Friday, October 21, 2016

Poetic Musings: Border Haiku by Chen-ou Liu

winter twilight
crossing the border
a child's shadow

4th Prize, 2016 New Zealand Poetry Society Haiku Competition
Anthologized in  Penguin Days

Judge's Comment by Cynthia Rowe: "winter twilight" is very much in the zeitgeist, the spirit of the time. The poem is literally, and metaphorically, dark. We are reminded of the plight of refugees fleeing a war zone, of a child slipping past the border guards on his/her mission for freedom. The poet has intentionally specified a child, drawing on the vulnerability of innocent young lives affected by the bombing of their homes by super powers, collateral damage in the hostilities that we read about in the media, that we see on the nightly television news. The poet specifies ‘crossing the border'. This haiku brings an immediacy to the realities of world conflict and if one more child is free we should, by inference, celebrate this. A thoughtful haiku.


1 I also won two other awards in the contest:

cliff edge ...
the sound of waiting
for nothing

Highly Commended, 2016 New Zealand Poetry Society Haiku Competition

Father slipping
through the cracks in words ...
patchy fog

Commended, 2016 New Zealand Poetry Society Haiku Competition

2 The following haibun is another award-winning poem about the refugee crisis:

A Home Away from Home

where the sky
meets the winter desert ...
refugee tents

Arzu walks out of the tent to meet her friends, waiting in line with hundreds of others for water distribution. A wisp of cloud drifts by. It reminds her of the camp teacher's departing words, "Those puffy, sheep-like clouds you're looking at come from Syria. You will all return home one day, I promise."

Honorable Mention, 2015 United Haiku and Tanka Society Samurai Haibun Contest
(Judge's comment by Sonam Chhoki: Amidst unceasing news of overwhelming number of people fleeing the conflict-torn regions in the Middle East, Chen-ou Liu’s Honorable Mention haibun is both timely and compassionate in his presentation of a young girl’s plight. The poet’s imagery of a ‘wisp of cloud’ is laden with significance. It evokes poignantly the fragility of Arzu’s hope for a safe return to her native land and also works as a ‘beacon’ of light in the otherwise drab and desperate tents-filled camp. What I find particularly powerful is how Chen-ou turns on its head, the largely negative media representations of how refugees threaten the civilizations of the host countries in which they seek asylum. There is quiet dignity in both Arzu and her teacher who holds out the promise of a return to their homeland)

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