When judging the poems, I only base my reading of the English versions. Thus the comments regarding phrasing/spacing may not be relevant to the Japanese & Romanji counterparts.
First impression about the collection:
Being a collection about the year ending, I imagine the flow would be: winding down stop wind up. But the topics seem to jerk back and forth between quiet and excited (introspection vs physical activity). Not a major issue considering it's just a matter of order.
Though individually strong, the pieces aren't very cohesive as a whole. In fact, only poems 2, 6, 7 & 8 refer to the new year (coming & going). I guess 4, 5 sorta count, as bumming at home and spring cleaning are very holiday things to do (if only for boring people like you and I). However, 1 & 3 really could be anytime of the year. Knowing how seriously you take season symbols, perhaps I'm just missing them?
About the individual pieces:
1) clear sky deepens the blue lake.
At first glance, the phrasing made me think that the great weather is allowing the narrator to better enjoy herself, thus the lake seems more "deep" @ "beautiful". Reading the artist's comment reminded me about the chicken-egg question of wether it's the sky that colors the seas or vice-versa. Either way, it's a nice image.
In terms of the phrasing, I read it as clear sky deepens // the blue lake.. A pause after deepens, as the sky is taking action against the lake. Though visually, it is more attractive to have the clear sky separate from the blue lake
And to passerbys reading this comment, I know that it's the light refraction that determines the color of the sky and sea.
2) day after day about the theory of Relativity, a year approaches its end.
Beyond the repetition of "day after day", I don't much enjoy this one. The image I get is a teacher lecturing about the Relativity, but as it's close to the holiday/year's end (CNY), the students aren't paying attention, so she has to repeat herself a few times.
Is there any reason you chose to make line one the way it is? When I read the poem, I pause like so: day after day / about the theory of Relativity, // a year approaches its end. I assume with two lines, the difference between the lines is made more stark (blurring days together / year's end). It works better in the next poem with its opposite mind-sets, but doesn't do much for me in this one.
There's something rather sterile about this piece, like a Buson poem. And I never much enjoyed his stuff.
3) the bus stop- wrist watch whirls in a haste
One of my favorite of the collection, a senryu, I assume. If it is, additionally impressive for not directly referring to a human, instead showing impatience through the choice of words to describe the watch's hands.
I also like how the two lines clash: the bus is supposed to stop, yet the watch is in a hurry. As I mentioned earlier, having just two lines makes this clash even more potent. The alliteration helps emphasize "whirl", I can imagine the second hand making a revolution with every "W".
Question, why don't you end this poem with a full-stop unlike most others?
4) covering the gloss on the doll- dust.
obscuring the glory of a puppet- empty praises.
Two interpretations in the translation! I do love a good pun. The first, more literal, version is okay though not that interesting. The second, more abstract, version however is rather poetic.
Usually, I prefer a good literal image, but the cynicism of the second version is rather interesting. First it suggest that a mere puppet can have glory, then immediate takes it away only because of "empty praise". The idea of "if you don't mean it, don't say it" may be done to death, but this is an interesting context to put it in. The strong choice of words also help keep the poem in mind.
5) the vacuum cleaner- chased away the dust and the cats
Being a fine appreciator of feline-based arts, and by that, I mean "guy who laughs at LOL-cat macros, I admit to enjoying this. Joking aside, the usual problem with cat haiku is they're usually cute, not original. And spooking cats is a well-explored idea (vengeful owners think alike ), a few by ~Bog-Brush, `AbCat and even myself come to mind.
However, having the cats being spooked as a secondary consequence of vacuuming is an interesting approach, and a good use of enjambment. Something you don't seem to use much in haiku.
Again, where's the full-stop?
6) darkening electronic saijiki, at the end of the year.
I remember this one, but was the saijiki in line two before? I want to say it's more dramatic to have "at the end of the year" before the saijiki: "at the end of the year, // darkening // electronic saijiki" but it makes less sense that way.
It's a shame though, with that distance between darkening and year's end, it's a long shot to come to the conclusion that the misfortune of a dying of the saijiki is "darkening" your year
Did yo also have a version where the dying machine's static looks like snow? I think that version was more fun.
7) new year day, strolling the streets lined with close shops.
Two issues: 1) there's a typo at line 3, "close shops", should be "closed shops", 2) in this context, is New Year day a special noun in need of capitalization? Personal call.
Interesting choice to say "strolling". In that context I'd probably "wander" the streets, but "strolling" gives a sense of purpose, as if you went to town specifically to see the closed streets. For us city-folk, that's as fleeting as a cherry blossom viewing, ain't it? I very much like this urban haiku.
8) in front of the TV stripped tangerine's S-shaped skin.
Along with the previous piece, these are the two I identify with most. I immediately see "person brain-rotting in front of the TV, mechanically peeling their way through piles of access CNY tangerines, not even realizing the perfect one-piece peels being produced". Of course the literal reading suggest there's no person, and the peels are just lying on the table. But where's the "moment" in that?
Stop, it's grammar time. Is there one tangerine or multiple? Adjust your apostrophe accordingly.
Again, good use alliteration, I can perfectly imagine that S-peel. Interesting choice to say tangerine, I usually call them "mandarins", is there a reason you choose that particular variety?
Second impression about the collection:
After rereading it so many times, I think I like it more. Spotting the season symbols was rather difficult for me (I'm thick!), but when I finally spot them, it does give greater appreciation for the poem. I imagine that's what drives Where is Waldo's sales. Like the tangerine in poem 8 made me go "doh, it's Chinese new year.
But this constant mental-correction might be annoying for those who keep thinking "New year" refers to the gregorian new year, while it may cause some reference to go completely over thicker heads. It doesn't help that poems 4 & 5 refer to house cleaning, which should be taboo on Chinese New Year. When writing with a theme, you need to stick to the rules, no?
An underlying theme I enjoyed was the modern/urban flavor throughout the collection. The outdoor scenes, 3 & 8 are particularly evident. By contrast, poem 1 , though outdoors is rather nondescript and in retrospect a weak/unrelated opening. It works much better as an individual piece, when it's not being judged together with the rest of the series - kinda like that one Van Gogh sticks out in a Robert Williams exhibit.
I like it. A few complaints, but the good far out weighs the bad. It was my pleasure to post a few thoughts about this.
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