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!


czar said...

Yay, Pam! An impressive win in a great week of verse.

And, very nicely adjudicated, Moi.

Jenny said...

Gee, I love your write ups. Will you judge again in the future?

and you're right about Pam's Haiku. I love "Way down yonder in". It really flows well.

thanks for your help with the construction of my Haiku - as I told you, it takes a freaking village. :-)

Karl said...

Good morning Moi,

Congratulations Pam!

And what Czar said.(Gee whiz you literary folk sure can put words together) A very fine write up.

Do you think if I got a pair of pants, like the fella in the video, they'd make my butt looks fat?

moi said...

Czar: Thanks for adding yours to the mix!

Boxer: Are you kidding me? I lost five pounds worrying over my decision :o). Wait a minute . . .

Karl: It was neck and neck between you and Pam, so consider yourself one of those "literary folk," too. As for the pants, at least the stripes are VERTICAL, so if you feel that '70's groove comin' on and Mrs. Karl doesn't trade you in because of it, I say: follow your heart.

pam said...

My favorite one was the Francis Scott Key haiku and I thought it was the sure winner.

But Moi, thank you very much and I love your write-ups also. Love reading about the thought process, which is just perfect. Except ... Except ...Uh, Uh, Uh ... you might need to reconsider and give to Karl after all.

I sort of used Woody's line to create that haiku. Sort of? No, totally did. Might have borrowed too much. Although if you want to give first place to Woody, that would be very appropriate.

Had to think of a way to say Oklahoma without using the word, which brought to mind this song as sung throughout my life by my dad. Have a listen to Woody's brother Jack Guthrie's pure voice as he sings this (and it is just about as far musically as you can get from Disco/Hot Chocolate). I totally stole from the chorus.


Oklahoma Hills
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie and Jack Guthrie

Many a month has come and gone
Since I've wandered from my home
In those Oklahoma hills
Where I was born

Many a page of life has turned
Many lessons I have learned
And I feel like in those hills is
Where I belong

Way down yonder in the Indian nation
Ride my pony on the reservation
In the Oklahoma hills where I was born

Way down yonder in the Indian nation
A cowboy's life is my occupation
In the Oklahoma Hills where I was born

But as I sit here today
Many miles I am away
From the place I rode my pony
Through the draw

Where the oak and black-jack trees
Kiss the playful prairie breeze
And I feel back in those hills'
Where I belong


Now as I turn life a page
To the land of the great Osage
In those Oklahoma hills
Where I was born

Where the black oil rolls and flows
And the snow white cotton grows
And I feel like in those hills
Where I belong

Way down yonder in the Indian nation
Ride my pony on the reservation
In the Oklahoma hills where I was born

Way down yonder in the Indian nation
A cowboy's life is my occupation
In the Oklahoma Hills where I was born

Anonymous said...

Judging is tough, huh? Congrats to PAM for Gold and KARL for silver.

Master Basho's Ghost actually liked Karl's soggy hippy one the best.

I think the word MOI was looking for is "Kireji". It means "cutting word" in Japanese and really doesn't have an English equivalent.

Karl used punctuation and "but" to serve as kireji and that's common. And fine.

Maybe we should offer Pam the chance to pick a theme and/or judge next week.

moi said...

Pam: Well, now, that is a conundrum! Thanks for pointing that out. There is indeed a fine line between homage and a wee bit of excess borrowing and while you straddle that line, you did borrow to a terrific effect. So why don't we do this? You choose topic and judge next week, and Karl as co-winner chooses one of the prizes?

Troll: Karl's soggy hippie was neck and neck with Pam's. See my note above.

fishy said...

Bravo! to all the winners.
This just shows inspiration takes many paths. Pam was inspired by the rightnes of Guthrie's lyrics with her emotions. Karl was inspired by Boxer! We probably each were inspired by the quality of the offerings this week, I know I was.
I view this as a win-win-win .

fine adjudicating indeed!

moi said...

Fishy: Thank you, and thank you for your wonderful entries. I hope you're planning on entering your last couple in the Southwest contest. Romantic surfing with its golf tumbled lovers is great! Now, excuse me, while I go have a drink.

Karl said...

Wow this is neat! I must admit I have lusted after one of those badges ever since chickory made it. Thank you Pam.

As far as an address for the prizes the prizes I don't have your e-mail. Mine is: karlfair@yahoo.com
May I suggest that since Boxer was my inspiration and since I already have several BETs and I keep a pocketsize copy of the constitution on my desk. She and I should split the prize all take the dry rub and she can have the rest. For who else, but a soggy hippy needs right wing bumper stickers.

moi said...

Karl: Sounds good! I'll get started on the process ASAP. I would LOVE to see what happens if Boxer drives around town with those bumper stickers. And we know she can always use another beverage entry tool. Honeysuckle 'fume goes into the prize pool for next go round.

pam said...

I'm in for thinking up a theme! And thanks for understanding ... I never expected that one to win, but hey, i love your reasoning!

Jenny said...

Awwww, thanks Karl! Plus, everyone knows cooking products would be wasted on me and I'll be happy to have those bumper stickers and anything else Ms.Moi wants to send along. I love prizes!

And congrats to Karl for receiving the Haiku Badge!

Buzz Kill said...

My favorite Hot Chocolate song is You Sexy Thing...oh the memories. I've heard this one before but not many times. Way to go into the vault.

Well, Congrats to Pam anyway and Karl who is becoming quite the poet. I expect to see him snapping his fingers in a coffee house in the Chesapeake area (the new Bohemia?) real soon.

"17 syllables (give or take one or two if you're Boxer)" Bwahahaha

It was like pulling teeth wasn't it Moi? Nice job on the judgung.

Kymical Reactions said...

Congrats to Pammy and Karl! Both very fine entries. Moi, your write ups are truly some of my favorites to read. x.

moi said...

Pam: Looking forward to your theme, which I'm sure will give us all a good run. Make sure to also let Troll know if you're willing to judge as well.

Boxer: I'm sure you'll come up with something creative to do with those bumper stickers.

Buzz: Well, You Sexy Thing is a given, isn't it? Hot Chocolate were great. By any chance you listen to Cee Lo? There's a lot about what he's doing that's very 70's funky, in this vein.

Kym: Thank you, sweetie. And thanks for participating with all you've got on your plate.

chickory said...

this was a great post and commentary! Moi, what a fine job officiating you did. and it was hard. I have to say I liked Boxer's the best. But the Haiku game is way up that bar might require a pole vault next week. Bravo Pam and Karl - enjoy those fabulous prizes and if one of ya'll wins the 30K - just sayin' - i still need a shed.

Aunty Belle said...

Hooray for Pam an' Karl!!

Way to go Judge, Moi.

These were high quality Haiku's ever'body.

pam said...

Theme and judging, yep, I'm fine with that! Am consulting my advisor (Kymmie) as to topics. Will notify soon.

moi said...

Chickory: I missed having your entry for consideration! I make aesthetic judgments as part of my job every day, but this was hard, hard. I had it narrowed down to four and then went with the one that "spoke" to me the loudest on multiple levels. Pam edged out Karl by a smidge, who edged out Boxer by a smidge (who edged out Buzz by another smidge) and the thing that smidged it for me was that while Boxer's haiku painted a beautiful picture of place, Karl added an emotion to that picture/place: the ability to care, even without the nourishing rays of the sun, turning his literal statement into a metaphorical one as well.

Aunty: So sorry you couldn't play, either!

Pam: Can't wait!

NYD said...

Must have been very difficult to judge all of the entries, but going with the one that provoked a emotional response was the perfect thing to do.

A city so gray.
At the center of the world.
Miss Liberty reigns.

NYD said...

P.S. It is possible to translate Kireji (切れ字) into English. It's called 'thrust'. The word or image that pushes your meaning to the forefront of the imagination.