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.
Michael Morell was one of the finalists with the following one-line haiku. Here are some questions he answered about his poem and process:
the a(n)esthetic of ableist thought