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THF Monthly Kukai — April 2023

Welcome to the THF Monthly Kukai.

This month’s theme:

Note: Anonymity is an essential part of any kukai. Please respect this to offer the reader (and voter) the opportunity to choose only the poem.

The THF Kukai Overview

A kukai is a (usually quite casual) poetry contest. The administrator of the kukai (that’s us) assigns a theme for a given writing period and posts to Troutswirl (The Haiku Foundation blog) on the THF site, which is then redirected outward through our various media outlets. Poets write work to this theme during the allotted time and submit it to the administrator. The work submitted is gathered into an anonymous roster and posted to Troutswirl (The Haiku Foundation blog) for public viewing. At that time all participating poets and other interested readers may vote for their favorites. Votes are tallied and the results made public. The top winners will be acknowledged each month, and offered their choice of prizes from a list compiled by the Foundation. Please remember that everyone who votes is a winner — the process of choosing your personal favorites is not just fun, but also one of the best ways to improve your own haiku practice!

Results of Last Month’s THF Kukai

theme: grass

In March there were 182 submissions from thirty-four countries across five continents.
Ninety-two voters casting ballots determined the following results.

First Prize
our neighbor's grass
the length of
his prison sentence
     — Rich Schilling (85 points - 7; 4; 5; 5; 9)
Generally speaking I do not pay much attention to how many points a given haiku gains in these contests. However, 85 is an unusually high score, and signals that this poem has undoubtedly touched many of the other kukai participants in a special way. What at first take appears to be a straightforward analogy, with some play on the word “length”, if we stay with the poem a little longer turns out to be nothing quite so obvious. The poet has found a potent and poignant way of expressing this hiatus, and a life put on hold. It has the quality of inbuilt empathy. For me this creates a resonance that lingers on in some space of its own.
Second Prize
blade of grass —
life whittled down
to its whistle
     — Laurie Greer (63 points - 4; 4; 5; 5; 2)
I believe this refers to the high-pitched whistle that one can –– given sufficient skill –– produce by blowing across a blade of grass held between the thumbs, with fingers cupped around to create a sort of echo chamber. I can imagine (for I have never mastered the technique myself) that this sound, emanating so close to ones own ears and produced by means of ones own nerves and muscles, could be powerfully focussing for the mind. And superior to any mantra, for my money!
Third Prize
early summer . . .
our thoughts go barefoot
through grass
     — Tony Williams (44 points - 3; 2; 5; 3; 0)
I appreciate the idea essayed here, and the sentiment. Nonetheless the question has to be posed, whether the poet has strayed too far in the direction of sentimentality. The personification –– of thoughts, in this case –– creates an image that will surely be awkward for some readers.
Honorable Mentions
sweetgrass basket . . .
skills the slave ships
couldn’t erase
     — Elliott Simons
This haiku comes across as just a little didactic, but only if I choose to dwell upon upon that aspect. The example chosen –– prompted possibly by the poet admiring a particularly fine example of such work –– generates associations with “sweet” and “grass” that harken all the way back to that daily life from which the slave was so abruptly wrenched. At the same time it opens a window onto the qualities of persistence and renewal. The slave trade destroyed so much, and yet so much persisted and found new expression: craft, art, music –– and more subtly, the human spirit embedded in those.
swaying grass
out of the blue
a lullaby
     — Cristina-Valeria Apetrei
dawn hush
each blade of grass
with its weight of snow
     — Andrew Shimield
We have probably all witnessed at one time or another the amount of snow that can be carried by a single leaf or twig. And we have also seen how fleeting this is; we know that the slightest breeze, or a one-degree rise in temperature, and all will be rustling and sliding and plopping. Liberated, everything will spring back to its normal posture. The first line of this poem sets everything up, by conveying the absolute stillness –– the silence –– that we know can only be brief.
crossing the border
grass on the other side
the same green
     — Neena Singh

Remarks are by Dee Evetts, THF Monthly Kukai Commentator. He is an internationally known haiku poet and author of “The Conscious Eye” series on contemporary themes in Frogpond in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Writing for The Haiku Foundation Monthly Kukai

On the first day of each month The Haiku Foundation will announce the kukai theme for that month. This theme should be the topic of your poem, and may be stated (by using the theme word or words) or implied. Form may be traditional (three-line, 5-7-5) or free (various numbers of lines and/or syllables). Season words (kigo) may or may not be used at the poet’s discretion. A poet may submit one poem per theme. All poems must be the original, unpublished work of the author. In order to maintain the spirit and fairness of the kukai, a poem that has appeared anywhere with its author’s name cannot be allowed for submission.

Please use the Kukai submission form below to enter your poem, and then press Submit to send your entry. No other submissions will be recognized or honored. Once a poem is submitted it cannot be revised. All poems must be signed (that is, no “anonymous” poems will be accepted, and the Submit button will not be available until both Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in). Poets will not receive acknowledgment of their submissions. Poems will be accepted from the announcement of the theme through midnight of the 15th of that month. All poets are eligible to participate. Administrators of the kukai are ineligible to submit poems. Your submission form to us should look something like this:

line one
followed by line two
and then line three


this poem is all in one line



[all lines right-justified]

If your poem has special formatting requirements you should note them as in the third example above.

Good luck, and have fun!


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Such a wonderful selection Tom and great commentary by Dee. The haiku by Rich is beautifully crafted and no wonder it was voted the best!

    Grateful to see mine in HMs. Congratulations to all winners!

  2. Thank you for this beautiful selection. I like specialy the one of Rich because it is poignant and real. No one to take care of the garden during his prison sentence… Very nice !
    Congrats to all !

    our neighbor’s grass
    the length of
    his prison sentence

  3. Thanks to THF readers and staff! Honored to have my whistling grass haiku recognized. And I second Rich on the needed reassurance. Congratulations to the other winners and mentions. And good luck to all with this month’s egg!

  4. Thank you to Tom and Dee and especially everyone who voted for my haiku! After a few rejections this month, it’s a nice boost of confidence. Congratulations to the other winners!

  5. So many beautiful haiku this month. Who knew grass held such magic?

    Elliot’s haiku reminded me of visits to Charleston, SC and the sweet-grass basket vendors you see by the side of the road there. The baskets are a true art form and the people who make them, talented and resilient. The traditions and stories passed down, preserve a history that might otherwise have been lost. Thank you for saying that so succinctly.

    sweetgrass basket . . .
    skills the slave ships
    couldn’t erase
    — Elliott Simons

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