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August 2008 Issue VIII:3

The Scorpion Prize for Best Haiku/Senryu of ISSUE VIII:2

Most journals that publish haiku/senryu written in English present in each issue so many poems that a rhetorical truth lifts its ugly head.  A reader without unlimited free time will likely make quick decisions about where to invest full attention.  Journals that publish only a few poems per issue, like Mayfly and Wisteria, get around the problem in an admirable way—yet surely we would not want all publications to be so selective.  Sad to say, but some of the best poems, quiet ones, may slip under our radar.

I have chosen four poems to comment upon—the four that I admire most.  The final poem is winner of the Scorpion Prize.

 

light bulb goes dead suddenlywearealltouching

Chad Lee Robinson

 

This haiku startles with what seems to me a profound truth.  There is an artificial world that we human hobbits have constructed to comfort ourselves and to ward off all natural threats from darkness to mortality.  When this world craps out, we realize we have only one another, and boy do we feel it!  The running together of words in this poem may seem too clever, but notice how it binds the word “suddenly” to the second image.  It is the spookiness of the experience depicted, the séance-like mood, which guarantees no one will miss this poem.  And the poem repays our attention.

 

under closed circuit
surveillance

old snow

on an island
in the pond

Philip Rowland

 

I might have missed this one, were I apolitical.  But I am very political and the police state is on my mind, for some reason.  It is the quiet humor of this senryu that I love.  The action surveilled is not even snow melting, but snow getting older.  Quite nice the way the poet has used form to focus the reader where the camera needs to focus.  Welcome to the mindlessness, lidless eye of modern security, leaving us with nothing to fear but ourselves.  (I recognize that the author may be less political than me, and that no reference to a police state may be intended.)

 

winter blues
          too much earnestness
in my prayer

William Ramsey

 

Few would miss this one, because it is so clear in meaning, so true to being human, so funny, yet cuts so deep.  It is when we are most in doubt--dragged down by life, by relationships, by our own limitations—that we most stridently practice what we take to be our deepest beliefs.  I would call this poem a senryu because of the nature of its humor, and yet there can be no doubt that it is haiku.  After all, it’s the “winter blues.”  Of the interaction between human and natural worlds there can be no doubt.  That connection is central to the poem.

 

thought I was going somewhere March wind

John Stevenson

 

This Scorpion Prize winner is a quiet poem, a haiku of course.  Some might miss it I suppose.  Yet its modest use of poetic fireworks will attract those of us who esteem modesty.  Once one lingers within its world, the poem will certainly repay attention.  The poet had planned a trip that got cancelled, and now he sits in his house as the March wind whips past, sighing at the eaves, full of itself.  Or maybe the poet had hoped for a promotion at work.  Or had thought it was love.  We all know how it feels to be left behind, to remain in place as others speed away on the highway of life, happy and energized.  Yet no one is sulking here.  Precisely in the author’s choice of words we find a wonderful humor full of resignation and acceptance.  We are being offered a type of wisdom not unique to haiku, but perhaps best suited to expression through haiku.  Just the poem to help us remember not to read too swiftly.

William Hart

 

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