Tuesday, January 25, 2011
And the Winner Is!
Okay, so he's talking about sex and I'm talking about haiku, but I dig that song more than just about any other disco song ever written, so there you go. Take a moment to get funky with yourself before you hunt this long-ass post for the final winner. Just don't start dressing like the lead singer because no one is going to believe you when you claim you are being "ironic."
I'm honored to have been able to judge this week's contest because you all brought it. Big time. There were haikus here that made me laugh out loud, that lumped my throat, and that made me look at things in a whole new way. And that, I do believe, is the point of haiku, right? To encapsulate in 17 syllables (give or take one or two if you're Boxer) the essence of an idea or an experience, incorporate some aspect of the seasons and/or natural world, and bring about in the reader's mind an, "Ah-hah; I never thought of it that way!" moment.
Before I declare the winner, let me explain my process. Because if everyone brought their A game, then I needed to figure out what, for me, constituted an A+ game.
A good deal of the writers sent some very witty poleetical wit our way:
FISHY, whose "union as onion" is simple, envy-inducing brilliance.
CZAR, who in spite of his frequent, "But I'm an editah, not a writah!" protests, has contributed thus far some highly super haiku—if you didn't at least chuckle at Strom und Greene, then you're way too serious for your own good.
BUZZ, whose image of "overgrown union hogweed/ choking garden state" continues to stick in my mind as one of the most visceral of the bunch.
And our esteemed host, SEÑOR TROLL, whose paen to Secretariat is a wonderfully lilting prelude to the righteously indignant smack down of "Scarecrow senator" and "Sin City's phantom voters."
Still, given the topic (State), it seemed to me that none of these quite hit the nail on the head in the exact way that I wanted them too, that is, to concretely, unequivocally, evoke a sense of place (state) in my mind's eye. Yes, I'm whittling this down to semantics here, because I have to. Otherwise, I would have thrown a bunch of prizes at all y'all and gone screaming into the hills sucking on a bottle of 100-year-old Jose Cuervo anejo.
So, I put on my Editor's Cap and started the careful process of sussing out the haikus that most effectively achieved my judgment criteria: 1. Evoke a strong sense of place; 2. Comment on some facet of the natural world; 3. Make me smack myself in the forehead with an out-loud, "Ah-hah!"
The writers who did this most effectively were:
Ever green and damp
moss grows where flowers will not
soggy hippies thrive
Could she be describing any other place in the universe but Washington state? Sure, there are hippies in Sedona and hippies in San Francisco, hell, there are even hippies in my backyard. But these cannot be anything but PNW hippies because of all the other clues: ever green, damp, moss, soggy. Perfectly done.
KARL then echoes her sentiment with the beautiful:
So without sun, but
with deep concern for their friends
soggy hippies shine
Gah! I wish I'd written that!
KARL also gave us these gems:
Chesapeake Bay State
See her great beauty abounds.
She can be fickle.
In the Old Line State
Mason Dixon line Decree
Divides North and South.
The last line of the first haiku is a hooking-sinking ah-hah (Troll, what's the technical term?) if ever I've heard one. Anyone who's spent time in Maryland and/or the east coast knows exactly what he means here, both in terms of weather, the ebbs and flows of the Bay's bounty, the tug between old line conservativism and liberal progressiveness. And the second, well, that just about sums up a good chunk of U.S. history right there, doesn't it?
Another one of my favorite entries was down-to-the-wire-KYM, who has this to say about her native Oklahoma:
A stolen city,
meant a brand new Capital.
Oil is money.
Love that last line.
But it was Kym's mom, PAM, who got me in the end. In my gut and in my heart, with this:
Way down yonder in
Indian Nation I sing
Woody Guthrie songs
Yes, it's all one single sentence, but I'm choosing it as this week's WINNER because it carries the kind of emotional punch that I'm always looking for in good writing. It would seem impossible that a haiku could say so much about a state, and by extension an entire country, but to me, this does so perfectly and with a texture and sweep that far transcends its simple 17 syllables.
The first line perfectly sets the tone with its vernacular—"way down yonder"—then segues into establishing place (the "Indian Nation," and everything tragic and heroic that implies), which then mitigates the tragedy with two simple, celebratory words ("I sing"), which turns out to be the songs of Woody Guthrie, an Oklahoma native who learned his craft traveling along with his displaced neighbors as they made the arduous journey to California during the Dust Bowl, and who later wrote one of the greatest odes to life in the United States with "This Land is Your Land."
Simply put: this haiku took my breath away.
So, congrats, Pam! You get to choose from among the two prizes outlined in yesterday's post. Email me your address and I'll get it in the mail toot suit to you.
* * *
NOTE: A recent development affecting our weekly contest was just brought to my attention by Pam (see comment's section) and therefore I have decided to award TWO winners this week.
Pam for the aforementioned haiku, for which she gets to choose topic and judge next week, and Karl for his Soggy Hippie haiku, for which he gets to choose from among the two prizes mentioned yesterday. Karl, send me your addy and I'll get your prize in the mail! Oh, and don't forget to nick the badge and display it proudly!