In pursuit of wit and wisdom – the final decisions

A justice with grave justices shall sit;
He praise their wisdom, they admire his wit.

John Gay, from ‘The Birth of the Squire’.

After the best part of five days deep immersion in the top 32 contenders for the 2011 NZPS Haiku Competition, I’ve finally got my order sorted.

Well, almost.

I now know which poems will be Commended, and which will be Highly Commended. It’s the final decisions that are causing me a few conniptions – which of three contenders takes 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, and which of three more will take 4th and 5th, and the purely personal “best of the next” place (and be awarded a Highly Commended). I think I can make fairly convincing arguments for all six, but that doesn’t really help. I’m trying not to pay too much attention to things like ‘is this a similar subject to others in this group?’ And I’m trying very hard not to think about the inevitable response to my decisions – some people will be delighted, some will be horrified. That’s pretty much guaranteed, regardless of what I choose. But I can live with that. I just have a nagging voice in my head telling me that I’m not allowed to choose the one I like the most. Which is slightly stupid, given how much effort I’ve put in to weeding out poems with flaws, regardless of how much I personally liked them. And I’m pretty sure I’ve covered myself with the six final contenders – I would be willing to argue their merits in front of anyone. But … can I be sure that the one I personally like the most is, in fact, the worthiest?

And the answer to that, dear readers, is no.†

†Probably …

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4 thoughts on “In pursuit of wit and wisdom – the final decisions

  1. Ha! There was one judge in the reasonably recent past (and I do not refer to myself here) whose first-placed haiku was something of a head scratcher – yes, but why? The accompanying notes didn’t help any.

    As you say, there will always be someone who doesn’t like what you’ve chosen for first (not, sob, just the losing poets either). But that’s what judging any sort of writing is all about – it’s subjective folks, get over it!

    Your online commentary has, for me, only increased the suspense. So I’m looking forward to finding out shortly what’s what and who’s who.

    When it’s done, it’s a job well done. Have a nice cuppa and a lie down.

  2. Really enjoying your ‘Confessions of a Haiku Judge’, Joanna. Never having entered the NZPS – or any other – Haiku Competiton, your seriously authoritative and amusingly neurotic commentary is tantalising bait for the uninitiated. I might have to give it a Basho.

    • Greg, I don’t really think there’s anything I can say to top that.
      (Neurotic? Me? What do you mean? Who have you been talking to? How could you tell? Does everyone think so? etc etc )

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