Posted in Haiku

Robert Major’s Dream

Wakened by birdsong;
drifting from one world of dreams
into another

(First Place (shared), British Haiku Society, James J. Hackett Haiku Contest, 1999)

© Robert Major (1920 – 2008) (USA)

In some cases, a dream gives inspiration to artists or writers. This author was wakened by birdsong. It is a nice song to awaken to.

The second line “one world of dreams” shows that the dream is multilayered. It’s one dream transforming into another, and another, and another…. I feel that this haiku portrays surrealism.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

This immediately brings to mind the spiritual concept of worldy illusion. Many spiritual traditions are based on this idea, and it basically means that this universe amounts to nothing in the end. It is a play or test rather than something that should be taken so seriously. This belief is often based on the fact that existence itself is eternal, and that death is just a pretense because of this.

I like the use of the rare semicolon, as it shows the intricate connection between dreaming and wakefulness. In terms of sound, I enjoy the “d”s and “r”s throughout the haiku. The “d” sounds feel like a tapping on the door or another alert to the poet to wake up, such as sharp birdsong. In my mind, the “r” sounds reflect the sensation of drifting.

A philosophical haiku done well.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you enjoy this haiku and commentary? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Posted in Haiku

Lucia Fontana’s Gongs

little gongs
awakening me . . .
birdsong

original in Italian:

piccoli gongs
risvegliandomi
un canto d’uccelli

© Lucia Fontana (Italy)

(Honorable Mention, IHPD Contest by My Haiku Pond, April 17th, 2018)

This haiku gives me a nice reference to the morning and the way mornings are beautiful because of bird songs. Little gongs awakening me… I can feel this in two different ways: the physical awakening in the morning and the other is the mental awakening of the soul.

– Neha Talreja (India)

When we are waking up, reality can feel a bit blurred or altered. Our dreams can seep into our waken state and also we can feel disoriented. I think this may have been a part of what the poet was expressing. Birdsong usually does not sound like a gong being struck, but it may appear that way when you first wake up.

I think this haiku shows a connection between nature and spirituality as well. Though most people who are religious get beckoned to a church through the tolling of bells, to a mosque through a vocal recitation of the Quran, and what follows in each religion, the poet here possibly sees birds as messengers of a spiritual message. The word “awakening” can also mean becoming enlightened in some way. So, maybe the poet is saying that she heard birdsong and felt transcended after listening to it. This haiku could be pointing to the fact that we don’t need these human-made religions in order to feel the depth of spirituality—all of nature can be our divine sanctuary.

It seems the most evident pairing of sounds in this haiku is in “gongs” and “birdsong.” The “o” sound creates the impression of a gong’s elongated resonance. The “g”s in this haiku could be simulating a mallet hitting a gong with its hard sound. In addition, the ellipsis also helps to give the feeling of the long-lasting toll of a gong.

A spiritual haiku that mixes the abstract with reality.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

In spring, baby sparrows chirp with a high tone, but it seems “gong” is another sound. It’s like the sound of the rising sun. Or, “gong” could be the headache of the poet when she wakes up. So, this “gong” may not only be a sound, but also an impression.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

Did you enjoy this haiku and the commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

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© Faryn Hughes

Posted in Haiku

Robert F. Mainone’s Light

all around
light failing in a field
of fireflies

© Robert F. Mainone (1929 – 2015) (USA)

(Museum of Haiku Literature Award, Frogpond XXIV, 2001)

In my childhood, I felt the firefly was beautiful, amazing, and mysterious. But as I got older, those images changed to the idea of impermanence. It is not something metaphorical—I just feel impermanence from it.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

I love the ambiguity of this haiku.  In the second line, we are not sure if artificial light is failing, the light of the fireflies is flickering, or if moonlight is toning down. This type of mystery adds to a reader’s interpretation and curiosity. Also, the scene of a field adds to the epicness of the imagery.

Though fireflies are connected to various seasons, personally, I associate them with summer and perhaps spring. This sense of a season interacts with the imagery well, as it creates a contrast. Summer, and especially spring, is often seen as a joyful and relaxing period. However, life is not full of roses—even in spring. The light failing is a reminder that every moment, there is something fading away—maybe to return again, just like the flickering of firefly lights.

The moment is so enchanting, I think a one-part structure works well. What also works well is the sound. With plenty of “f”s and “l”s to hear, the haiku is sonorous.  The soft “l”s and hard “f”s make for a reconstruction of the feeling when a firefly’s light turns on and off, in my opinion. Besides any interpretation, the haiku reads wonderfully.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you enjoy this haiku and commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku

Alan Summers’ Juniper

juniper the tether end of larksong

© Alan Summers (UK)

(Poetry & Place anthology issue 1 ed. Ashley Capes and Brooke (Close-Up Books, April 2016)

I really love the imagery of the juniper and larksong. Larksong itself is a strong image created by fusing a visual and audible image!

The brevity of the poem makes it very direct, but I feel there is much more to it than can be seen at first glance…

…It took me a few reads to see what is going on, but I can see how the wonderful song of the bird is drawing the observer/reader in close, like the juniper berries are drawing in the lark. The song is making the observer/reader take a look at the natural scene—beyond the everyday view, deep into a wondrous microcosm, a symbiosis of the bird and tree, the bird eating the berries, spreading the juniper seeds through its faeces.

The juniper bush also reminds me of a funny scene from the movie “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” where it is the only means of food for a recluse who has taken a vow of silence.

Brian is fleeing from an unwanted following of fanatics looking for a savior and arrives on a mountaintop. He falls into a recluse’s hole, hurting the man’s foot. The man shouts out in pain, cussing about breaking his 5-year silence. But soon, he starts singing, as he might as well. Brian is trying to keep him quiet so his following doesn’t find him, but to no avail of course.

When the mob arrives and they hear what has happened, they decide it is a miracle performed by Brian. Soon though, they wonder why there savior “led” them to the mountaintop where there is no water or food.

Then Brian points out a nearby juniper bush and its presence is declared another miracle!

The scene ends with the recluse fighting Brian’s following over the juniper bush.

I guess the point being that the recluse’s voice led the group to discover the juniper bush, like the lark’s song draws us into the haiku moment.

Michael Smeer (Netherlands)

There have been some eastern poems about drinking, but they were not corrupted. They look like saintly poems. I think that this author drank the gin “juniper” to the limit “tether” until morning when the larks were singing—but heaven’s gate closed, because the larksong ended.

Bad habits will make you lose your mind, and it will be its own tether. Maybe we think that the past drunkard poets as saintly because they stand far from power. They say Santoka was always drinking, but his haiku is popular now.He wrote many haiku, begging and drinking while he was wandering. I think there isn’t a commonality between this author’s life and Santoka’s life, but they can’t stop drinking to their dream.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

I imagine this juniper as an old, dying, or felled tree. Lark sparrows (based on what I have read) tend to favor more open grassland. Could it be that the bird is singing a happy song?

Alternatively, the tendency in places to plant and save more juniper trees (ecotourism) means the larks in those areas are in decline. In this case, could it be that the bird(s) is singing a sad song?

Thirdly, if we define juniper as an evergreen (from the Latin, junniperus) the youthful image that arouses contrasts with “the tether end of larksong” which one could imagine meaning that the birds are getting ready to migrate, taking with them their beautiful sing-song. Does it mean winter is on the doorstep?

Lastly, in certain countries, poachers trap birds (including larks) and eat them. I can picture a bird glued (birdlime) to a branch. It’s a slow death and would surely provoke a heart-breaking song. I am not sure larks are trapped in that way (they nest near the ground) but the image jumped into my mind.

– Corine Timmer (Portugal)

The juniper has distinctly sharp shoots and often the shape of the tree itself forms to one side, and I think comparing it to the “tether end of larksong” is a fine association. Besides showing an intriguing connection, I believe the image brings the reader to a state of mental silence, watching the lark’s song in its last sound.

Juniper berries are a summer kigo, or seasonal reference. The call of the lark is reflective of summer, in my eyes, as it has an uplifting and energetic resonance. The juniper is also reflective of summer, with its sharpness matching the blaze of summer heat.

The “r” sounds in this monoku also associate with the call of the lark in its curved song.

You can easily feel the moment of the haiku when you read it, and it brings one peace and introspection.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you enjoy this haiku and commentary? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Maya Lyubenova’s Wishing Well

wishing well —
the words I whisper
back in my face

© Maya Lyubenova (Bulgaria) (1956 – 2016)

This is a powerful haiku. It reminds us to be careful of what we wish for, and also implies how attaching to even a single thought can significantly impact someone’s life. The act of whispering amplifies the silence surrounding the wish, creating more depth, which is also signified by the depth of the wishing well. The “w” sounds in the first two lines seem to create a calming effect. By contrast, the third line hits the reader in their own face, allowing him or her to reevaluate their own wishes/desires or perhaps discard them.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

Did she drop the words in the well? This haiku has a strong kire at the end of the first line, but the middle of the second line has a kire with “the words.”

I feel words fell in the well like a coin. So, in the second line “I” …this viewpoint starts inside the “well,” and this “I” whispers back in my face. Its viewpoint is turned upside down again. It looks like the wishing well keeps whispering endlessly.

In our country, a well is a sacred place. We think that there is a god in the well. It seems that it is a common understanding among people in the world. Often, folktales are told as a moral story involving a well.

But this haiku is lovely and mysterious. Maybe the repetition of the “w” sounds make us proceed to the third line.

The first line’s kire and the middle of the second line’s kire creates a strong separation. The enjambment of the second line creates discomfort, but becomes a gentle slope by the “w” sounds.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

Bulgaria is such a beautiful country with a rich culture. Line one is very strong in this haiku. It sets the perfect scene. Very mysterious, and also feminine, because it is more likely for a woman to follow the gypsy teaching to visit a wishing well at night during a full moon to bring a silver or gold coin to make a wish. In line 2 and line 3, the rest of the story is built. I believe this girl wished for something very special and even she had a doubt if her wish would ever come true. I enjoy this haiku very much. Here is an inspired haiku:

two silver coins
spin in night air—
first golden leaves

– Laughing Waters (USA)

A simple ku with deep layers of meaning… for one, in a wishing well, we normally toss a coin or two and whisper a wish. But a wish could just be a wish. It is an inkling of what we want to become a reality, whether it is about love, attention we want from another person, a windfall, or what have you. But we know that a wish just comprises words that needs more than an act of wishing… it will only go “back in my face.” Perhaps more actions are needed for the wish to come true… this brings us to the sweat that we apply in order to achieve the wish. As they say: “action speaks louder than words.” This is how I interpret and see this ku.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

If you enjoy this poem and the commentary, please let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Senryu

Gabriel Bates’ Dead End Street

dead end street
I walk away
from my mind

Otata 27, March, 2018

© Gabriel Bates (USA)

For me, this is quite a dark haiku.

dead end street I am thinking of a tall wall standing in front of me, then I can’t go further. Anybody might have experienced a problem he or she thought couldn’t be solved.

I walk away Walking away is like giving up on something. I think the writer walked away from his problems, or from some realities, or anything else….

from my mind I guess this is what he chose. To be drunk at the corner bar, or somewhere else, to find some temporary peaceful state from his bad memories or his unsolved problems….

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

The first line, dead end street, indicates no solution to a problem or nothing out of the box. I could see the disappointment and demotivation that the poet expressed here cleverly. Sometimes, if we don’t get solutions to certain problems, we leave them, stop thinking about them, deny them, or buy time to find out the best solution. This is a strategy to deal with certain problems. I can feel the burnout the situation creates as well where a person simply finds an escape from bitter realities that keep on engaging his or her mind and thoughts. Walking away may be a temporary break that gives us space to do certain other things in life and to get some ideas. Sometimes, people give up and completely forget about a situation; sometimes, they come back with a peace of mind that gives them more insights and maybe effective problem-solving ideas.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku has a Zen quality to me. The mind itself can be likened to a dead end street due to its limitations. We are restricted and contained within the boundaries of our ego. To free ourselves of these limitations, to be in a state of mindlessness is to become much more conscious and present—a state which is conducive to becoming aware of haiku moments, and a state of enlightenment. In meditation, one can visualize walking away from the ego-mind which traps us in behaviours and prevents us from being who we really are. We turn away from thoughts, because they are only the mind chattering to itself.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

I see escapism in this ku. When we are faced with a “dead end road,” we sometimes panic and forget what is the best thing to do given the circumstances. But the will to survive soon takes over and in time we are back to where we were—our old, sane world with all the dramas therein.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Sometimes my phone’s map shows me the past of streets and houses. This “existence” has completely disappeared. However, not much of a difference can be seen, so it is not much of problem for others. Maybe the poet bumped into a dead end street in a virtual town. A “dead end” reminds of a closed mind or a closed society.

In the third line, maybe the poet finds a metaphorical key, and he walks away from his “mind.” This mind is his “preconception” or “imprint.” We are thinking a large amount of information every day. This process looks like fog. While walking in fog, our clothes get wet without us noticing. In essence, the poet walks away from his environment.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

For me, the main message of this senryu (I believe it leans more towards senryu than haiku) is about how we can get into a meditative state, despite physical obstacles, and that surrendering to the moment is more valuable than frustration. But, I want to focus on sound since people have commented enough on the content of the poem.

The hard “d” sounds in the first and last line indicate the wall, and the soft “w” sounds in the second line show the peace of surrender. This is only my interpretation, so other readers can feel differently about what the sound in the poem represents. However, the musicality of this senryu can be easily felt.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you like this poem and commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku

Peggy Willis Lyles’ Shimmering Pines

shimmering pines
a taste of the mountain
from your cupped hands

(Mayfly #31, 2001)
© Peggy Willis Lyles (1939 – 2010) (USA)

shimmering pines It is probably in the morning or after a rainfall, or a site with water, because we can see the reflecting lights from the dew on the leaves.

a taste of the mountain Maybe this could resemble water that comes out from a mountain, or fruits, or something else edible from a mountain.

from your cupped hands Aha, the writer is not alone. Somebody is with her to take water, maybe a creek with some waterfalls, to give water to the writer to be tasted. Or maybe there is a statue of some Goddess with water flowing through her cupped hands, and the writer tastes it. It is a beautiful scene.

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

The image this haiku shows to me is of two people drinking from a mountain spring. The spring swells into a pool and one person offers the other a drink of spring water from cupped hands. The surrounding pines are reflected on the surface of the water, shimmering.

The cupped hands are a powerful universal symbol. I am reminded of the Burmese struggle for freedom and the poem, by San Suu Kyi:

As water in cupped hands
But of that we might be
As splinters of glass
In cupped hands.

Cupped hands are universally symbolic—of friendship and the act of giving, of making an offering at a temple altar, of an openness and willingness to receive, or sometimes in asking for help.

A mountain spring always has something powerful, a force of nature, of life, of giving and nurturing. It is also magical how this delicious and refreshing substance can come out of a mountain in a state of purity. It is something to be shared and revered.

A beautiful and memorable haiku.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

It reminds me of a childhood experience when my part of the world was a lot cleaner. On a scouting trip to a place north of the city, we filled our water containers from a flowing spring water source up from the mountain. The water was a lot cooler and all natural. The experience was definitely a communion with Mother Nature. This is what comes to mind with this beautiful haiku.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

There is a sense of what it is like to give yourself to another person, and the beauty of that action. The image of the shimmering pines illustrates the magic of moments when one gets to share in someone else’s life or gift.

I thought the sound of the haiku was powerful. With “s” sounds strewn through the poem, the sharpness of shimmering is presented well. Also, the haiku is additionally musical through “m” sounds, and the “p” sounds could be reflective of the noise water makes when being dropped from a small mountain waterfall or downward stream.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you enjoy this haiku and the commentary. Let us know in the comments section.

Posted in Haiku

Nicholas Klacsanzky’s Ant

the ant
wanders across the floor . . .
meditation room

Akitsu Quarterly, Summer issue, 2017

© Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

We have a father-son team this time with Mark Salzer (father) and Jacob Salzer (son):

Shenzhen has over 14 million people, and from a high rise building, appear as ants moving around in the hustle and bustle of daily life. It reminds me how easy it is to get sucked up in duties and chores, the mechanics of our lives. We are above the level of ants, of course, can pause and appreciate our world and existence, but are also part ant…. The universe is doing its thing, without regard to anything I think, do, or want, so a sobering haiku in the sense that despite our willful efforts to pause and meditate, life moves on all around us, the universe waits for no one…the ants keep wandering. There’s a time to pause, but also a time for us to wander, do what we do.

I also see the wandering ant as a symbol of simplicity, a reminder to want little, appreciate what we have.

Ants also have a social sense, social duties and responsibilities, another reminder….

– Mark Salzer (USA)

This is a powerful haiku that reminds us to embrace a different perspective. In the end, it seems the ego is not as big as it thinks itself to be. The other thing I get out of this haiku is solitude. There is only one ant in this haiku, which is interesting, as I usually see a trail of ants or a bunch of them gathering together. This makes for a bit of mystery, as we don’t know where the ant came from. It also leaves us with a paradoxical feeling: is the ant lost? Or is it on an adventure discovering things to bring back to his or her colony?

It seems the ant could be equated to a thought. Thoughts appear to wander in and out of our consciousness, but the empty floor of the meditation room remains silent, and allows all thoughts (and ants) to wander. The ant is small, but an inherent part of life as a whole. In this way, the haiku reminds us to appreciate the small things that often go unnoticed. The haiku also provides a humbling reminder: it seems some things are beyond us and will remain a mystery.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

Did you enjoy this poem and commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku

Pravat Kumar Padhy’s Thick Clouds

thick clouds—
a gap takes me
to the ocean

Modern Haiku, Issue 46:2, 2015
© Pravat Kumar Padhy (India)

Since the first reading of this ku, I’ve felt it carries an extraordinary sense of liberation. I can read it again and again and feel each time the movement, as if I’m being pulled by an invisible wind, not mentioned, but there for sure, to the blue of the ocean, breaking through the blue gap of the sky…!

It seams it creates in the mind of the reader a virtual flight, surfing on air currents and seeking the sun. Also, at a deeper level of reading it, the kireji lets us imagine and clearly perceive the recovery of the soul of the author, as if he could have turned his wounds into blessings….

The first line contains bitter sounds — ck, cl, ds — which suggest an imminent storm, or a difficult life-moment. But soon, in the second line, the rhythm of consonants separated by the sounds of long-short-long vowels empowers the dynamic in the ku and brings the openness of the long and open vowels in the last line, of the word ocean, as a natural mantra for all.

This ku has a strong Zen feeling, showing a meditative journey from full to empty (thick clouds/gap) and it is a reminder to us to not be afraid of emptiness, since we ourselves are nothing else but little fluctuations of matter around this vacuum.

– Lucia Fontana (Italy)

thick clouds: clouds resemble something that prevents us to see through or think clearly. At first, I didn’t connect with this verse, so I read it a couple times. In my imagination, the writer was lost in a deep forest at night. Why I said at night? I’ll explain later.

a gap takes me: This gave me bright scenery in my mind. The writer was lost in the forest at night, he looked upward and saw only thick clouds. But fortunately, there was an opening to let the writer see the stars. Since long ago, people have used stars for navigation.

to the ocean: by the guidance of the stars, the writer finally reached the shore. Thank goodness.

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

I’m living next to the ocean, so I can really relate to this haiku. In this haiku, line one sets the entire mood. Thick clouds so often can be seen on the horizon. They are also very symbolic. It seems that even the weather feels the mood of the poet. Something is about to come—good or bad, we don’t know. The future is hidden from us.

Next we move to line two. It is very clever. It brings hope for the better. Its not just clouds, but we see an opening, and line three gives us more. Now we know we are on the beach and we see an ocean. Overall, I really enjoyed this haiku. Its inspiring. Here’s a tanka written in inspiration:

a dark horizon—
heavy clouds
chasing each other
we fall in warm sand
and laugh

– Laughing Waters (Italy)

This is really simple to interpret, as it is all about the thought process. Thick clouds may indicate a lack of awareness or oblivion or unconsciousness. A gap is a sort of reflection of those thoughts that go through the filtration process. Awareness of our own thoughts (mindfulness), in other words, crystallized thoughts. I see the meditative element here as well where the person is having some deep experiences that facilitate him to think deeply and have concrete thinking. It may also be related to problem solving by reaching the truth after passing through some trial and error process.

The ocean may also indicate the imagination-an escape from reality that doesn’t look pleasant in this situation.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

What I see here is the subject taking a different perspective. Perhaps, the subject could be a bird soaring up high above a field of clouds; and seeing a gap in the vast realm of thick clouds suddenly saw a glimpse of yet another vast realm, this time of blue waters.

Here, again, we see the impermanence of moments we experience, but we also see the continuity of events as we see them unfold.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

For the second line and third line ”a gap takes me / to the ocean” I feel that it suggests that a river goes down to its source. In the first line “thick clouds” bounces off the reader’s view. Besides, the first line’s ending has cutting by “-.” I felt the “distance” from its cutting. I imagine about this distant place, and it looks like the Himalayan Mountains. Maybe sometimes it is covered by “thick clouds.” And it separates the realm of gods from where human beings live. From this mountain’s gap, there is the source. The river goes down to the ocean. I feel that it is like a human being’s life.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

Did you like the haiku and/or commentary? Let us know in the comment section below.

Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Nathan Hassall’s Pivoting Jackboots

pivoting jackboots
more than the snap
of tulips

(First Place, My Haiku Pond Academy, Quickie Writing Challenge, May, 2018)
© Nathan Hassall (UK)

An evocative piece of work, where the juxtaposition between human and natural elements (the military boots and the tulips) produces a vibrant scene and a captivating sense of surprise. The “snap” of the flowers represents the pivot element in the scene, a twist that leaves the reader in a state of suspension and dismay.

– Luca Cenisi (Italy)

There is a very strong contrast between the soldier’s boots and the fragile tulips. The soldier’s boots, a symbol of oppression, and the tulip, an obvious symbol of The Netherlands. This senryu is clearly taking us back to World War II. The Netherlands – a barely armed country at the time Germany invaded Poland in 1939. – The Netherlands (my homeland) expected to remain neutral like it had been during The Great War. – I see the all-destructive war machine disregarding a defenseless civilian population. The Netherlands was just one of the countries where so many suffered so much during WWII, and where countless souls never lived to see freedom again, including a large part of my own family. It is for this reason that this poem touches me deeply.

The poem shows me a scene, similar to the march of the hammers from the movie “The Wall” (Pink Floyd). Militarism and suppression! Finally, I realize I haven’t even mentioned that the ku is skillfully written. So much to see, so much to say! By the way, great work on revising from your original version! I shall remember this poem for a long time, Nathan! My choice for First Place, without a doubt!

– Michael Smeer (The Netherlands)

I enjoy the use of the word “more,” which brings in a sense of mystery and openness that the best haiku and senryu exhibit. It brings my imagination into force, with all the possibilities of war.

The sense of sound adds greatly to the scene described. The most prominent letter in this poem is “o,” which accentuates the loss of life that is hinted at. Also, the “p” sounds imitate the “snap” of a tulip and even gunfire.

In looking at the pacing of the lines, the way line three comes causes emotion in the reader. With the suspense of the second line, and the surprise in the third line, the reader is left stunned and emotionally stirred.

A poem that can be read in at least two ways, that is poignant, that uses sound to enhance its expression, and that employs pacing to create the optimal effect in the reader—I can easily see why this was chosen for First Place.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)