lazy afternoon

Participating in the Shiki Kukai is a bit like attending a masquerade party, not that I’ve actually done that. Okay, a bit like how I imagine it would be to attend a masquerade party. After submitting our haiku, and voting anonymously, all is revealed. The funny thing is, I have been participating for so long that I  can often predict who wrote what– distinct styles do begin to emerge after a while. It  makes me wonder– is my haiku “style” consistent? Sometimes I feel like I am all over the place with my writing! For the latest kukai, the kigo was “ice cream”, and the free format was “day moon”. Both are evocative topics that I will be returning to!

lazy afternoon
the distant jingle
of the ice cream truck

sleeping in
on the first day of summer
day moon

A Rose is A Rose

When I went to post my haiku from the May Shiki Kukai, I realized that I have written and posted quite a number of rose haiku lately, so I thought I would collect them all in one place. I guess I don’t live in the City of Roses for nothing!

cascading moonlight…
remembering how
she loved roses
(May 2012 Shiki Kukai)

letting go
the last petal
on the butterfly rose
(NaHaiWriMo)

grandma’s old letters
the lingering scent
of heirloom roses
(Caribbean Kigo Kukai #34)

rose petals
the warmth of your hand
in mine
(Runner Up in Kathy Uyen Nguyen’s NaPoWriMo Free Book Giveaway Contest #1)

leafy reflections…
after the rain
the stillness
(Christine Villa’s Haiku My Photo Challenge)

In this last haiku, you have to look at the photo to see the roses. 🙂

April Poet Showcase

For three years now, I have participated in at least one daily poetry writing challenge in April, in honor of National Poetry Month. It was a great way to kick start my writing, and make new friends in the process. As this April approached however, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the idea of taking on yet another daily writing challenge. In the first place, I have been doing this for three consecutive months now, and am ready for a break! And in addition, now that I am regularly writing and submitting haiku, tanka, haibun, and rengay to journals, I feel like trying to write to daily prompts can sometimes become a distraction. So I sat back and gave some thought to what I could do this April. And the answer came to me at once.

I have met so many creative poets over the last few years. Why not showcase them, and in the process, learn a bit more about my poetry friends, many of whom I have not yet met in person. So I sent out a short list of questions, one of which is how they met me. I have been involved in many online poetry writing communities, including the Four and Twenty journal– the first place my poetry was published– Poetic Asides, Read Write Poem, Big Tent Poetry, Shiki Kukai, Sketchbook Kukai, Caribbean Kigo Kukai, NaHaiWriMoand most recently, I Doodle, You ‘KuAgain and again I see many of the same names popping up in various poetry publications and communities, and new ones being added all the time. So this April, I will be showcasing many of my poetry friends in guest blog posts, and hope you will follow along.

Just to whet your appetite, here is the line up, for the first two weeks, in order of appearance. (And if you haven’t sent in your answer to my questions yet, please do!)

Week 1: Kirsten Cliff, Cassie Premo Steele, Laurie Kolp, Terri L. French, Margaret Chula, Michael Dylan Welch, and Curtis Dunlap

Week 2: Aubrie Cox, Margaret Dornaus, Alegria Imperial, Gillena Cox, Angie Werren, Christina Nguyen, and Johannes S.H. Bjerg

So with no further ado…

Lingering Cold and Night Lights

The first Shiki kukai I participated in was in March 2010, and I’ve entered every one since. What I like best about the kukai is that the voting is anonymous, meaning that each haiku rises or falls on its own merits. Which means that someone who is fairly new to haiku is suddenly on the same footing as someone who has been writing haiku for decades. For February, the kigo was “lingering cold” and the free form topic was “night lights” (of the astronomy type). My “lingering cold” haiku took 2nd place, with 28 points, while my “shooting star” haiku received 9 points.

lingering cold
 the long ride home
 from the cemetery

shooting star
 my wish
always the same

The full February results can be read here.

A Haiku Evolution

When I first began writing haiku, in 2010, I discovered kukai contests, a wonderful no-fail way for a beginner to get their feet wet, and did a blog post on Kirsten Cliff’s Swimming in Lines of Haiku about them. Kukai are still one of my favorite ways to immerse myself in haiku.

For a long time though, that was my only connection to the greater haiku community. While I found an outlet for some of my haiku, I still didn’t know very many people in the haiku community. I  submitted to a handful of journals and contests, that first year, and had my first contest Honorable Mention, in World Haiku Review, and my first journal publication, in Riverwind 30, but I still felt like I was on the outside looking in. I wasn’t sure what journals and contests were looking for, and it didn’t feel very satisfying to get far more rejections than acceptances. And then I began participating in NaHaiWriMo, on Facebook.

Writing haiku daily since February 1st of last year, and receiving positive feedback, encouragement, and support, from like-minded others, has not only been rewarding and helped me improve my craft, but has really built a sense of community. Attending two haiku conferences and a haiku retreat this year enabled me to meet many of my Facebook friends “in real life”, an added treat. And all this gave me the confidence to once again try my hand at getting my haiku published, and entering contests. It’s been a good year!

Starting in January, I’ve had two 2nd place finishes in the Shiki Kukai, and two 1st place finishes in the Sketchbook Kukai. I’ve had haiku published in Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, Notes from the Gean, and A Hundred Gourds. And I placed well in a number of contests: an Honorable Mention in the Haiku North America 2011 Conference Kukai contest, a Sakura Award in the Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational 2011 , Third Prize in the International “Kusamakura” Haiku Competition, First Prize in the 2011 Porad Award, October 2011, an Honorable Mention in the 13th HIA Haiku Contest, 1st place in Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge: Haiku, 3rd Place, 2011 Thom Williams Memorial contest: The 7s, and 2nd place in the 2011 San Francisco International Competition for Haiku, Senryu, Tanka and Rengay, for my first tanka.

Yesterday I learned that I also received an Honorable Mention in the 15th Mainichi Haiku Contest: International Section for one of my haiku. All this has only whet my appetite, and I’m looking forward to lots more haiku, haibun, tanka, and rengay writing in 2012.

2011 Shiki Poets’ Choice Awards

I was very very happy to see that the Shiki Kukai results have a new, albeit temporary, home online, so they all can be read and enjoyed. I started participating in the Shiki Kukai in March of 2010, and have participated in every one since. I can’t say enough good about all of the online kukai I regularly participate in: Shiki, Sketchbook, and the Caribbean Kigo Kukai. They welcomed me with open arms, when I was a raw beginner, and because of the anonymous nature of kukai, I was put on an equal footing both with other beginners, as well as with those who have been writing haiku for many years. It has been an eye-opening experience. Through judging and casting my own votes every month, I have learned to have a more discerning eye, and see what makes a haiku resonate with me. And through receiving votes and comments, I in turn get valuable feedback on my own haiku efforts.

The first time I entered the Shiki Kukai, I was still fastidiously writing 5-7-5 haiku. I received no votes, either in the kigo category (“planting/sowing”) or in the free format section (“cookies”). But I refused to let that discourage me, and I persevered. The next month I received my first votes, and by June of that year, I took 5th place in the free format section with the following haiku:

fifth birthday party
the oak adds
another ring

I knew then, that I was on my way. A month later, I was overjoyed to learn that I took 1st place in the free format section, with:

night sky-
my thumb
eclipses the moon

This haiku also took 3rd place in the 2010 Shiki Poets’ Choice Awards. Which brings me around to this year. I had three haiku that qualified for this year’s Poets’ Choice Awards ballot: a first place finish, and two second place finishes. Although none of them placed in the top three for the year, they all garnered a respectable number of points, rounding out a second very gratifying year of kukai-ing:

winter dawn…
humming along
with the furnace

flea market
two bees circling
the same flower

garden spider –
weaving the dew
into its web

Together my three haiku garnered 21 points, which coincidentally was the exact same number of points I received for my single haiku last year. I was also very pleased to see that first place in the kigo section this year went to Svetlana Marisova, a fitting tribute to a fine haiku poet, who was taken too soon. The complete 2011 Poets’ Choice Award results can be read here. And links to all the Shiki kukai monthly results, going way back to 2002, can be found here.

Citrus Fruit and Rain

I’m hooked on the monthly kukai contests I regularly participate in. I like the idea of 100+ people (Shiki Kukai) anonymously reading my haiku and voting and sometimes commenting on it. It gives interesting feedback, especially when the vote doesn’t precisely reflect my “valuation” of my haiku.That always leaves me to wonder what others see, or don’t see in my haiku.

My two haiku this month were both written from direct experience: the citrus one from a visit to my mother-in-law in Arizona for her 90th birthday this August. She was giving me a tour of her back yard. It was early evening, and still the temperature was above 100 degrees. Her grapefruit tree was loaded with green grapefruits, and she was anticipating their ripening. I noticed unusual (for me) cloud formations in the sky and asked about them. They were monsoon clouds, she told me. I thought about waiting. Waiting for the grapefruits to ripen, waiting for the rain to fall, waiting for the temperatures to cool off… and wrote the haiku. This haiku received 11 pts.  I wonder though– how much of what I put in it came across? What do others see when they read my words? That, I guess, is the beauty and the mystery of haiku…

green grapefruits…
monsoon clouds
hang heavy

The second was also written in August. I woke in the morning, to light sprinkles of rain outside my open window. I always hear the robins in the morning, and this particular morning, the robin song diminished, as it flew from the maple right beneath my window, to the Oregon ash in the back of the property, and finally dwindled away, as it moved into the adjacent green space. I liked the word “dampened”, referring to both the rain, and the dampening of the oscillations that produced the robin’s song. This haiku received 6 points. But I liked it better than the first. It was a more everyday occurrence for me, while I felt the citrus haiku was more pensive, and somewhat melancholy. Go figure!

first raindrops…
the robin’s song
dampened