Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Carpe Diem's Sea Shell Game (Introduction)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I love to introduce an all new feature at our Carpe Diem Haiku Kai. It's very different of our other features, but I think it can be real fun and learning. It is called Carpe Diem's Sea Shell Game ... and as the 'name' already says it's a game ... a game in which we will choose a winning haiku ...

Let me first tell you something about the history of The Sea Shell Game.
For centuries part of the training of Japanese children to be sensitive to beauty and the different levels of it was accomplished by a game. Even adults, in their lighter moments, will start a game with shells, or leaves or flowers. Perhaps you, too, have done the same process in order to find the best or loveliest in a collection.
From a pile of, let us say, stones one person draws two stones at random. The stones are compared and then judged to say, "This stone is lovelier than that one." The ‘’winners’’ go in one pile, the ‘’losers’’ in another until all the stones have been compared. Then the process is repeated with the “winners”, again and again, until one stone remains.

Credits: Seashell pair painted by DSisson

When poets would gather for poetry contests, often sponsored by the emperor, even in times before Japan's written history (764 AD), this same process of elimination was used. The prizes then were bolts of silk or, if a poem was really special, the emperor would give one of his possessions -- a musical instrument or his fan.
When Basho was a young teacher of renga (the linked poetry form) he felt that the first verse of a renga (then called a hokku) was so important that his students should be made aware of the difference between a “good” hokku and a great one. Basho would organize contests built on the old principles of comparing things. Thus, in 1672 he commissioned scribes to write down records of his judging comments to be saved and these he collected under his title of "The Sea Shell Game." This was the only book he published in his lifetime. Other books that he compiled or advised were all published by his patrons or students. Translations of "The Shell Game" give us a peek into what and how he taught.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

We are playing the Japanese Sea Shell Game in English. Poems which are called haiku are compared, commented on, and sorted out until one poem remains as “winner’’. Various persons who are active haiku writers will be invited to do the judging. (For this first edition of Carpe Diem's Sea Shell Game I will be your judge). You can only submit haiku written by yourself for the contest.
Your poem will be printed without your name but with a pen name if you so chose. These will be picked, two at a time, at random. The judge will display the poems, comment on each and choose one over the other. This process will continue until one haiku is left. This one will be declared winner, the author's name will be revealed and a prize awarded. A list of the winning haiku will be kept so that people who are new to the game can read the winning poems and authors' names. The judges' comments, as well as the poems discussed, will be archived in the Carpe Diem Haiku Kai Archive. (Source: Aha-Poetry)

For this new CDHK feature I have made a new emailadress to which you can send your haiku which you want to be in this SeaShell Game. This first edition runs to October 15th. After that date I will try to be your judge and will pick a winner as is described above. You can email your haiku for the Sea Shell Game to:

I am looking forward to your submitted haiku for this Sea Shell Game.


Chèvrefeuille, your host.


  1. Nobody has more ideas than you! Amazing! This is a very interesting one...as all are..

  2. Kristjaan, do you want it to be a new haiku or one that already appeared in one of the Carpe Diem prompts?

    1. I am glad that you like the idea of this Sea Shell Game. You may write a new haiku for the Sea Shell Game, but it may also be an old haiku. It's not necessary that the haiku was published here on Carpe Diem Haiku Kai.

  3. Hi Kristjaan. Is there any particular theme for which haiku needs to be submitted?

    1. No particular theme ... you can submit haiku on ant theme, maybe in a next edition I will give a few rules, but not in this first edition. So feel free to share any haiku you want to be an entree in our first Sea Shell Game.

  4. sounds very interesting. soon my contribution will be in the new mail-box. All the best to everyone. (Y)

  5. This is brilliant! Is there a limit to the Haiku we can submit? I tried to submit a Haiku to that email address and it kicked it back. Is there another way to submit our work? Thanks, Deborah

    1. Dear Deborah there is no limit, but I use just one haiku for the game per person. I have tried the emailliñk and had no problems. You can also use the Carpe Diem Haiku Kai emailadress. Hère it is:


      Please include 'Sea Shell Game' in your email

  6. wow very fun! i have to decide if i feel i have any worthy to submit :) I love how you are always inventing more ways to keep the haiku juices flowing, Kristjaan

  7. I'm not much for competition at this juncture of my life, but I wish everyone luck!