Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Poetic Musings: Jigsaw Puzzle Tanka by Chen-ou Liu

the pieces
of his jigsaw puzzle
litter the floor ...
winter moonlight slipping
through the hospice window

Tanka First Place, 2015 San Francisco International Competition, Haiku, Senryu and Tanka

Chen-ou Liu

Judge's Comment by Margaret Chula: A poignant scene, beautifully rendered without overstatement or sentimentality. Beginning with the first line (“the pieces”), this tanka is about separation. A jigsaw puzzle serves as the perfect metaphor for how we organize things in our minds to have them make sense. But, for this man, deterioration has set in, both physical and mental. Things don’t fit together anymore. The verb “litter” is an excellent choice to illustrate how pieces are scattered like trash with no organization or purpose. Both the puzzle and the man have come apart. The brilliance of this tanka is that the reader does not know that it takes place in a hospice until the final line. In the first three lines, we can easily imagine a child scattering puzzle pieces on the floor—eliciting an entirely different emotional response. Strong verbs with multiple meanings add an emotional resonance. “Slipping” can be interpreted as “slipping away,” which is what happens in hospice. And yet there is hope here, too, with the moonlight suggesting a moment of lucidity.

1 comment:

  1. Below are my another two award-winning tanka about illness:

    after surgery
    both of us said nothing...
    her red bra
    in the corner of my mind
    begins to change color

    2nd Place, the 60th Annual Contest 2012 held by Pennsylvania Poetry Society

    she speaks
    of winter sunlight breaking
    through the trees . . .
    her son’s nose print
    on the hospice window

    Second Place, Mandy's Pages Annual Tanka Contest, 2015

    The second place tanka also employs a traditional construction of S/L/S/L/L that worked very well with the word choice and imagery. Again there is a wealth of dreaming room. Is the narrator a dying person in the bed, or someone who is visiting a hospice patient? Is this son a child, a teen, or perhaps a mature adult? Is the “winter sunlight breaking through the trees” a sign that this person is aware of a world that lies beyond this one? Is she about to embrace death? The image of the nose print suggests someone looking closely to try to see what the woman is speaking of – is it real, or an illusion? The poet uses simple language to create a striking image that is easy to relate to, but does not define emotion. -- Judging Report by Claire Everett and David Terelinck