Aidan Castle was one of the finalists with the following concrete haiku. Here are some questions he answered about his poem and process:
the after ambulance
I had been drafting and scrapping and re-writing a poem about an ambulance on and off for many months, haunted by the image of the ambulance carrying my grandfather to the hospital in the wee hours. That experience was the jumping-off point, but I wanted to write a poem speaking to the process of gender reassignment. When I went through that process, it felt like there was a lot of fanfare and emphasis on the moment of change (ex. the moment the clerk of the court stamped my legal change documents). The journey that happened afterwards was much more subtle, and much more significant.
I considered many different lineations on the spectrum from traditional to alt, fixing on this one because I feel it echoes the appearance of a patient’s vitals when hooked up to a heart monitor. I intended for the poem to speak to “naming the dead” more broadly, with “name” functioning as both a noun and a verb. I have a strong preference for poems with multiple meanings because each reader comes to the poem with the background of their unique experience, different from mine, and so I like to afford the greatest possible potential for meaning. One of my favorite parts of writing is hearing a reader describe a meaning they took from my work that I never thought of.
I feel this poem contributes to the genre by treating the phrase “dead name,” and by using alt lineation. I think there is a lot more room for poems dealing with non-binary and queer experiences in haiku journals. I also think that journals would benefit from publishing more ku that employ alt lineation, as it is a powerful tool that serves to broaden and underscore the moment. I am very honored to have had my poem selected, but the real win for me will be the day when a poem like mine is no longer considered trailblazing because so many more ku treating queer experience and using alt lineation have been published.
It is inherent to my process that different experiences (ex. grandfather in ambulance, legal name change) - often separated by years - end up in the same poem. I deal with memory loss from a TBI, so my sense of time is altered. I try to use this to my advantage, joining an old experience with a newer one into a single moment. It is my intent for this act of combination to create continuity, if unexpected, and, thus, create new memory. This is my way of making lemonade out of lemons, and giving voice to the neurodivergence that I experience. Haiku, in its juxtapositions, lends itself to my natural process, and that is part of why I love it so much.
Jay Friedenberg was one of the finalists with the following one-line haiku. Here are some questions he answered about his poem and process:
poppy field all I see is red
I was thinking about all the anger and rage existing in the world now and how because of this people are unable to see the beauty that is right in front of them.
This one more or less came to me in a flash. I wrote down several versions and was dissatisfied with them. Then after some mulling, it popped right out. I do have a set procedure for writing that consists of reading or observation followed by drafts. I will typically leave a poem alone for a while and then come back to it a few days or weeks later. This waiting process really pays off. Oftentimes one can see exactly what is wrong with a haiku or what changes or need on this second pass.
This particular haiku started off as a three-liner but upon retrospection it seemed too wordy. Converting to the single-line format improved things significantly. The horizontality of the monoku emphasizes the field and also the rushed impatience of the observer.
I am a big fan of one-line poems. They are in many cases more direct and memorable because they impose less of a cognitive processing load on the reader. They still allow for juxtaposition but the comparison between images takes place rapidly. The linearity fits certain subject matters more, for example, those that emphasize speed or motion.
There is a visual analog between panoramic images and one-line haiku. They take in a greater spatial expanse, causing the observer to mentally scan across them. I think it would be great to have a new style of haiga that would consist of pairing these together.