Thrilled to have gotten an Honorable Mention in the first annual Marlene Mountain Memorial Haiku Contest, judged by Lori A Minor.
he tells me I'm mature
for my age
#FemkuMag, Issue Two, July 2018
Thrilled to have won Second Place in Sonic Boom's Fourth Annual Senryu Contest, June 2018, judged by Alan Summers.
a church steeple harpoons the moon forced childbirth
This senryu delays its effect by using three very innocent opening words in its one-line delivery. We still don’t know what the senryu will be, and it feels almost haiku in content at this early stage of reading it. There then follows a very intriguing and unexpected verb, reminding me of whales being killed, and of course a very famous novel. The verb is followed by the action of spearing the moon, but it’s the two devastating words that conclude the senryu that brings everything together, into a complex and controversial issue.
I am not sure there is enough in-depth study of the dual nature of forced sex and forced childbirth: that women have long been a source of grooming and that it’s systematically brushed under the carpet? Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan both used forced non-mutual, non-consensual sex acts as both a “recreational pastime” and to populate the world with children related to them (allegedly 1 in 200 people are related to Genghis Khan); and Hitler’s Lebensraum also approached racial dominance, just to name three male protagonists, and from the past only. Of course, again, The Handmaid’s Tale has had new drama treatments recently of the original book by Margaret Atwood bringing across both old and current topical issues.
Back to the poem itself and its visceral combination of imagery, and of a woman invaded by a foreign agency (single object, group of people, organisation, etc.). The poem uses concrete (everyday) words and nouns – even harpoon is an everyday image in whaling circles. It’s a very uncomfortable senryu due to the double unease with the concrete images that combine into deeply disturbing metaphorical language that is equally physically discomforting. Secondly, we don’t expect forced birth, forced sex (rape) maybe, but then rape comes in many ways, from inside marriages, or by a family member, or family friend. The senryu is revealing in that the act of birth has been denied any chance of a celebration from the pregnant woman due another type of violence or clearly made threats, and so contradiction is laid over contradiction, and dogma reigns over human rights, when we stay silent.
Does senryu have to be funny? Just as haiku came out of hokku verses – by Basho, Chiyo-ni, Issa and Buson, – and changed forever the format laid down by its predecessor, for good or for the worst, so does senryu, although it keeps the name of its various origins from the Floating World (Japan) and the poet Senryū Karai (1765-1838). If senryu should successfully pare back the trimmings of society that purports to be correct, righteous, and morally superior, then this is senryu. Where haiku is rarely a ‘message,’ senryu can sidestep all of the conventions of its haikai brother, or use them to its own ends.
This senryu kept demanding to be heard, and to be placed within the winning section. I did not choose this senryu, it choose me, and again I have to face myself, in all honesty, and my role in the world as a human, and as a male human. A contest judge should always be challenged, to their very core at times, and be held out to the harsh light of life to see if they are found wanting.