Scorpion Prize 17 / Ron Silliman

A few days ago Ron Silliman commented on English-language haiku and minimalist poetry on his blog, and so I thought it would be good timing to share the Scorpion Prize he wrote here, wherein he selected and commented on his favorite ku from issue 9.2 (May 2009) of R’r. As always, chime in on his selections and comments if ye like.

Here’s what Ron had to say:

The first time I read through the ku section of May’s Roadrunner, I realized just how foolish I had been in offering to judge the Scorpion Prize from among its contributions. There were at least a half dozen works that stood out for me from a very strong collection overall. My immediate thought was that whomever I designate, I will surely be guilty of an injustice to several others. Rereading the selection several times – mostly with the names “turned off” (tho I know none of the contributors personally) – did not change this initial sensation of guilt, but I did gradually keep returning to two works that lasted with me long after I had stopped reading. Both are thoroughly worthy of the Scorpion Prize & therefore they must share it. The first of these poems is Lorin Ford’s 

which jolted me both for its perceptual accuracy & its originality. It reverses our expectations of “nature poetry” in a way that is entirely true to the greater tradition. The second, Doug Kutney’s 

does much the same thing, albeit with a somewhat more subtle & ironic slant to it. Once you have read either of these poems, they are impossible to let go of. You start seeing the world through their almost shared lenses.

Having said this I also want to acknowledge the poems by Paul Pfleuger, Jr., all of which are quite good, as well as the Latin-flavored trio by Michael McClintock & especially the humor in Michael Dylan Welch’s fourth “neon buddha” poem – the one laugh-out-loud moment in the entire selection. All of these writers make me want to read more. 

& here’s another look at those ku mentioned at the end of his piece:

Scorpion Prize 23 / Joseph Massey

This ku by Philip Rowland was selected by Joseph Massey, author of Areas of Fog (Shearsman Books, 2009) and At the Point (Shearsman Books, 2011) for Roadrunner’s 23rd Scorpion Prize.

Now we’d like to open it up to readers.

What do you make of this ku?

What other poems do you know of, and can share, that are somehow connected or associated with Philip’s ku?

Here’s what Joe had to say:

This issue (11.1) was a pleasure to read in its entirety. The choice was difficult, but I’ve settled on the above poem by Philip Rowland as the Scorpion Prize winner for its extreme economy that opens into wide areas of—layers of—possible interpretation, “meaning,” and enjoyment, without succumbing to the forced epiphany and contrived imagery that bogs down so much so-called haiku.

Anchoritic, as a stand-alone word, is a rather awkward adjective that would, I think, feel more at home in some stilted academic tome. What Rowland’s done, by the seemingly simple gesture of severing the word into three lines, is to show us how an entire world—or, at any rate, a deep glimpse into one—exists within even a most uncommon word. Anchoritic (“ascetic solitude”) thus opens up, breathes, becomes a kind of syllogism to puzzle over.

The “i” floats—or is it being crushed?—between two symptoms of a life of the mind. And the white space of the page provides the perfect room, the cell, for this active poem to move, or to sit still, in contemplation of itself; and so the definition of the word is enacted—shown—by its being turned inside out.

It’s an exquisitely strange, living thing.