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My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor, indexer, and proofreader. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Haiku Monday [Sleep]: The Report

Haiku Monday: The Winner

Toda la vida es sueño, y los sueños, sueños son.
—Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681)

The translation I originally heard for this statement was “Life is a dream, and dreaming, a dream.” I know barely enough Spanish to know that’s not a literal translation, but it’s close enough and it’s the one I’ve stuck with. And it sounds better in Spanish anyway.

Anyway.

My methodology.

I read nothing and, as you’ve now seen, made no comments while the posting was taking place. Promptly at midnight I printed two copies of all the haiku/comments. I put one copy aside, and then gave the other copy to my 18-year-old son, instructing him to black out all names and avatars. I was committed to treating this contest as much as possible with the haiku masters being anonymous.

I did read up a little on haiku, most of which echoed what Troll’s already explained elsewhere. I did not take the elements of classical Japanese haiku into account for their own sake; that is, if you incorporated classical haiku elements you were not awarded for it, nor were you penalized for their absence. And a little research shows that American haiku has branched off into pretty much a different form regardless. And that’s what we’re here for: some good ol’ Amurkun haiku. But in the case of Kireji particularly, I think it helps make for some good poetry.

And that’s what we’re dealing with: poetry, but you have a not very good English major doing the hosting. Furthermore, as your host and judge, you have an editor who’s had to suffer professionally through some of the most painful tripe ever written in the name of verse. Imagine the worst—the absolute worst—greeting-card/Burma Shave doggerel you’ve ever read. Then set up rhyming patterns that are broken out of laziness rather than intent. Then entirely screw up the meter. That’s most of the poetry I’ve been paid to endure.

Then there was the book of womanist theology/poetry I edited, in which the author spent the first 100 pages discussing herself and her qualifications for writing the book before getting to the content . . . kind of like I’m doing here. About page xliii of the preface (quoting my brother-from-another-mother Steve, “I crap you negative”), the author thanks a professor “who recognized me as a poet before I named myself Poet.” God save me from such insufferability. Haiku thankfully doesn’t allow much space for that. Nor would this crowd foist it on me.

About the topic. I’m generally sleep deprived. I slept most of the summer when I was fifteen years old, and sometimes I feel like I’ve been paying for it ever since. When Moi gave me an update toward the end of the day on Monday about what was going on in the comments section, I responded:

No sleep for the czar.
National Poetry Day . . .
Winks: Gang aft agley.

Yes, haikusters, yesterday was National Poetry Day, as declared by the United Nations. March 21, every year. And I didn’t even know it until one of my friends who declined to participate pointed it out to me.

And now it’s the middle of the night, or getting there, and still miles to go.

Enough background.

The criteria.

After the syllable count, what did I look for, numbered but in no particular order?

1. Turns of phrase or use of language that made me think, Wow.
2. Stark images of beauty. Or depravity. Or horror. Or glory. Two or more in seventeen syllables garnered extra points.
3. Economy of language. We’re all limited to the syllables. Within that, though, did the piece juggle more than one concept? Did it work on different levels? How much word power went into one intensely honed and crafted little nugget within a nugget?
4. Humor. Always a positive. Barring that, soul-crushing despair works, too. Or hope. But some emotional content.
5. An interesting take.
6. The proper combination of intrigue and comprehensibility. Did the haiku have an element of mystery, but could a reader who didn’t know what the topic was still figure out the topic, or at least come close? If you wrote about sleep or something related to it, but you’re the only one who knew it, that’s a little too much inside baseball. And I’ll admit, I’m kinda literal and frankly not too bright. Metaphor goes right past me. We’ll come out of a play or a movie, and my wife will say, “I thought the play was about such and so,” and I’m like, “Damn, I pretty much thought it was about the plot.” So, subtlety to the point of obscurity doesn’t work well for me.

Analysis.

This section is for you Nate Silver fans. Participants submitted, by my count, 29 haiku on topic. Of those, I had to kick out seven for violations of the only established rule: 5-7-5. There were some nice turns of phrase in those discarded lines, but unfortunately, they couldn’t count toward the contest.

I tried to categorize the topics. Some I counted in more than one category. These are very much subject to interpretation/change.

Dreams, 8
Sleep as metaphor, 5
Sleep, physical aspects of, 4
Sleep, absence of, 4 (very interesting)
Waking, 4
Other, 3
Sleep, as escape, 2
Sleep, spirituality and, 1

The results.

This is the hard part, as there was good in every single entry.

Joe D G, an old pal of mine who’s always had more than a finger in the spiritual realm, started us off on a nice note, grounding us in the eternal verities. The juxtaposition of presuming sleep yet being in a state of thorough awareness is jarring and makes me want to linger on this verse. The pairing of loss and gain also intrigues.

A newer pal of mine, spiritual after another fashion -- and one who straddles the line between friend and family member -- Drew hits me right where I live, as I’ve always viewed sleep as a pleasure of the flesh. And “the second best thing,” I am presuming he means while lying down.

Karen ranked high with her observation. And it’s absolutely true. Hurricanes also hit at night, it seems. I liked the mystery of the 2nd line ending with the number, and the last line devoted entirely to time.

Last week’s winner Foam had the first phrase that really grabbed me: “Forty winks gone sour.” A great lead, pushing me into the rest of the piece. “Contorted yawn” -- aren’t they all? Her first haiku (excuse me for turning editor here) I thought was promising until the last syllable of the second line. We’ve had 11 syllables of noise. The word “noise” there seemed unnecessary. Some type of ‘60s Batman graphic might have been good there: “buzzing whining chainsaw ZAP!” Ooof? Thunk?

Master Troll’s first effort: I must admit that this one failed me. Probably my ample ignorance showing. I don’t know Troll that well, but I know enough to know that he’s trying to achieve something here that’s just out of my grasp . . . like a name I can’t remember or a song I can’t recall. If he lets on what the secret is, I’m sure I’ll think, Of course! But until then . . . He acknowledged he needed to come up with something better. And of course, the master did.

The dead poet salute from Troll was great. I like the “stop” at the end of the first line sans punctuation, so there’s a visual stop but no stop at all. “Frosted” is a great touch. The capitalization of “Promise Keeper” in the first line makes me think of the group by that name, which throws me off a little, because I expect the next two lines to somehow evoke more imagery along that train of thought, but I’m not seeing it.

To me, “Lizard” is the best of Troll’s trilogy. It’s understandable yet mysterious. I’m not sure if this is some waking dream of his own, or maybe Troll fell asleep with the TV on and awoke in the middle of a nature show. Either way, the lines, to me, reflect that odd sense of confusion and certainty that accompanies coming out of a dream. Did that happen? Am I awake? Something is vivid, and five seconds later is gone. We shed memories of our dreams like a lizard sheds its skin. Or like the Onion headline read a few years ago, “Cast-off Paris Hilton Skin Found in Central Park.” Oh, never mind. Nice work, Troll. And nice alliteration with “learn lizards lunch” and “shedding skin sometimes.”

Moi: The first one has me entirely confused, like Troll’s first. I am likely just a simpleton. This seems to be the tale of a longing lover, or not. I’m not sure who is sleeping here, if the narrator is desiring sleep or commanding it. There seems to be a lot of activity going on for something delayed or maybe interrupted. Many mixed signals here. But as always, keep in mind that I am an idiot.

I think the second of the trilogy combines two beautiful thoughts: “Sprung from winter’s cold / cruel womb,” and “newborn shoots bloom a / tribute to the sun.” Great phrasing, great application of the topic. What knocks it down a notch for me is the “a” dangling at the end of line 2. The internal rhyme on the line is nice, though (womb . . . bloom), and I think even transposing the last two words would have worked better, also leaving you with the interesting phrase “a bloom / tribute” and a strong emphasis at the end of every line.

The third haiku, Moi, is one of four in the lot that I ranked with the highest scores across the board. “Psycho sous chef dreams”: “Flash of kitchen knives / sunk deep into fattened flesh.” Are these dreams about a psycho sous chef? Dreams by a psycho sous chef? With just enough of a hint of Jeffrey Dahmer here, I wonder if you’ve been watching far too many cooking shows. I especially like the rhythm of these lines.

I think K9’s 2nd and 3rd lines are outstanding. The phrase “defenseless hemispheres” is perhaps my favorite of the entire contest. Indeed the brain at sleep is defenseless. I’ve always puzzled at people who are afraid to relay their dreams to others. Most of us have no control over what goes on in our dream state. Our hemispheres are indeed defenseless for that time. “Birdsong alarm,” also nice. The first line throws me, though. “A little like death” . . . I think of the French phrase la petit mort (the little death), which is a euphemism for orgasm. But I guess la petit mort leaves us somewhat defenseless as well. K9, while you’re not a winner this week, just for “defenseless hemispheres,” I’ll be happy to send you the phonies or the fraggers book. Both are good. You can email me your address, and I’ll send one along. My email is landondemand@bvunet.net.

Boxer: Dogs do indeed dream; of that I have no doubt. I enjoyed the pun on “rest”: “Spring sun awakens the rest.” And plants and birds certainly rejoice upon awakening as few other beings do, whether by song or by stretching to the sun, or by opening themselves to the warmth and glow. Beauty awakening all around.

Derek is a pal of mine who I knew would step up and deliver. Numbers one and three nailed it. The Scots couple murdering more than sleep -- wonderful. Sheep dreaming of electric shepherds as they run through blades of grass. What does it say that two of the top-ranking haiku deal with sharp instruments? Is it me? Is it you and Moi? I don’t know. Is there some Jungian thing about knives? Derek’s middle haiku was a tame, pleasant interlude.

KafkaFishy brought us the best word: “Insectuous.” Brilliant. We have a lot of literary haiku this week; don’t know if that’s the norm. Fishy’s second, third, and fourth ones are impressionistic, evocative . . . but like Troll’s Z, I feel like they are just out of reach for me. I love the sounds of “rose apple sedation” and “deep clover dreaming,” but the meanings are elusive, or maybe illusive. Again, it’s probably just me. Perhaps they are dream images. I also like the double interpretation of “Gypsy dreams of God.” Is this a Gypsy dream, whatever that might be, or is it a gypsy dreaming? But going back to number one: Metamorphosis! was bunched with a few others right at the top of my rankings.

Karl also got into my head: “I’m up, not at all . . . on autopilot.” Yes indeed. The juxtaposition in the first line is great. “Here I am, but I am not.”

Fleur, another dear old friend, received very late notice and tossed this off in a manner of minutes. And I rank it at the absolute top of the 2nd tier, just out of the running for the top slot. “On the pillow, a shadow / of my face remains.” Although I’m fighting off Shroud of Turin images, I like this very much. She also mentions weep / sleep / pillow. Unfortunately when I wake up with a moist pillow, it’s usually drool, but that’s more than you need to know.

Yes, Kym, I think we all can relate to being so tired that even our dreams bring sleep. Very nice image, kind of uroborotic, if that’s a word. A frustration for me has been dreaming of actually working on the manuscript that I left when I went to bed. I wake up feeling like I’ve been working, yet no more work has been done. Quite frustrating. But dreaming of sleep is almost like the Doublemint commercials. Going back to what Drew said, it’s like a second helping of pleasures of the flesh.

Of the disqualified haiku, I won’t call you out by name, but some phrases certainly got my attention. Wish I could have included them:

* according to the / circadian rhythm / siesta at two [love the thought]
* uncertainty is fading / now I can get some [amazing how removal of stress induces sleep]
* rest awaits in the grave [yes, I’m counting on it, too]
* so begins the flowery revival [beautiful]
* fifty-one and fighting [is that three of us?]

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a prize.

Well, all of you do. And like just about every other week, the choice is impossible, but it has to be made. As I mentioned, with the help of my son, the haiku were completely anonymous this week. I read and graded and ranked them and did all that, and only afterward did I look at my second sheet to reveal the names and other comments. And frankly, I thought some of the pieces were actually written by other folks. I couldn’t tell who was who.

Four haiku were at the top of my list. Two actually came from one person -- Derek -- which is quite impressive, given the competition. (But if you know Derek, it’s not at all surprising.) Fishy’s insectuous dream horror shared in the three-way tie for second.

But the one that grabbed me, that I laughed out loud upon reading, whose rhythm hit the marks from start to finish, and whose wordplay works on a few different levels:

Flash of kitchen knives
sunk deep into fattened flesh.
Psycho sous chef dreams.

Moi, Stepping-Stones is yours, presuming you were serious. Congratulations. It was a very tough week in which to win.

Thanks to all for allowing me the honor of hosting and judging. I’m going to try to get . . . some . . . sleep.

16 comments:

foam said...

i loved this write up! i tried to get my 13 year old involved in the judging but he was rather uninterested .. lol ..
i loved moi's haiku. she is a worthy winner.
oh, and i agree with you on the 'noise' in my haiku. i thought it was lame but couldn't think of anything else. i should have remembered 4rth grade writing prompts. :-)

K9 said...

what. a. great. write. up.

you really did an excellent job of hosting. Im very glad that you chose to host, and that you took your duties seriously. I loved reading about each haiku through the editor's eyes, and especially loved how you very methodically categorized the content and were strict in your rules. This game has gotten really good, but I am beginning to look forward to Haiku tuesdays even more.

thank Czar!


and BRAVA to you Moi. Yours was a visceral visual and its a good win for you. congratulations.

Troll said...

Superb write-up. Reminds me a bit of Master Basho's prose commentary on his acolyte's haiku.

You didn't miss anything on that first one of mine. It was horrid. I should have said "this isn't really an entry." It was Warren Zevon lyrics, basically.

Congratulations Moi!

As per usual, she has the option to:

1) Pick a theme.
2) Host next week.
3) Judge next week.
4) Supply a fabulous prize.

Or she can do any or none of the above and I'll do it.

moi said...

Are you kidding me? This is very cool. I totally had Fishy's Kafka tribute or K9's defenseless hemispheres for the win (who here is going to be able to sleep now without that phrase ringing in our heads?) And I know Aunty was gunning for Stepping Stones but unable to participate, so I will most definitely share with her.

But the real pleasure here was your hosting, because it not only brought out new haiku-ers for our enjoyment and edification, but also resulted in a most excellent, in depth analysis on your part.

Also, this: “I crap you negative."

I am going to use that TODAY.

Thank you all the way around. And I think another thanks needs to go to Troll for starting this whole thing. I'll decide about next week's contest and let everyone know.

Now, go get some sleep.

Karl said...

Good morning Czar,

Congratulations Moi!

I find you're methodology most interesting and your commitment to detail impressive. Thank you for hosting and judging.

Boxer said...

Wow. Are you a writer? :-)

Loved reading the write up and I learn more and more about Haikus each week, and this week I advanced a little more with this post. I really liked the theme of sleep and thought some really good stuff came out of it.

And congrats to MOI! Well earned.

Thanks for being a great host and judge.

Aunty Belle said...

oh mah gracious--ain't nuthin' like a bona fide editor fer gettin' a job done wif' elan an' precision. EXCELLENT, Czar--thanky fer a grand read. I especially enjoyed seein' the inner mechanics of the editor's art.

Welcome to the new poets! Yore friend Derek wuz mah pick--I'se a sucker fer the literary tongue in cheek--Please nudge these new Haikuers to participate regularly.

However, Derek may'nt have picked Steppin Stones or shared it
afterward, so,

HOOOOOO-RAY fer Moi!! (whose Haiku scared me enough to have bad dreams :) ) I hope ya will share the book, an' ...heh...take me too when ya decide to explore the Dordogne caves!!

Czar, I appreciate that ya' offered a prize fer the best phrase: "defenseless hemispheres."
I did leave K9 a note on that same phrase--powerful shorthand for a wealth of science and emotional realities, as well as an evocation of an experience we all recognize. A perfect phrase is worth a prize.


Uh, Moi? yeah, uh...see now, this thang is out of hand. Now *judgin'* is as arty as the Haiku itself. Ya' started this.

fishy said...

Wow!
This review sure woke up my brain.
I have a question, did your son enjoy participating in the judging?
So wonderful he joined in with the duties.

I am honored by the mention but more so by your nod to K9's hemispheres which I had placed at the top.

Also, I invite you to visit my blog page where visual haikus are posted. I think I can guarantee you will laugh out loud.

Bravo! Czar on a job well done and congratulations! to Moi for stellar work, as always.

fleurdeleo said...

This was so great! Wonderful (and very flattering) analysis of the haiku. Csar, the novelty of cable TV is wearing off for me; I am thrilled to say that your blog is more entertaining than Animal Planet: Fatal Attractions, including the episode where the man kept a buffalo as a pet and let it hang out in his living room "just like a big dog."

Fleur, Hooked on Haiku Mondays

Intuitive Eggplant said...

Wow! Excellent haikus all around, congrats to Moi, and I am mightily impressed by your judging and analysis, Czar! And I think Aunty's got it right: "Now *judgin'* is as arty as the Haiku itself."

fishy said...

Czar,
thanks for stopping by.
Isn't it interesting how different the game of Visual Haiku is from just straight Haiku? I find it very entertaining; another dimension to the game. Then too, we all learn so much! In general and about the other players.

I am far more likely to know people who know every Rousseau painting but have never heard of Kafka. To these, the Metamorphosis Haiku would have been senseless but the Haiku of Rousseau's painting, "The Sleeping Gypsy", would have been instantly understood.

Likewise, most young girls learn the story of "The Glass Coffin" or "Sleeping Beauty" but not all of them grow up in an area where a Saturday night date includes cow tipping. A " rotating reality" a cow may not find as hilarious as the tipping teen.

So, if you are having that 36 hour day of which you dream, give yourself a present and visit all the Visuals to go with the Haikus. You will surely be entertained.

czar said...

Foam: Thanks. My son didn’t do too much judging. Much more crossing out. I wish that he’d have written something. He’s a budding English major/teacher who is spending his spring break voluntarily reading Paradise Lost. That’s a level of interest I never had. He’s also the kind of person who has a lot swimming around in his head, but he keeps it to himself. Much different from his older brother. I did ask him if there was some good ones in there. “Yup.”

K9: Thanks. Everything I know about haiku comes from Troll, and everything I know about judging comes from Troll and Moi. Any added touches are just sprinkles.

Troll: Coming from you, that’s high praise. Glad I didn’t miss out on anything with #1. Doesn’t take much to feed my inadequacy.

Moi: I was happy to see some new voices. One might stick around (see below). I hope Stepping-Stones is enjoyable for you. The author is nuts, based on her responses to the index I wrote. Even the press finally told her to go to hell. Frankly, I find some of her interpretations of what’s going on in those caves a bit out there as well. But . . . again . . . me so ignorant. And, yes, perpetual props to Troll.

Karl: Good evening. I think I might have miscounted one of yours, and for that I apologize. My fingers were getting worn out.

Boxer: No, No, No. I am not a writer. I do write, in kind of a functional way. I also prepare cold cereal, but I am not a chef. Being a writer is hard work. Any positive hints in my writing you can likely trace back to someone I’m consciously or unconsciously ripping off.

Aunty: I think this little exercise was making up for all those hours spent in English classes when I learned little, enjoyed little, and was typically met with comments from my professors along the lines of “You can write OK, but where do you get your ideas?” In lieu of Stepping-Stones, I have a bunch of theology you might be interested in and would be happy to send along. See above for where the arty judgin’ comes from.

Fishy: Thanks. My son spent a lot of time hovering over a Sharpie at close quarters. I hope he recovers.

Fleur: For the rest of you, I can tell you that the spelling of “Csar” here is intentional. Fleur’s never done it any other way. And Fleur knew me before I named myself as Czar, to steal from the womanist poet. Fleur, I do indeed hope you are hooked on Haiku Mondays. Please come back. And a warning to the rest of you; she’ll be tough.

Eggy: Thanks. It’s what the times demand. Tough crowd, tough crowd.

Fishy: Can-of-worms time. In the interest of anonymity I didn’t visit anyone’s blog. Too, this has never been presented that I’ve seen as a Visual Haiku contest. While the art at your site indeed enhanced the understanding of your verse (and made it really enjoyable), I understand a poetry contest to be an assessment of the words on the page, and that’s just me. (I am also torn when it comes to artwork where one needs to know the title to make sense of the piece. Sure, it’s still a painting, but it’s no longer just a painting. It’s some type of multimedia call-and-response.) Now to frame what you presented as Visual Haiku or “consider how this image would be translated into haiku,” I think that’s a fascinating thing. And maybe that’s something for a future contest. Someone posts an image, and everyone writes haiku about it. But I’ve never seen that as the mission here, nor have I seen any other judges assess the interplay of image and text. No offense intended.

fishy said...

Good Morning,
Sorry I wasn't clear.
Now that the judging is over (and very well done)
treat yourself to the pleasure of making the rounds of those who left an "I'm Up! with visuals" comment along with their entries. It will be a fun REWARD to you for all the hard work of judging.

As for judging with or without the visuals; some have ,some have not. I think Aunty used the visuals to break a tie.

czar said...

Fishy: Sorry for the testy response and getting my hackles up. As I was walking the dog this morning, I was thinking about what a good point you were making. Why should I presume that people are familiar with a given piece of literature and yet say that a reliance on visual stimulus is somehow taboo? I guess that's what they call in the standardized testing and pedagogical world "cultural bias." In retrospect, then, I'm very glad that the winner relied on neither -- or else I'd be quite the hypocrite and have more than the smidgen of egg on my face.

So, thanks again for your extremely valid and well-made point.

I think of a cartoon I just saw in an old New Yorker. A sage is sitting on top of a mountain watching television. One person is ascending the mountain, presumably in search of wisdom. Another person is on the descent. The person walking down says, "I hope you like sports metaphors."

Lady Dame said...

wow long assed post on a short little poem, however, i did not see mention made of the uber traditional "element of nature" wazzup withat?

grazzi

(my apologies for lack of umlaut)

ps: werd veri = PATIO

czar said...

Lady Dame: We're half-assed Americans and culture's going to hell. What else can I say?