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Sea Shell Game #8
Judged by Harsangeet Kaur Bhullar

1.

Red, red rose dying-
Petals fall short of being whole,
crumbled the rose

2.

Gay notes from the nest
from hungry little bills
eggs became birds.


Both the first two poems, have the 5-7-5 structure but I would not categorize them as strong haiku.

In the first line, we have the image of a red rose dying, perhaps discarded, perhaps in a forgotten vase, which is all right. However the second line, "petals fall short of being whole ...crumbled the rose" makes an assertion that the incomplete petals crumbled the rose. This does not ring true, as the petals *make up the rose*. It gives a sense that the 'rose' is a separate entity.

By default, poem 2 wins.

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3.

About to fall asleep
the first raindrops pouring down
from the thunderstorm.


4.

Dogs are not aware
of swimming around always
in their own shadow.


Poem 3 carries a strong haiku feeling.

Poem 4 reads like a general statement, and one which does not ring true. Dogs do not always swim in their own shadow.

It could be strengthened if the writer focuses on the particular image that he/she had when writing the haiku - and shows the reader through that image, that the dog was unaware of swimming in its own shadow.

Poem 3 goes through.

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5.

A budding rose
found in the early morning hours
touches my soul

6.

Fog drifting in
hushed and gray
early in the morning

Haiku are different from conventional poetry in the sense that they attempt to re-create the experience felt by the writer through concrete images. They do not state obviously what the writer feels. For e.g. - in poem 5, "touches my soul" gives an explanation to the reader of the writer's feelings. It does not allow the reader to come to that experience on their own. In modern haiku terminology we are often told to "show, don't tell" .

By default, haiku 6 goes through

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7.

perfect consequence
beautiful ugliness...
quarreling blue jays


8.

snow
i put down my boots
in the fox's trail


What is perfect consequence?

Both the first 2 lines are interpretative. It would be better if the writer just sticks to the image in mind - and captures that on paper. The third line is a good example of a concrete image. Perhaps the writer can set a backdrop - like early in the morning, or setting sun (to evoke a sense of peace or tranquillity) to contrast with: quarreling blue jays

Poem 8 goes through.

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9.

spiraling up
into sun dazzle -
golden eagle

10.

old fingers weave
their tough twisted vines
through the young tendrils.


There is a slight redundancy in the poem 9 - with sun dazzle, and 'golden' eagle - and the reader feels that something is lacking - there is no contrast, as sun dazzle and golden eagle echo the same theme.

In 10, by contrast the writer is taken with the contrast of the old and the young. However, in the second line, the reader is asked to imagine the old fingers as tough twisted vines. This is not the style of haiku. Perhaps an image like 'colourful ribbons' in the second line can enhance the strong contrast between the first and third lines, which is what the writer would like. Still, poem 10 still has a stronger haiku sense, so it goes through.

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11.

fishing with stinky bait
usually catches stinky fish
who knew?


12.

a soliloquy
as quiet night approaches
moonlight watches


I am not sure what the writer intends in his/her third line. It is not clear what is meant by 'who knew'. The first two lines comprise a general describing the writers opinion - again not a haiku.

By default poem 12 goes through.

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13.

Longing for
the first swallow to arrive-.
Father-to-be.


14.

A clockwork morning.
Reluctant to leave my sleep,
I remain hidden.

Poem 13 captures the haiku spirit - though perhaps the word longing gives the experience away. The reader is told of the feeling of the father-to-be. A word such as 'waiting' can better evoke the experience in the reader's mind.

In poem 14 perhaps there could be a better description of 'a clockwork morning'- is the household (minus the writer) getting ready to start their day? Does it refer to a usual/customary morning? The image needs to be anchored to the writer more closely. Not enough detail is present to show this relationship.

The word 'reluctant' again tells the reader, rather than shows the reader that the writer does not want to get up - hence the impact of the 3rd line - the surprise, is lessened.

Both poems work as haiku - poem 13 goes through, as the image is very clear.

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15.

curling leaf
leaving now
waving goodbye


16.

See in the forest
Trees parting to show order
At last her garden.


Poem 15 , whilst evoking the haiku spirit needs to be sharpened.

Is it the leaf that the writer means is leaving, and is the writer personifying the leaf and saying that it is waving good-bye. If this is the case - this is not a haiku in the usual sense. Or is the second interpretation more likely -one of a juxtaposition of the 2 images - the curling leaf, and a departure. If so what is the link between these 2 images. Also who is leaving - the writer or a friend? This poem would work better with a 'kireji' or break, and the 2nd two lines can be sharpened with the actual image that the writer has in mind.

Poem 16 reads as a statement - the word see should be removed, as the reader cannot obviously 'see' the same scene.

Otherwise the image can be expressed more concisely (leaving the 5-7-5 structure here) for e.g.,

in the forest
orderly trees parting -
finally, her garden!

Poem 16 goes through.


ROUND TWO

2.

Gay notes from the nest
from hungry little bills
eggs became birds.


3.

About to fall asleep
the first raindrops pouring down
from the thunderstorm.


In poem 2, the logical conclusion from the 1st 2 lines is that there are newly hatched birds (from 'hungry little bills'), and so the third line does not add anything. The word from is also used twice which is not to its advantage. The writer can change his/her intention to show wonder (I assume) by having a different 3rd line. An example would be:

spring breeze -
or a more adventurous
wriggling worms..


Sometimes it is difficult to convey an image without having too many words. However, one of the qualities of Haiku is brevity, and here the writer would need to think again how best to use his/her 3 lines to convey the wonder of life.

Another example would be:


wriggling worms -
hungry little bills
chirping gaily

Haiku 3 goes through by default.

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6.

Fog drifting in
hushed and gray
early in the morning

8.

snow
i put down my boots
in the fox's trail


The weakness of poem 6 is the fact that there is no strong contrast. The words 'hushed' and 'gray', although associated with the fog here, have also got strong connections with early morning, as often it can be quite gray and quiet before the sun comes up. What is the essence of the image that was captured? Did the writer not expect fog so early in the morning, or was it the silent way in which the fog arrived so early in the morning that caused the writer to want to capture the scene. The contrast I feel can be sharpened, and a stronger sense of what the writer wants to convey should be incorporated.

Poem 8 has strong contrast and haiku sense - it goes through.

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10.

old fingers weave
their tough twisted vines
through the young tendrils.


12.

a soliloquy
as quiet night approaches
moonlight watches

Haiku 10 has stronger juxtaposition and contrast of images - it goes through.

The third line weakens poem 12 as 'moonlight watches' is an interpretation of a scene. It appears to the writer as if the moonlight was an observer, which is not in a haiku sense, true. The moonlight just is. One of the qualities about haiku is that they describe scenes or images as they are, with no added frills, or interpretation. The images should speak for themselves and through these images the reader should be able to come to a close interpretation of the writers feelings, emotions, intentions. for example, one wouldn't call this a haiku:

bleeding mother earth
her trees plundered
to death

To change the poem to become more haiku-like, one would convey the same feeling using the images that are elements of the scene the writer is looking at or reflecting on for example:

autumn rain -
each man taking a turn
with the logger's chain-saw

and leaving the rest to the reader to fill in and experience for themselves. The challenge of haiku is that the writer needs to give enough detail so the image is clear, yet not add his/her interpretation of that image in obvious words but allow the reader to come to that themselves.

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13.

Longing for
the first swallow to arrive-.
Father-to-be.

16.

See in the forest
Trees parting to show order
At last her garden.


Poem 16 reads very much as a follow-on statement. There is no surprise, nothing unexpected. The words 'see' and 'at last' cause the image to lose sharpness, and lose that 'a-ha' moment.

Poem 13 in contrast still presents an unexpected third line. It is more in keeping with the haiku spirit. Poem 13 goes through.

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ROUND THREE

3.

About to fall asleep
the first raindrops pouring down
from the thunderstorm.

8.

snow
i put down my boots
in the fox's trail


The first line in poem 8 sets the scene and gives it a backdrop. A dash '-' after the word snow would improve it, and give the necessary pause to break the image into its separate sections. The juxtaposition of the 1st 2 lines and the 3rd in poem 8 cast it as the stronger of the 2 poems. It is sharp and clear, with good haiku spirit. Poem 8 goes through.

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10.

old fingers weave
their tough twisted vines
through the young tendrils.

13.

Longing for
the first swallow to arrive-.
Father-to-be.

There is very little to choose between these two in terms of haiku spirit as they are both good. However poem 10 has the disadvantage of a weaker 2nd line hence 13 goes through.

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ROUND FOUR

8.

snow
i put down my boots
in the fox's trail


13.

Longing for
the first swallow to arrive-.
Father-to-be.

Poem 8 is the stronger haiku as it has all the strong haiku elements - brief, a strong image, a juxtaposition of contrasting pictures. I feel it engages the reader more - it leaves more of the interpretation to the reader as to the intention of the writer. Is he/she going to hunt? Are they off on a separate journey, but need to be like a fox - quiet and discreet - foxy even? or is the writer merely blending in with nature, going on a walk to be one with nature? Either way the third line comes as a surprise, and a not unpleasant one. Haiku 13 gives away too much. In terms of haiku spirit as they are both good. Poem 8 is the overall winner.

8.

snow
i put down my boots
in the fox's trail

Allan Dystrup

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Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. Again these are just my humble thoughts. Another person may have chosen differently. I ask your forgiveness that it has taken me this long to get these out to you all. Real world commitments have overtaken me too many times.


Harsangeet Kaur Bhullar

Poems are copyright © by their authors 1998

Comments are copyright © Harsangeet Kaur Bhullar 1998.

Page copyright © AHA Books 1999.

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