Meltdown Favourites Survey

Results, a Few Conclusions & Remarks

Six months after publication, we have the results of the recent survey of readers’ favourite poems in our latest anthology, Meltdown. 53 people voted for a maximum of 6 poems each out of a total field of 500, mostly haiku.  Perhaps we can now try to draw some conclusions?

The three most popular poems all seem to have the element of uncertainty and an awareness of the future, the first two perfectly matching the mood of the book’s cover art. The philosophical resonance of each of these is profound.

(6 votes each)

Our native place,
how bleak, how desolate:
snipes in flight

Mizuho Shibuya, p.13

Spring night—
inside the spiral shell
the radioactive sea

Masako Fujie, p.14

Inside a lily bud
seemingly secured—

Keiko Yurugi, p.149

The next most popular seem to feature high contrast. In Japan it is sometimes said that the best haiku have considerable distance between the images juxtaposed. In some of the following, we even find opposite poles (b/w, old/new, sound/silence, earth/air, hard/soft, heat/cool):

(5 votes)

through new cherry leaves …
my scimitared shirt

 Tito, p.164

(4 votes each)

The old tavern—
New Year’s calendar hanging
on a rusty nail

 Yoh’ichi Shinomiya, p.19

Mountain thunder
a thousand cicadas

Sean O’Connor, p.47

sun fingers
the forest snow
no-one is here

David McCullough, p.65

……………….. May
……………… of
……………. sky
………….. the blue
………… into
………. up
…….. up and
…… up and
…. the other,
.. one above
.Rice terraces

Akira Kibi, Yunnan, p.99

On the old platform,
I wait for the local train
that never arrives

Nobuyuki Yuasa, p.125

Creeping towards us
through the single-lane tunnel
from the other side

Tito, Kiyotaki, p.155

Abandoned kiln—
glaze-encrusted wall
cool to the touch …

Moya Bligh, Shigaraki, p.177

In most of the above, and in many of those with 3 votes immediately following (no space here to illustrate), a seasonal element is present; in almost all, a clear break (kire) is utilized for poetic effect. The variety of forms perhaps reflects the respect we have for the conventional English ‘line’: enjambment of un-metred phrases being one of our own poetic tools. While counting syllables may be perfectly natural in Japanese haiku, which are essentially one-line, few serious haiku poets composing in the English language today are counting syllables. Only one of the top 21 poems was structured 5-7-5. Another thing: there was little evidence in the survey results to support the idea that the best haiku generally convey a ‘moment’.

Next, a word on the spread of votes. Fortunately, the great majority of contributors (54 in fact) had at least one of their poems chosen as a favourite. Tito, Keiko Y, Nobuyuki, Akira, Lawrence, Mizuho and Mayumi K garnered the greatest no. of votes, partly reflecting, of course, the no. of poems they had in the book. David M, Richard D, Hisashi M, Reiko H and Mayumi S also each had several poems that were much liked. The book included an equal no. of male and female contributors – 44 of them Japanese and 30 foreigners. It was not the case that women’s verse prevailed over men’s (or vice versa), nor that poems written by native speakers predominated: a great relief!

Finally, a few quotes:

“I loved this anthology, and I salute and thank everyone involved in its creation!” (Ellis)

“Having looked at the delicately carved woodprint cover evoking the awful disaster that beset Tohoku in 2011, it was with trepidation that I opened the book and found the carmine red endpapers. I was astounded by the way the book has been designed.” (Lake)

“My admiration for coming up with, and sorting by, categories: nicely done! (David S)

“The book title, Meltdown, is well-chosen.” (Akito)

“I like the powerful title of the book. Now we are living in a strange, surrealistic, and grotesque world.” (Yoshinobu)

“How important it is to communicate with others via the written word. I worry about what will become of Japan, and I can only hope that she will always be a country in which we can find common ground in nature and in words.” (Miki)

“It reminds me of the mission of the poet: to catch and express the wonderful messages from the universe.” (Keiko Y)

“I felt the passion of everybody. I want to read it again and again.” (Hiroko)

“Brilliant book; inspiring poets!” (Peggy)

If the above poems or comments have whetted your appetite to read more from Meltdown, please click on the Publications page link at top right and find out how to order your own copy. To return to the top page, please click on the picture of hailstones at the top of this.





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