back

THE SEA SHELL GAME #9
Judged by Paul MacNeil


1.

Dawn winged dove flies
through the muggy azure sky
floating like a paper star



2.

Prancing leopards play.
Peacefully I sit and watch,
And then the sun sets.


***


While both of these poems have problems as viable haiku, those of the

first clearly outweigh the second. Haiku are written in a way so as to

give the reader/listener a framework within which to recreate for

her/himself the actual experience of the writer. Of course the reader

will filter these "sign posts" through his own life-experience. Poem #1

is based on a simile: that one thing is "like" another. An expression

of the real in nature would simply describe the doves. Haiku are not to

state conclusions in, but to show the way for a reader to react in some

way to the images of the writer. Further, some of the wording is a bit

at odds with the reality of a sunrise. Dawn can indeed color the wings

of doves, but not at the same time as the sky is azure. A bright,

mid-day sky can be azure, but not a sunrise sky. Skies aren't muggy, but

the air can be as we feel it. I will say that these are a pair of

two-syllable words, muggy and azure, which seem to fit in the attempt to

reach 17. Promote #2.


______________________________________________________________________



3.

The wind blew softly
through my window last night late.
Dust roused me from sleep.



4.

Fragile wings
Too timid to take flight
Nesting in ego


***


Entry #3 is punctuated like an English poem but is still more haiku-like

than #4. Ego cannot be observed and described in real terms. Like the

emotions, a construct of a theorist (Freud) or a philosopher cannot be

the stuff of haiku. Wings can be fragile, although this is the opinion

of the poet (-- gossamer wings of a dragonfly will last for perhaps

millions of strokes for months of aerial work in all weather), but what

wings cannot be is timid. A baby bird might exhibit behavior which a

haiku could describe and the reader might interpret as timid --

teetering on the edge before its short flight -- but wings in and of

themselves are not bold or timid. #3 goes on.


______________________________________________________________________



5.

Moonlit garden.
In the rusty metal bucket
moon soup!



6.

Hungry eyes
Nurtured well
Prune the weak


***


In this pair we have shorter, more natural sounding haiku images. The

punctuation of number #5 is not too standard, but it is a haiku. #6

for some reason has each line capitalized like an Elizabethan sonnet. It

gets nowhere with the stated facts that eyes are nurtured and that eyes

prune anything. How can the poet/observer know that the eyes are

hungry? Tell us the behavior of this predator, and possibly what kind

of beast it is -- spider, wolf, hawk, moray eel? Show some of the

predatory behavior and not conclude for us that the beast's eyes do

anything but see and move. Perhaps a perched owl whose eyes move as a

mouse crosses the patch of moonlight?


______________________________________________________________________



7.

smile at old torn slip
found in the drawer by mistake
crumpled memory



8.

This life will end
Suddenly or painfully
I hope mine is fast


***


Poem #8 tells us the thoughts of the poet. There is not anything of the

natural world about it. Our hostess, Jane, is also a teacher. I suggest a trip back to the main page and a click on the haiku

option. Jane has there a wonderful definition of haiku. I go further

and ask writers of all abilities to print it out or bookmark it for

repeated reading. The intellect is not observable, as this #8 does, in

haiku. This is a short, romantic poem. # 7 advances.


____________________________________________________________________


9.

Swirling colored leaves
make brave attempt to replace
summer's butterflies



10.

Bullet flys
through gray sky
one more fatality


***


Example #10 deals with a subject anathema to haijin of old. War and

destruction. But in the modern trends of western haiku it is seen -- and

this is a haiku and wins this pairing. Number 9 seems trapped in the old

fallacy of absolutely HAVING to have 17 English syllables. The

Japanese language is not at all like English. The parts of their words,

onji, are shorter among other differences. Most English-language

writers use 17 syllables as an upper limit only. The informational

equivalent may be between 9 and 14 syllables -- still depending on the

length and complication of each syllable. Like a previous poem, # 9 has

inanimate and unaware objects feeling things. Leaves aren't seen to be

brave. An old soldier who, at Memorial Day celebrations, wears his Medal of

Honor connotes bravery to a reader without using the word.

A little thing, but words are all we have in haiku.


_______________________________________________________________________



11.

Tropical fish swim
waves crash upon the short shore line
The beauty unfolds



12.

slender pears she plucks
with nimble fingers until
her basket is full


***


This is a much closer pairing to judge. The second, #12, has an awkward

word order that distracts and tends to be a single sentence which most

writers prefer not to have in haiku. But, #11 has really three disjoint

lines. They are actually three separate sentences. Two lines are

capitalized which adds to the confusion. The Japanese have no capitals.

Other than place names and proper names, I see no need to copy the old

English styles of poetry. In a close decision I will have # 12 advance.


____________________________________________________________________



13.

pale white tired sun
longing for october's bed
can't lift the morning dew



14.

Nonstop nasty noise
Constant confusing color
Neanderthal News


***


#14 is a flowing, frustrating, fancied festival of alliteration, but it

is slightly ahead of #13. Here again in #13 the writer has transposed human

thought and feeling to a non-aware object. The sun cannot be seen to be

tired or energetic; it doesn't in an of itself long for anything. The sun just

is. It has a wide variety of attributes that a poet can choose to

describe in haiku, but not these feelings. Show us the concrete, real

situation in your images. Let us derive the feelings and/or emotions

that a comparison of two things may evoke in us as it did in you.


_____________________________________________________________________



15.

The dancers flew o'er
The floor with a simple grace
Like a bird in flight



16.

Black and bloodied ink
Drips clean from the pulsing tip
Of my finger soul ...


***


Number 15 uses the old poetry trick of an apostrophe to shoehorn a line

into a set meter. Well, haiku has no meter and no need to shorten a line

or lengthen a line to fit an artificial designation of syllable count.

This is, of course, only this judge's opinion. Number 16 is a wild and

confusing image, but advances over its pair. #15 had that killer simile

in the last line. Oooh.


___________________________


ROUND TWO


2.

Prancing leopards play.
Peacefully I sit and watch,
And then the sun sets.



3.

The wind blew softly
through my window last night late.
Dust roused me from sleep.


***


A close match. #2 and #3 have adverbs which are often not desired in

haiku. The verbs, if any, should be limited and serve the description of

the images and not carry the load of the haiku (usually, there are

exceptions). Number 2 has a rather long haiku "moment" i.e. the period

of time of the observation, but I advance it, #2. The tense of #3 is

unfortunately all in the past. We can remember haiku moments and write

of them, but what we show is of the here and now as we show it. Part of a

haiku can deal with other time frames, but the core of it must be

anchored in the present moment.


__________________________________



5.

Moonlit garden.
In the rusty metal bucket
moon soup!



7.

smile at old torn slip
found in the drawer by mistake
crumpled memory


***


The point of view of # 7 is confused. The "smile" is not attributed to anyone. The

word "slip" might be lingerie or a bank deposit. The "by mistake" seems

to be added unnecessarily perhaps to fill up the quota of 7 syllables

thought, mistakenly I hold, necessary for the middle line. #5 marches on.


______________________________________________________________________



10.

Bullet flys
through gray sky
one more fatality


12.

slender pears she plucks
with nimble fingers until
her basket is full


***


In spite of its subject matter I prefer #10. As mentioned before, #12 is

linear and a bit choppy. It could easily be re-written as a fine haiku.

I hope the author will apply the wisdom found elsewhere at this website

and keep working on it.


_____________________________________________________________________



14.

Nonstop nasty noise
Constant confusing color
Neanderthal News



16.

Black and bloodied ink
Drips clean from the pulsing tip
Of my finger soul ...


***


These are very close. Well, der judge has told me I must pick one of each

pair each time. Hmmm... I'll go with the indictment of TV (I think) that

#14 poses. In #16, it is hard to accept a haiku mention of a "soul." Haiku

is poetry, but other poetry is not haiku.


_____________________________________________________________________



ROUND THREE


2.

Prancing leopards play.
Peacefully I sit and watch,
And then the sun sets.


5.

Moonlit garden.
In the rusty metal bucket
moon soup!


***


Neither is capitalized or punctuated to my taste but in #2 I am

distracted by perhaps one too many "p's and as commented on before, the

writer sees a lot for too long a time. "Peacefully" is unnecessary

and seems like padding. Sitting and watching while leopards play. Then

the sun sets. Ahhh, not quite. #2 could be reworked to be quite

effective. I envy the writer the actual opportunity to watch wild

leopards (presumably) on the African veldt. I judge this one as the

runner-up in the semi's. #5 goes on.


____________________________________________________________________



10.

Bullet flys
through gray sky
one more fatality


14.

Nonstop nasty noise
Constant confusing color
Neanderthal News


***


Well, here is as far as the alliterative #14 can go. #5 goes forward.


__________________________________________________________________


THE FINALS


5.

Moonlit garden.
In the rusty metal bucket
moon soup!


Mark "mark e" Everett



10.

Bullet flys
through gray sky
one more fatality


Paul


***

The first of these haiku has a punctuation problem that shows up in the

technique or craft of the writing. #5 stops the reader with a period after

line one. In Japanese, an onji without specific meaning is used to separate

the two images or parts of a haiku - it is called the kireji. English

language haiku usually use punctuation to separate instead but a period is

not generally employed. A writer wants the reader/listener to continue on

after a slight pause to take in the rest of it all. Some haijin decry a

period at the end as well, wishing instead that the reader would continue

to feel and re-read the haiku -- to allow it to resonate. A large

distraction in #10 is the misspelled word "flys." With so few words used in

a haiku care should be taken to be as accurate as possible. I like the

humor and freshness of the moon soup. I prefer it the violent subject of

#10. Congratulations to both, but the winner is number five.


5.

Moonlit garden.
In the rusty metal bucket
moon soup!


Mark "mark e" Everett


Individual work in this section is copyrighted by the individuals who wrote it.

Please return to the Sea Shell Game Homepage.

back