Even though I have been quite tied up with the launch of Cult of Chaos, I was glad to have said yes to a chance of judging the Haiku Competition for IIT-Kanpur students. There was a first for me too. I’ve never judged before and wasn’t sure I could do a great job of it. So to figure out the winners, I decided to use reason rather than instinct. Finally, here are the results. Loved the three I chose! And being rather wordy, am amazed at how these haikus could express things. Both intellectually and emotionally. Enjoy the lovely poems!
THREE WINNERS (not in sequence)
Teeth chatter, bodies shiver
Hear the symphony
(This has been able to capture the music of winter very well. Though I wish the word ‘winter’ hadn’t been used. It kills subtlety.)
Cups of steaming tea
Under the afternoon sun
And her memories
(This haiku makes me linger. Makes me ponder on my own memories and that hot cup of tea. Again, it has captured winter as I’ve experienced it.)
Light sleeping angel
Deep under the snow she lies
In quiet misery
(I so wish the first line could’ve improved a bit. But I loved the surprise of misery that the haiku ended with. Again, a trueblue winter haiku)
ALMOST MADE IT (not in any sequence)
Water turns to ice.
Breath to a soft misty haze.
Tears aloof, untouched.
(It explores a sadness which I loved. Except the last line could’ve been give more clarity, more pain maybe?)
Leaves drop in the snow
What perishes here today
(I wish this was more visual. The concept is quite nice.)
Facetious words spoken, by
Sullen crackling fire.
(Concept is nice, but the words didn’t bring it alive)
ice or inferno
death is wintery always
which steel would you like
(Again, almost there. Needed a clearer set of words perhaps)
Hidden is the truth
of a hug or a murder;
in the foggy airs
(This was a lovely concept, could’ve gone to a greater height.)
Sunshine scarce, days blue
Nights cold with mist overdue
How I miss warmth, you.
(The rhyme wasn’t required and took away from the story of the haiku)
She loved another
a snowflake, lost in the fog
Winter her lover
(Last line could’ve been structured better. Love the first two!)
frigid night, her only foe
(Again, nice concept, but a little change of words would’ve brought clarity. I love the first line though.)
The cold winter bit,
Dozing into wakening;
A face forgotten.
(The subject hasn’t been brought out. Better choice of words perhaps?)
Trojan horse is cold
its coal won’t burn – Troy won’t fall
will Apollo shine
(This was a lovely concept, could’ve gone to a greater height.)
Snow falling softly
Cold music from a harsh land
Haunting the still air
(Falls a little short of emotion, though the structure is quite nice.)
Blow a blue bird far away.
How will it return?
(The alliteration was forced, though I loved the second and third line)
Death staring at me
Wondering who is colder
Fish frozen in bowl
(Nice concept, fell in the choice of words. Especially the last line.)
cold Winter morning
“it was a pleasure to burn”
inky paper Lives
Ignite each chapter
Beautiful Black Butterflies
Fluttering to ash
(I simply loved the idea of writing Haiku on a classic book. It was quite innovative. Except both these peices fell short as a haiku, because of structure. Maybe a single to combine both would’ve made it powerful.)
Weather of nightmares
That sends chills down every spine
Till the blankets slide.
(Nice concept, hurried in execution)
And here’s what I sent the English Literary Society.
First of all, it was really, really difficult to decide on the ‘top’ entries, there were so many which were good. Then there were a few that I personally loved, which I had to let go, because as a judge one tries to be as impersonal/impartial as possible. So instead of looking at the entries as a creative person, I’ve tried to look at these pieces of art as an editor, with a critic’s eye. I thought it only fair to share what elements I’ve looked at with all of you, we belonging to a democratic country and all that.
- Local sensual/visual quality. Give me a few simple words that build up a world or a technicolour dream. After all, a winter haiku should give you the smell of fog, the taste of snow, the way cold needles pierce deep into your bones. That’s what I am looking for.
- Tight structure: You might have started with a brilliant concept/idea/emotion, but if you’ve structured it loosely, I’ve marked the art piece down. Structure is very important in a poetic form as short as a haiku. So I am looking for a tight stitch, a well edited, well thought through venture. There shouldn’t be a single word loose, unneeded or unheeded.
- Beyond tradition: I remain a rebel of sorts. All of you would’ve read what technically constitutes a haiku. So I’ve let go of the strict structure, in terms of syllables. Instead, I’ve marked something that surprises me, which is on the border of a haiku, about to become something else, where I get a ‘aha’ moment. But not so far that it becomes a short poem and doesn’t remain a haiku!
- Harmony: Haikus are brief, so it’s the rhythm of the language (English in this case, though they originated in the Japanese language) which I want to see. How well have you heard the words? The harmony of letters, how they flow into one another. Any forced literary styles, alliterations and the like are struck down with vengeance. I am looking for the way one word flows into the other, one word stiches with another to create a feeling or a visual.
- Simplicity: The Japanese are form is brief, simple, using a basic vocabulary to portray something fetching. As a writer who has written books for kids, I appreciate a dose of simplicity in your word usage.
- Emotional chord: Here I’ve let the creative person in me take control. The right elements, structure and words are all good, but if the haiku doesn’t touch me, doesn’t make me linger at the poem, or dream, or think of an evening I spent with someone I love, or shiver in cold or fright, I have marked it low in priority. After all, a good poetess is not only someone who can write well, but who can jump deep into the abyss that’s our subconscious. So here I’ve let my instinct decide.
A final note: As a creative writer who has just had a novel out, I know how hard it is to allow another pair of eyes, a casual criticism or judging glare into something that is built with broken parts of your own heart. So thank you for being so brave and participating in this contest. Don’t let yourself feel inadequate/insecure about anything creative you do in life. The critic or the judge is just one person. There will be some who connect with your work, some who won’t. It doesn’t make you better or worse. Thank you for sharing these little pieces of your heart with me and your batchmates.
Agree with my decision? Think that you like something from Almost Made It more? Go on, say it.