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Elmedin Kadric — Touchstone Distinguished Books Honorable Mention 2023

Elmedin Kadric is the recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Honorable Mention for 2023 for the volume rust (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2023)


Commentary from the Panel:

 

Rust by Elmedin Kadric is remarkable for its use of disjunctive language and layered haiku structures to engage the reader in processing their own interpretations of the crafted works. The poems are arranged as a story in which we follow the protagonist from a young relationship, through marriage and parenting, divorce, death, grief, contemplations of an afterlife, to end with a “rewriting” and rediscovery of self and place.

The symbols that divide the sections are introduced on the title page. These non-verbal patterns mark the pauses and transitions but do not announce what is to come next, which we found to be a welcome variation to the more typical thematic labels.

Many of the poems, which include haiku and minimalist poetry, can be read in more than one way to communicate a layered expression. The poetic structures seem to arise from the intention of each poem, which yields a collection of varied forms. The techniques used to achieve this include the creative use of enjambment, multiple breaks within single-line poems, transposed letters, vertical or concrete presentation, the cutting of words, and the verbing of nouns. In fact, the three-line poems in the book take on another layer of resonance due to their contrast with the other choices of format. No one formal presentation of haiku dominated the book, and many of the poems interacted with the white space of the page in captivating ways.

The book closes with a series of poems that include “as long as the road goes dandelions,” which not only paints an image of an endless landscape with roadside yellow flowers but also speaks to an ongoing resilience when the poem is read with the break “as long as the road goes / dandelions.” The title poem “with the rust of one still together” from the opening section speaks to both the impact of troubled times and the inertia that continues forward regardless of those challenges.

Some of the individual poems add to their depth by using one-line haiku that allow multiple readings and coalesce into a deeper poem. For example, “what could have been false dawn” can be understood with either a melancholic or a hopeful read depending on where the reader places the cut. Neither interpretation is more correct than the other; they are both true and express the complexity of moving between the feelings of loss and healing. This technique is used elsewhere in the book to communicate expansive meanings.

Other haiku use lineation in creative ways.

 

no
starting over
harvest moon

 

The poem could be read as “no starting over” but the line break brings an additional read that “no” itself is starting over. The harvest moon suggests a gathering from the previous cycle and “starting over” with clear fields. From “no,” we start over. Again, the two interpretations stand in contrast such that the hesitancy and resolve to start over is what generates the poem.

 

May I do it anyway

 

At first, we may notice the question “may I do it anyway?”. The capital M provides a clue that the poem regards the month of May, which can function as a season word and also suggests youth. The question asks for permission, whereas the statement indicates a defiant resoluteness.

Using another technique, the following haiku prompts a cartoon-like visual of a gentle shifting breeze consisting of spirals that point in different directions. The breeze is fiddleheading. The fiddleheads indicate that this is a spring breeze.

 

the breeze
in many ways
fiddleheads

 

Historical trauma is impactfully presented from a personal perspective. The following poem is not graphic or obvious, yet we have no doubt what it is about. We receive the added perspective of a parent explaining the atrocity to one’s child. The subtle expression and presentation as a normative tercet structure quietly adds to the depth and power of the poem.

 

train cabin
our child asks
about the ovens

 

In the penultimate chapter on a new love, two concrete poems on facing pages consider the delicate navigation of relationship. The space between “doing without” and “proving a point” suggests conflict while “doing without proving a point” indicates compromise. The resonance between these two interpretations builds a juxtaposition within the poem. The story continues with the facing concrete poem in which the ego “i” is removed. We, the readers, are what inserts the “i” back into “think.”

 

doing
without

proving
a point

i th nk

 

A poem in the section on grief likewise has two seemingly opposite meanings that come together to more deeply describe an experience. We can read it as a melancholic “the lifeless bluebells” or “the life less / bluebells,” but through the poem’s structure we also get “the life / less blue / bells.” We feel the desolation and also hear the ringing of hope and renewal. Both sides of the dichotomy of emotion are held within the form, which gives the poem a remarkable richness in 3-5 words (depending on how it is read).

 

the
life

less
blue

bells

 

Rust is a noteworthy addition to ELH for its cohesion as a layered story that unfolds from a small number of well-placed words carefully arranged into specific structures. The reader is engaged in the process to co-create meaning and weigh the possible interpretations. The poems reward thoughtful contemplation as they expand with each re-reading and broaden our experience with ELH.

 


See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.

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