "rain of colors", the idea that colors fertilize something, and the
concept of a "spirit" is rarely subject for a haiku. The subject and motive
of the ku are not in haiku territory. Thus, #4 goes ahead.
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5.
I'm the shadow in the light
I'm me in the night
Dawn comes along
Now I'm calm

6.
late summer breeze
raises the hair on the arm
holding a cold beer
Walt Whitman would love #5 as this is really a song of myself whoever the
author is. The charm of haiku is that it refuses such over-involvement with
the individual as in #5 and attempts to touch the common elements outside
of ourselves that do touch each one of us as does #6. All those personal
pronouns in #5 should set off all your alarm bells that this is not a
haiku. The hairy arm with the cold beer wins this round easily.
------------------------------------------

7.
standing still in the bedroom
hugging the one i love
feeling safe with who i am

8.
the wind covers the moon
with clouds and the sky darkens
aspen leaves twist and fall
Again we have personal pronouns loudly announcing that #7 is not a haiku or
even close to one. It makes #8 look like a prize-winner.
-----------------------------------------

9.
on the path
walk carefully
little black toads

10.
January buds
Drop soft shadows on hard snow
Too-young sapling dreams
Ku #9 looks and sounds much more like a haiku, in fact, it sounds a lot
like something from the Japanese master, Issa, only I don't think he ever
wrote about black toads. I also think Issa would have had better linkage
within the poem. And I doubt he would have written "walk" as being the
locomotion for toads. Being a poet is being precise and toads hop or leap.
I feel the second line has been chopped in half and used as the third line
instead of finding a concept that links up the idea of a path, the way a
toad moves and _______ - the startling finale. Ku #10 goes ahead.
------------------------------------------

11.
Searose, a blue one,
that is not ordinary...
smiling in the pond

12.
Small boy
Sailing paper boat
Old man's smile
Lovely things are happening in #11, but I am bothered by the three
stops at the end of lines one and two. Even though the author has placed a
comma at the end of the first line, the sense of the second line dictates
that it is a full stop as if it was a period. The ellipsis at the end of
the second line is okay but I would be smiling more if lines one and two
were hooked together. I do like the idea of the ambiguity of who's smiling
is in the pond. It could be the reflection of the author's delight or the
author could be seeing the curving shape of the strange colored sea rose as
a smile. Those dratted line breaks will make me chose #12 over it.
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13.
leprechaun laughter
wiggly tongues; lime lollies ate
brother's secret friend

14.
train window--
mother's and my hands
on opposite sides
Aside from the fact that I fail to get a clear picture of what is going on
in #13, and that over-packed second line that has the audacity to use the
past tense, this is probably not haiku subject matter. If I understood the
lines better, I might have to change my mind but images of "brother's
secret friend" are just a bit too abstract for haiku. I do love the way
"lime lollies" lie on "wiggly tongues" and wish the author would try again.
Ku #14 goes ahead.
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15.
white christmas ~
the children are fighting
with pillows

16.
ash everywhere,
streets are empty and dark
the sky has disappeared
Even you can guess that I am going to leap on #16 because it has three
stops, one at each line end. Also, the subject matter is so dark and
dreary. It feels like the lines have been taken from a longer story so we
have no idea of why or what is happening. Haiku is not like that at all.
Haiku gives the reader all one needs to fabricate the complete story. The
pillow fight wins this round.
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ROUND TWO

2.
new snow on the walk
deepens toward nightfall
time taking time

4.
the cat's company
more appreciated tonight-
her lawyer's papers
The idea of "time taking time" in ku #2 , while lovely and lyrical, it
lacks the concreteness of a pictorial image such as the last line of #4. I
loved thinking about the concept of "time taking time" and coupled with the
images of increasing snow is very telling. I felt the idea of having the
word "walk" in the poem could have been used to increase the steps of time.
There is a lot of good stuff happening in this poem, but somehow it doesn't
quite come together for me. I wish it did. Ku #4 goes ahead.
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6.
late summer breeze
raises the hair on the arm
holding a cold beer

8.
the wind covers the moon
with clouds and the sky darkens
aspen leaves twist and fall
The author of #8 was obviously doing 5-7-5 so why goof it up at the end?
Surely a bit of rewriting could have solved the problem of the extra
syllable? Again, this is simply a word painting of a scene and I demand a
lot more from my haiku. Though the images in #8 are more refined and quiet
and more simple than those of #6, it is there that something mysterious is
happening which the reader will have to discover.
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10.
January buds
Drop soft shadows on hard snow
Too-young sapling dreams

12.
Small boy
Sailing paper boat
Old man's smile
While #12 is closer to the form / shape I admire for haiku, I am greatly
bothered by the lack of the use of articles (a, an, the) in the whole ku.
The ku sounds like a telegram from a cheap-skate. Haiku is brief and abrupt
enough without making it sound like a foreign language. If we would have
had "a small boy / sailing a paper boat / the old man's smile" the contest
would have been won right here. I love the association of the shape of the
boat being the same as the smile on an old man's face. The fact that the
boat is paper adds so much. Think of how wet paper looks and the sagging
skin of an older person. . . This is good. This is the kind of linkage that
wins contests. Instead, #10 goes ahead.
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14.
train window--
mother's and my hands
on opposite sides

15.
white christmas ~
the children are fighting
with pillows
Holidays have certain associations some factual and some ideal. For me,
the idea of fighting and Christmas do not go together, though I have heard
in some families that they enjoy fighting perhaps even as kids would a
pillow fight. There is the correct association, and a little riddle,
between the whiteness of a Christmas snow and the flying pillows which is
(correctly) left unsaid. This ku is okay and could be accepted by almost
any haiku magazine as publishable. It is only when its message is compared
to the wealth of associations and life lessons of #14, it comes up being a
bit too lightweight.
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ROUND THREE

4.
the cat's company
more appreciated tonight-
her lawyer's papers

6.
late summer breeze
raises the hair on the arm
holding a cold beer
I have begun to type this sentence several times, each time wanting to
critique #6 but just as I do, I find something I like about the ku. It
comes very close to being a run-on sentence, but somehow the lack of an
article in the first line, which should be a drawback, saves it. The use of
"late summer breeze" and "cold beer" and "raises the hair" all suggest
shivering about which I can only give the author a compliment and yet
there is nothing secretive or shivery about the subject matter. It is just
the facts about a simple moment of being. This is an excellent verse and I
wish I could give it a prize for being a haiku but I feel #4 is better
conventional haiku which could also be a drawback.

-------------------------------------
10.
January buds
Drop soft shadows on hard snow
Too-young sapling dreams

14.
train window--
mother's and my hands
on opposite sides

Like #6 above, ku #10 has something very fine and sensitive going on inside
of it. Ku #14 looks and sounds like a haiku, and the ku has deep meanings
in it, but yet it lacks the directness and simplicity of haiku. 

The final line is somewhat disturbing "too-young sapling dreams" just what does
this mean? Is the sapling too young to survive the hard snow? It is normal for deciduous trees to have buds during the winter, but the author seems to be aware of their softness in contrast to the hard frozen snow. When I started typing this, I was convinced that #14 was the better haiku because it was so neatly tied up in a perfect haiku package, but now I am not so sure. I am wondering if the author of #10 and maybe even the author of #6 might be on to something that is not apparent in our more accepted views of
what a haiku is. (Why isnít this comment included with the relevant ku instead of here?)

ROUND FOUR
I give up! It is a four-way tie! Each of these haiku has something
very good in it and I am unable to say that one is better than the others.
Congratulations to these authors for their good work!

10.
January buds
Drop soft shadows on hard snow
Too-young sapling dreams
Elissa Malcohn


14.
train window--
mother's and my hands
on opposite sides
Kathy Lippard Cobb


4.
the cat's company
more appreciated tonight-
her lawyer's papers
michael blaine


6.
late summer breeze
raises the hair on the arm
holding a cold beer
jjc

 

Poems Copyright © Individual Authors 2002.
Commentary Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2002.

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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