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February 2006 Issue VI:1

The Scorpion Prize for Best Haiku/Senryu of ISSUE V:4

Tie:

David Giacalone

squinting to see him —
another generation
sent to right field

 

Laryalee Fraser

new neighbors —
apples hang on both sides
of the fence

So many haiku that I read these days fall short of realizing the full potential of the genre because they concentrate on elaborating a single striking image. The way a haiku gains depth and resonance is through the interaction of two images. It is this dynamic that is so often missing.

These two verses are great examples of haiku that fully realize their potential in this regard, and I have singled them out for very similar reasons. First, both are seasonal (baseball—summer; apple—autumn) yet, wonderfully, avoid stating the season obviously with idle date-stamp clichés such as “autumn forest” or “winter snow.” Second, both involve both nature and human nature and use the one to illuminate the other.

Giacalone’s verse, in fact, is arguably a senryu, focusing as it does on human emotions. With amazing economy of words Giacalone tells us in the first line that this is likely an older person watching and in the second and third lines that the situation of a young ballplayer being relegated to right field, the least vital position, is somewhat hereditary in this family. The tone, a wistful blend of grandparental pride and acceptance of less-than-perfect status in life, is marvelous.

Fraser’s haiku also deals with human feelings at a deep level. The arrival of new neighbors is always a little unsettling because a routine is being upset. In this instance, on both the real and the symbolic levels, apples hanging on both sides of the fence bespeak a status quo—probably a happy one—in which apparently the poet and the former neighbors have agreed to let the apple tree do its thing, with both sets of neighbors sharing the beauty of the tree and its fruits. Will the new neighbors be of the same mind? The reader of this excellent haiku is invited to consider the problem and track the ramifications.

 

Charles Trumbull