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John Stevenson — Touchstone Award for Individual Poems Winner 2018

John Stevenson is a recipient of a Touchstone Award for Individual Poems for 2018 for his poem

more automatic words about weapons

It first appeared in Frogpond 41.2.

Commentary from the Panel:

“This minimal haiku/senryu is expertly constructed around one key word, “automatic.” It is also
politically fraught, dealing as it does with the gun debate presently raging in the U.S. and
elsewhere. On first reading, hyper-awareness of the transposition of “automatic” from weapon
to words has us assuming that the ku states a point of view. And yet, the poem itself militates
against this singular reading. Further consideration of the intentionality of word order and
perhaps a bit of self-reflection suggests that automatic responses shoot from sides of the
debate across the no-man’s land between “us” and “them”. Rather than favor one side or the
other, this haiku/senryu insists on the absence of true dialogue. The poem’s rapid-fire sound
values only serve to heighten the effect.”

“Weapons are made to harm. Words — as all of us know — are sometimes harmful too, especially
during a discussion, or simply spoken out unconsciously. Most words spoken out without care
and sensitivity are automatic, creating a distance between the real meaning and the imaginary
world of words. Thus the power of fictional words about the world, about weapons, becomes a
word of weapons.”

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

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Wonderful haiku by a wonderful poet. So much said in a few words. Congratulations, John!

  2. So well deserved! One of my favorite haiku poets of all time. Nice to see a two line haiku get some praise as well.

  3. I felt that the use of sound was particularly effective in echoing the subject matter, John, with that “rat-a-tat-tat” repetition of consonants – and of course “automatic words” speaks volumes…

    Many congratulations.


  4. Congratulations to John! Well-deserved haiku. Says so much, straight from the hip.

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