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THF Monthly Kukai — February 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: gratitude

In January there were 167 submissions from thirty countries across five continents.
One hundred twenty-four voters casting ballots determined the following results.

First Prize
watchman’s funeral
for just this once I hold
the door for him
     — Vandana Parashar (57 points - 5; 5; 1; 4; 1)
The word “watchman” signals to me that the setting for this poem is more likely to be Asia than any western country. Such a man would have been in loyal service for many years, as gatekeeper and –– at nighttime in particular –– as guard of the compound (consisting of a walled garden, essentially, surrounding the house). Why am I elaborating on this probable context?  Because it both clarifies and enhances the poignance of this moment, when the poet finds herself holding open a door for the man –– that is to say, for the bearers of the deceased’s stretcher or coffin, one could imagine –– who has held a gate or door for her so many thousands of times over the years.
Second Prize
lilac dawn . . .
my breath still
a part of me
     — Nisha Raviprasad (47 points - 3; 3; 4; 3; 2)
It took me a few moments to realize that the poet is here celebrating (though honoring might be more apt) the simple fact of being alive, as another day begins. My sometimes over-speculative brain took me first in the direction of posing the question: is our breath, strictly speaking, part of us, or not? Stay with the poet, and gaze at the dawn.
Third Prize
afraid I’ll cry
if I thank her nurse
— Alzheimers ward
     — Paul Hodder (45 points - 4; 4; 1; 2; 2)
It is impossible not to take into account the gender of the poet here. I was myself raised –– for better or worse –– in the English boarding school system of the mid-twentieth century. There it was wordlessly instilled in us that men do not cry. (Real men, was the subtext). Thus it was with relief and –– yes, gratitude –– that in my early twenties I found myself weeping freely, alone in a Paris hotel room. That was my liberation day. But to cry in public, that is a whole other matter. Sixty years on, and I am not truly there yet. So can I identify with the situation depicted in this poem? Oh, yes.
Honorable Mentions
half full
or half empty . . .
drinking it all in
     — Sharon Martina
it's the little things hummingbird
     — Kerry J Heckman
a coin tossed
      the guitar case . . .
      minor-chord nod
     — Elliott Simons
I so much want to compress this haiku –– without changing a word –– into the more customary three-line form. I am not completely averse to so-called concrete haiku, nor those that have a concrete element (as I think is intended here). In this presentation I find that the steps and the strung-out lines distract from the simplicity of the picture, and the authenticity of its ending: “his minor-chord nod”. (This inspired observation speaks to so much that is beyond the poem itself.) As for the ellipsis, that seems to me superfluous also. And if superfluous, then by definition detracting?
after the fire a koala hug
     — Ivan Georgiev

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 One Comment

  1. a coin tossed
    the guitar case . . .
    minor-chord nod
    — Elliott Simons
    Dee, I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but to my mind this layout is just right for this ku and beats a 3-line or one-line version by miles. Ambiguity can work in haiku and I believe it works well in the given version in a way it couldn’t in other layouts.

    1. A coin is tossed “into the guitar case (+ cut marker . . . ) ” (reading each line from left to right)
    2. A coin is tossed “into his minor-chord nod” (reading “into his” downwards and continuing across to “minor-chord nod” in the last line.)

    The 2nd reading is, of course, figurative and it skips the ellipses. (intentionally, on the author’s part, I think)

    Time comes into it: in the first version a coin is tossed into a guitar case and then the guitarist nods. This is our usual linear time frame. In the second (figurative) version the guitarist’s minor chord nod exists before and after the coin is thrown. It is (like) a receptacle while the guitar case is a receptacle.

    Both readings, the standard English and the figurative, work together for me .

    Of the 6 poems given on this page ( 1st, 2nd, 3rd and the 3 honourable mentions) this would’ve been my choice for first prize.
    As far as the theme of ‘gratitude’ goes, this ku shows that gratitude itself can be nuanced . Its depth depends on circumstances and contexts.

    I wish I’d written this one. Way to go. Elliot! 🙂

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