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
In January there were 193 submissions (another new record!) from thirty-two countries across five continents.
One hundred voters casting ballots determined the following results.
First Prize missing dad I lend his hat to the snow-man — Mona Bedi (55 points - 4; 3; 5; 3; 2) This haiku has considerably more depth –– more layeredness, that is to say –– than might appear at first reading. It has an almost playful tone, suggesting that the voice of a young person is represented here (while not necessarily so). Then there is the seasonal aspect, which hints that this may be the first winter since her father’s death –– or his departure, as it may be. The word “lend” has a potent ambiguity, leaving open alternative readings. I am inclined to favor the idea that the bereaved or bereft young person feels a kind of ownership –– or at least stewardship –– of her dad’s winter cap (which it may be she has taken to wearing herself). This enhances the piece by endowing it with a very individual significance, and it can indeed be read as depicting a kind of personal ceremony. Second Prize midnight mass a snowflake dissolving on my tongue — John Hawkhead (40 points - 2; 3; 4; 3; 0) I am going to put aside one interpretation that has crossed my mind –– that this is happening in the Covid era during lockdown, and a congregation has gathered out of doors, perhaps in front of some cathedral. But immediately the question arises of how the eucharist could be received in such circumstances, and while that leads in an interesting direction I am going to stay with my initial picture. Which is of the poet departing from a traditional indoor service, and having this spontaneous snowflake moment as he exits into the winter night. This carries the implication of a deeper and more subtle form of communion than he has previously experienced, and is ever likely to know. Third Prize all that's left . . . a carrot and two old boots in a puddle — Anitha Varma (35 points - 5; 0; 1; 1; 5) Here is an apt and humorous evocation of a familiar scene: following a heavy snowfall that facilitates all manner of delights –– skiing, sledding, snowballing, and of course the building of snowmen –– the thaw inevitably comes, sooner or later, and all that magic dissolves into simply a wet mess. Honorable Mentions falling into past tense — first snow — Hildy Bachman This is original and intriguing. The mind of a fastidious reader could skid over the surface of this haiku and hear in it an intellectual gambit, or merely wordplay. That would be a mistake, for the three lines successfully convey not only that giddy feeling of looking up into falling snow, but also the sense of being cut loose from conventional time. More specifically: of experiencing the instantaneous passage of future into present, and present into past. Over and over again. bird feeder — a chickadee’s beak laced with snow — Neena Singh each flake a quiet thought first snow — Seretta Martin these last days the folds of a pinecone gathering snow — Marilyn Appl Walker Here is another example of a layered and enigmatic haiku that cannot be called obscure. It is elusive in so far as we have no indication what "these last days" may refer to. Does it simply mean “in recent days”, or is this rather a vigil of some kind –– such as the protracted wait for the death of someone who is terminally ill? Nor is it quite clear whether the snow is accumulating over the course of several days, or just the present one. (My take is that the former is intended.) Regardless of that, we can deduce that it must be a fine, dry snow, and that it is falling very lightly –– or only from time to time. It is this authentic detail (albeit unstated, and thus demanding that the reader put in some work) that underpins the poem and makes it memorable.
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
orthis poem is all in one line
orjjjjjjjjjjj kkkkkkkkkk lll mmmmm
[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!