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 May there were 153 submissions from twenty-three countries across five continents.
Ninety-nine voters casting ballots determined the following results.
First Prize spent blossoms falling softly out of love — Sasha A. Palmer (80 points - 8; 4; 6; 2; 2) The theme for this month’s kukai happens to be one of the more commonly used “season words" that were approved (and to a great extent codified) by Japanese haiku poets of centuries past. "Blossoms" indicates spring –– naturally –– and it would often appear in the first line of a poem, by way of setting the scene and time of year. Today –– at least in the realm of English-language haiku –– this is regarded as a rather mechanical device, and some poets choose to steer clear of it altogether. Here we have the word showing up as the designated theme for a kukai. It is interesting to see how the emerging winners and runners-up have chosen to handle this. It is noteworthy that this monoku garnered the highest number of points I can recall seeing during the two years that I have been writing these commentaries. The word “falling” is doing double duty here –– that is, it swings both ways –– very effectively enabling the compression into one line. I am guessing this is what particularly appealed to so many of Palmer’s fellow poets. This is not to overlook that falling out of love is an intriguing topic in itself. How does that happen, and in what ways do we recognise it when it is does happen, or is imminent? (And the word “softly” –– what does that convey in such a context?) Second Prize wildflowers — the life we live without excuses — Hifsa Ashraf (51 points - 3; 3; 6; 2; 2) This haiku stands apart from the others in so far as the word blossoms has been sidestepped. It is at the same time the most enigmatic of them all. I do not know how to interpret “the life we live/without excuses”. I do know that idea pulls me in, and that I will return to ponder its meaning more than once, if not many times. Its meaning for me, that is. Third Prize lilac blossoms longing for the little girl she once was — Angèle Lux (47 points - 6; 1; 2; 3; 1) The poet’s intention is elusive here also, but I think I can feel my way toward it. It seems that the subject as a young girl loved both the look and smell of lilac with an intensity that even now has the power to transport her back in time. There’s more though –– or perhaps this is really it: something stronger than nostalgia, something more akin to an objective love and compassion for the child she once was. Many of us may have experienced this –– or some version of this –– from time to time in our lives. Honorable Mentions drifting blossom the smooth surface of a child’s hand — john hawkhead This is preeminently a touch-related poem, and I am a sucker for those. Here I particularly appreciate the haptic resonance –– I do not know what else to call it –– between the silky feel of a petal and that of a young child’s hand, against one’s own skin. squash blossoms uncurling sunshine — Peggy Bilbro Here is another pleasing and accomplished example of monoku. As we unpack it, we keep finding more. And if the poem does not at first speak to you, then I suggest you go along to a friend’s vegetable patch (if you lack your own) an hour or two after sunrise on a sunny day. There to sit quietly for a while –– or return after breakfast, if you like –– and observe those new squash blossoms as they unfurl. war debris . . . a softer broom for cherry blossoms — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi I admire the ambiguity of this. Is a soft broom more effective for sweeping up petals, or would it feel disrespectful to use a regular yard broom to remove such delicate detritus? In the context of war especially, this does not seem to me a fanciful or trivial idea. Far from it. a blossomed twig taps against the window . . . mom still in coma — Florin C. Ciobica The first line here gives fresh meaning to an ancient season indicator, and at the same time is integral to the poem. It is not a stretch to imagine the twig, the season, all of nature beckoning a person back to consciousness and a renewed life. fading blossom when her answer was just a smile — Ravi Kiran
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!