Mark Gilbert was one of the finalists with the following one-line haiku. Here are some questions he answered about his poem and process:
cherry please help me blossom I’m being held captive haiku
There was a small news story in the UK about a man who was coerced to work in a factory making greetings cards, although he was basically being used as forced labour (it could have been in many countries but happened to be in China). So he wrote an SOS in one of the cards, which was read by the person in Britain who bought the card and led eventually to the factory being closed down.
This story made me think about haiku (which are sometimes unkindly referred to as being suitable for a Hallmark Greeting card). I too wanted to smuggle a message inside something else, and wondered if I could do that in a piece of writing as tiny as a haiku. I am a fan of techniques such as found poetry and cut-up, so I tried to splice two ideas into each other, which the reader could disentangle.
I suppose I wanted it to be something that might be an unsettling read initially, that might need to be unpicked. A monoku can be a good way to do that. This version is close to my original conception. I didn't want it to be a parody of a haiku, I wanted the reader to think about who might be writing it and what their circumstance might be, so I didn't want it to be too clever. It's written in character, or at least has an element of that within it, so I wanted it to be believable, something that someone might have written in a state of desperation.
I hope that it will remind younger readers of Marlene Mountain, who has had a strong influence on my haiku. Where I hope it is different is in the area of parody, irony, trying to be a piece of writing but simultaneously stepping out of itself to look back from a different perspective. And I hope it mainly achieves this through its structure, which is not an easy thing to do in 10 words.
is not essential to know the actual inspiration because I hope there are lots of potential meanings in there. I wanted it to be simultaneously both specific and open, but not directing the reader how to interpret it. I hope it resonates with some readers.
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.