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THF Monthly Kukai — September 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: do(ing) the right thing

In August there were 113 submissions from twenty four countries spread across five continents.

It has struck me that this month’s theme is remarkably akin to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or “mending the world”. (This term is often shortened to tikkun, which in modern Hebrew simply means “fixing” as in “fixing the car”.) Tikkun olam embodies an attitude of taking responsibility for repairing and transforming the world. This can apply to all or any part of creation, but most obviously would mean helping out a neighbour––or as it might be, a stranger.

First Prize
hunger pangs – 
the homeless man 
feeds the strays
     – Surashree Joshi (83 points - 5; 4; 8; 6; 6)
A person familiar with hunger may be all the more likely to identify with other creatures more hungry perhaps than oneself. The homeless man in this haiku is obeying a deeper imperative than his own needs. And it seems likely that this is far from being the first time that he has fed stray cats or dogs before taking care of himself.
Second Prize
coffee break
a crumb
for the sparrow
     – Bill Kenney (78 points – 4; 8; 5; 4; 3)
This offers an interesting parallel to the preceding poem, in that food is being shared with a fellow creature––albeit in very different circumstances. I see someone sitting in their own garden, or on a porch perhaps, though it might equally well be at their place of work. The amount of food being shared may seem trivial, but again we could imagine that this is a habitual gesture, and in that sense a small ritual that speaks of a larger awareness.
Third Prize
trail of ants . . . 
my walk becomes 
a silly dance
     – Dejan Pavlinović (53 points – 4; 1; 3; 8; 4)
The appeal of this light-hearted piece lies in its showing how our best intentions can lead us to look a little foolish, and our actions futile. And so what? (one might respond). The underlying motive remains the same: a respect for other forms of life than our own, and for their right to existence––and to use the same pathways as ourselves!
Fourth Prize
she catches
her brother’s smile 
a marrow match
     – Gavin Austin (51 points – 5; 3; 2; 2; 4)
I must admit to a moment's confusion upon reading this haiku. This due to the fact that when I was growing up in England the vegetable marrow was the only type of squash that we knew. On the basis of this my brain sketched a scenario involving some kind of long-standing family joke. The situation here is of course utterly otherwise: we have a brother and sister who need a bone marrow match in order for one to be a donor for the other––he to her, as I read it. (Siblings statistically have a one in four chance of such a genetic match.) It seems open to interpretation whether the smile is "caught" in the sense of a fleeting communication between the two of them, or that she is watching his face at the moment he hears the welcome news. For me this comes under the general heading of rich ambiguity, which at best can give additional depth to an already evocative poem.
Honorable Mentions
refugee drowning
my mother slips in and out 
of her accent
     — john hawkhead
I read this as an immigrant mother either watching or hearing the news of someone drowning in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean, or perhaps the Channel. She may know this to be a person who has fled the same country as herself, and it thus brings to mind her own narrow escape. This extreme form of empathy reinforces her present distress. The poet through keen observation has found a powerful way of expressing this, for it can certainly happen that strong emotions will cause a person to unconsciously revert to their native language or accent.
deep autumn
grandpa avoids stepping 
on dry leaves
     — Vishnu Kapoor
mowing the lawn 
leaving a flower 
a butterfly
     — Janice Doppler
shortage of masks 
she makes two 
out of her bra
     — Maya Daneva
turning the car 
back home
my forgotten mask
     — paula fisher
a new dawn – 
yesterday’s people 
that I forgave
     — Marek Kozubek
simple gesture
the smile in the eyes 
of a stranger
     — Margaret Walker

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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