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THF Monthly Kukai — September 2021

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.

Results of Last Month’s THF Kukai

theme: consternation

In August there were 98 submissions from twenty-three countries spread across five continents.
Sixty voters casting ballots determined the following results.

First Prize
a bite of apple
I meet the other half
of worm
     — Gavin Austin (60 points - 7; 4; 2; 1; 1)
For me this haiku speaks to the fact that life will always have surprises –– both welcome and unwelcome –– and not all of the unwelcome ones will be dire or of any consequence. I cannot recall when I last swallowed an insect; not very long ago I am sure. There’s nothing to be done about it, except to say to oneself: oh, that was a fly. If other people are around, then we can indulge in some mild histrionics, and fun will be had by all. I admire the economy of this particular poem, with its pithy (and funny) way of conveying what has happened. An interesting detail: the poet by dispensing with the article where we would expect one (he says simply “of worm” in place of “of a/the worm”) gives the last line a touch of personification, perhaps. Or makes it sound like a food or a dish? Something like that, though I cannot quite pin it down. Regardless, it works significantly in the poem’s favor.
Second Prize
delivery room —
cold palms against the warmth
of a stillborn
     — Teji Sethi (45 points - 4; 4; 0; 3; 3)
I found myself momentarily wordless (i.e., speechless) upon reading this haiku. The cold hands/warm body image is truly a haptic one, and it carries the poem.
Third Prize
insomnia —
all the stars cannot
be counted
     — Mona Bedi (44 points - 4; 3; 2; 3; 0)
The idea that someone would literally attempt to count the stars (how would you check them off?) is too much of a stretch for me. But then, how you cope with insomnia and how I cope with insomnia are highly individual matters. Myself, I find that trying to write a cryptic crossword clue in my head works best . And I have no explanation for this, unless somehow it serves to scare my brain into a non-operative state.

Honorable Mentions
a new deer trail . . .
to my tulip stems
     — Karin Hedetniemi
This haiku transports me –– for personal reasons –– directly to the Kootenay area of British Columbia’s interior. Of course this scene could just as easily be set in New England, or West Virginia, or the American Northwest. I see the speaker as being a first generation back-to-the-lander. Decades have passed since she moved out of her tipi or one-room cabin and into the well-appointed house that she had built when a properly paying job came her way. At the same time she began devoting time to growing flowers as well as vegetables. The local deer have no problem with this.
mutual bewilderment
the first time
he forgets who I am
     — Tracy Davidson
masked riders
all eyes turn
to the cough
     — Hildy Bachman
This is the most successful haiku I have seen to emerge from circumstances created by this Covid Era of ours. Using just two words the writer has placed us in a cinema, while one of those words –– “masked” –– does double duty by setting things up for “cough” in the last line. This poem could make us laugh; and then again, it might not.
neon light corridor —
the black of each word
in a diagnosis
     — Daniela Misso

Reading over these pieces again, it strikes me that August must have been the month for having a sting in the tail of one’s haiku. I realize that the designated theme of consternation accounts for this to some extent. Certainly the device is effective in all four of the examples on display here. Yet, if too many haiku were to employ this device of presenting a denouement in the final line, or even the final word, it could become rather predictable and eventually tedious. A well-known poet was once asked for his opinion regarding how often one could indulge in using an exclamation mark. “A maximum of once during your career” was his response. This remark was not made tongue in cheek, but it raised a laugh and the point was well taken. That much circumspection is hardly necessary, I think, when it comes to the surprise ending in haiku. Yet, if more than one in twenty of your poems employ this strategy, it would be worth pausing to consider whether you really want to gain a reputation for being a member of the “Surprise!” school of haiku poets.

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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