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THF Monthly Kukai — January 2021

Welcome to the THF Monthly Kukai.

This month’s theme:


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.

Results of Last Month’s THF Kukai

theme: recovery

In December there were 93 submissions from twenty two countries spread across five continents.

First Prize
one day
at a time 
     — Bill Kenney (46 points - 4; 3; 2; 2; 4)
The expression “one day at a time” is a well-worn one. Does the poet invest it here with fresh meaning –– give it new life? I find that he does. The line break after “one day” achieves a step-by-step quality that conforms with the necessary plodding that underpins persistence. And then the last line’s “birdsong” provides a context for this, which lightens everything up. It is a minimalist haiku for sure, and could arguably have been a one-liner. But such a format would have speeded up the poem, and that is not wanted here –– quite the reverse in fact.
Second Prize
half moon
she shows me a pad 
that replaces her breast
     — Keiko Izawa (45 points - 3; 3; 4; 2; 2)
The half-moon that opens this seems to set the scene in a domestic context –– rather than in a hospital after surgery, let’s say. It could work either way, but the intimate tone of the piece also suggests the former to me. While the viewer could be a close friend or relative, that tone –– the tenderness of it –– for me evokes a husband or lover. Meanwhile, among all the thousands of moons to be found in haiku literature, this could just possibly be the first to be used in the context of a mastectomy. The visual aptness is striking, and contributes to an overall unity that is both moving and satisfying. Nor overlooking the gentle slope of the line endings, which reinforces all of the above.
Third Prize
bruised peaches I unpick my battles
     — Shloka Shankar (39 points - 2; 4; 3; 2; 0)
Wordplay in haiku (“pick/unpick”) is challenging territory, since so often it serves mainly to trivialize. On the other hand in a one-liner it can also be an effective tool for concision. The double entendre heard here supercharges (hardly a term I would expect to use in the context of haiku) this very brief poem by introducing an extra dimension. But what else is going on here? The bruised peaches, suggesting damage –– possibly unnecessary damage –– and then the ‘unpicking of battles’. One could read this as mentally rehearsing old battles to see how they might have been avoided, or handled differently. This is an interpretation I am glad to stay with.
Honorable Mentions
prognosis —
I stretch her lifeline 
with my marker
     — R. Suresh Babu
My preference is to see this as the action of a relative or friend, even though it could conceivably be that of a doctor or nurse. Perhaps this family member is holding or standing in front of calendar. In any case the word “stretch” is highly effective, and its use reinforces the first scenario above. All in all this is a very quiet statement, a quality that well conveys the caution that is surely being felt by the writer. 
darkened skies 
raking the leaves 
to clear a path
     — Bruce Feingold
the sun
through our tears: 
a rainbow
     — Roy Duffield
watercolour painting the rainbow within me 
     — Carol Jones
black ice 
quicker than you 
can imagine
     — Michael Henry Lee
ah, dusty love letters 
all that’s left
of my lover’s touch
     — Yulan San

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 4 Comments

  1. Congratulations to the prize winning poets, well deserved. Reading the comments by Dee Evetts is insightful, and of great value.
    Having a poem evaluated is wonderful, however, being able to evaluate a verse is a gift.

    This is the first time I have entered a verse for the Kukai, I feel truly honoured to have my poem chosen.

    Thankyou so much.

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