John Hawkhead was one of the finalists with the following tanka. Here are some questions he answered about his poem and process:
isotope de c a y
in a glass
I have been fascinated by science and, in particular, quantum physics for years. Unfortunately mathematics is not my strong suit so I have to content myself with verbal descriptions of this strange subatomic universe and our existence as part of it. Many scientists don't really like poetry as it tends to work away from concise descriptions of reality (so say the scientists) but to me poetry has a lot to say about strange quantum phenomena and how it impinges on human consciousness and existence. It can also represent the decay of a relationship or, in the wider sense, our relationship with nature.
What other forms, formats, or iterations did you consider, and why do you think the poem had to be written this way? I did move the words and letters around in the space to see how they worked in other iterations. This one seemed to keep the meaning I intended but also indicates disintegration. It was the best way, for me, to express the poem's meaning.
Physically I wanted to break the poem up so readers would think about the words differently and step through it differently to a reading of a standard word stream or format. Ultimately, it represents how we will all break down eventually but return to our essential atoms and the process that will follow, whereby we will become something else. So, hopefully, the different structure supports the meaning in a way that opens it to new readers.
'In a glass darkly' follows a long tradition of using 'through a glass darkly' in film, literature and poetry from its origin in the Bible. It's such a great open term with so many connotations and in this case I hoped to open readers' minds to someone disappearing into the darkness they have faced for many years . . . just one potential reading of a life.