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THF Monthly Kukai — October 2020


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: uncertainty

In September there were 132 submissions from twenty nine countries spread across six continents.

First Prize
waiting room . . .
the shape of a prayer 
between her lips
     – Ishaan Singh (96 points - 12; 5; 4; 1; 2)
This expression by the poet, the result of close observation in a doctor’s waiting room, or at a hospital or conceivably an immigration office, leaves much that is open to conjecture. Yet whether the subject of the poem is praying silently and unobtrusively for herself, or for another, the tension regardless betokens a life –– probably several lives –– that are on the brink of upheaval, with unforeseeable consequences.
Second Prize
old love letters 
all the men
I did not know
     – Maya Daneva (55 points – 5; 4; 4; 1; 0)
This haiku similarly is open to various readings. After thinking about it for a while (or not so much thinking, but rather dwelling with the poem) I feel satisfied with this version: these are love letters sent to the poet’s mother, providing a glimpse of relationships of which she was hitherto unaware –– or perhaps only dimly. It can be parsed quite differently: one variant being that these are her own love letters received long ago, and only now does she realize that these are people whom she never knew in any fundamental way. I have just talked myself into seeing this as the more plausible interpretation. I would be interested to learn if readers have arrived at a quite different conclusion or preference. 
Third Prize
decision day 
the wiped mirror 
clouds again
     – Keiko Izawa (48 points – 2; 4; 3; 3; 7)
I am no haiku scholar, yet have to be aware that there is a wide range of opinion regarding the role of metaphor in haiku. My own view is that if it is subtle –– allusive rather than obtrusive, employed with a light touch rather than labored, and above all apt –– then it is in no way problematical. In Izawa’s poem there is plausibility in the location being a bathroom, right at the beginning of this crucial day, giving the piece a naturalness that counts for a lot in my estimation. Further, the near futility of wiping a mirror or window in a steamy room is something with which most readers can identify, and this adds to the feeling of verisimilitude. 
Fourth Prize
ebb tide
the randomness 
of beach pebbles
     – Maureen Sudlow (47 points – 5; 3; 1; 1; 5)
If there is metaphor in this haiku it is difficult to discern what equivalence is intended. Rather than persist in my attempt at analysis, I found that if I relax into standing on the shore (thus empathising with the poet) to simply listen, and watch the progress of the ocean’s withdrawal, then I can enjoy the inevitable haphazardness of the pebbles as they are exposed, and which the waves and currents have certainly reshuffled since I last stood here. Whether or not this leads to reflection upon the unpredictability in my life, or of life in general, seems moot. 
Honorable Mentions
if a sparrow flies
into the poem, who am i 
to stop it
     – Deborah Bennett
bluejay whisper
I’m not sure if he wants 
this baby
     – Susan Burch
I might have passed this poem by as being over fanciful––and then had the fortunate impulse to text a haiku confrère on the East Coast. He enlightened me as to the meaning of “bluejay whisper”. The “whisper song” is used by the male (of this generally loud-voiced species) during courtship, and sometimes also heard from a solitary bird for no obvious reason. This information enabled me to view the poem in a quite different and engaging light. I will leave it at that, and to readers’ own responses.
what next 
the planet 
     – Patsy Turner
autumn sunset 
a crossroad 
takes shape
     – Bona M. Santos
results day . . . 
clouds shape-shift 
on the horizon
     – Marion Clarke
                    to his labored breath 
                   to dial or not to dial
     – Kanjini Devi
This is an interesting haiku in several ways. First of all the flush right presentation is unusual, and we are bound to ask what its purpose is. I typed out the poem in a more traditional manner in order to make the visual comparison:
to his labored breath
to dial or not to dial
My conclusion is that the right-alignment enhances the potential finality of the scene, presenting as it does a kind of cliff edge. With regard to interpretation, here again the reader has freedom to draw upon their own life experience, leading to various possibilities for empathy. From my perspective I see a terminal situation where non-intervention has been agreed in advance, with the poet’s voice admitting to hesitation nonetheless, and the impulse to call for assistance.
oncology . . .
‘it’s not good’ he murmurs 
his eyes saying more
     – Gavin Austin

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!


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