Back a number of months ago, I was contacted by Paul and Scott of Roadrunner ("best short poetry magazine ever") to judge the 18th installment of their haiku selections, The Scorpion Prize. I was simultaneously flattered, honored, and a bit intimidated.
After all, what do I really know from haiku? If you are looking for an expert, here's the place to be. And there are many more "well-versed" folks who could be chosen, but I accepted the invitation in the generous spirit in which it was extended. Still, I was kind of haunted by the idea of being a judge; here's the opening of the essay:
-------------The Scorpion Prize of Issue IX:3
---After studying this collection of some 80 or so haiku, I've
come to the conclusion that it is, more likely than not, the
judge who needs judging.
---There is much here I am unqualified to read, no less
deliberate over. We are deep in the land of modern English
language haiku (or ku), advanced division. Reading through
I was often confused, frequently bemused.
---So, what manner of judge is this, one might rightly ask?
---Well, let's put it on the table: if I have a bias (and I'm an
editor, so what's with the "if"), it is toward what is known in
English language Haikuville as the one breath poem: screw
the syllable counting, the poem is the length of one breath -
in, out, pause.
---Period (or not).
---The groaning in the distance is, no doubt, audible over
large land masses, as well as sizable bodies of water. ...
The quality of the work was excellent; deciding which were the top three poems was truly a test of humility, liberally shot through with hubris. A little like that coffee-infused vodka going about these days. A contradiction in terms, like judging poetry, or being an editor for that matter.
To see how I worked it all out, check out the full essay with top three haiku (pdf document). If you are a poet or connoisseur of the short poem, Roadrunner is a must. My thanks to both Scott and Paul for their faith in me - I greatly appreciate it.
Some misc notes of interest: of the 6 prizewinning haiku in the 2nd Annual Bashô Haiku Challenge, only one was from the United States (Peter Newton). The others were from Japan (William Appel), Poland (Jacek Margolak), Romania (Eduard Tara), Canada (Terry Ann Carter), and Croatia (Dubravko Korbus). The only one I've been unable to contact about winning: Peter Newton from the US. So, if anyone knows Peter's email (I have an email address - it didn't bounce, but no reply) or knows him, if you would give him a shout out from me, I'd appreciate it.
He knows where I am.
Also, there has been some Albert Huffstickler related news. There is an interesting spiritual-themed post at Thousand Voices that features a great poem by Huff, entitled "The Cure." Also outlaw poetry and free jazz has posted a notice about emailing Austin City Council to get a local park named after Huff. I posted here about this back in August, but evidently its getting down to the wire so now is the time to be heard.
If you have enjoyed Huff's work as much as I have, drop them a line. There is even a sample of what you might say in the outlaw poetry post. Here's one of the many poems Huff published in Lilliput over the years. I've posted this one before but there are no good poems that don't bear a second reading.
Cafe PoemThe woman in
white on black,
the orange flame
against her cheek.