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Mark Gilbert — Touchstone Award for Individual Poems Winner 2023

Mark Gilbert is the recipient of a Touchstone Award for Individual Poems for 2023 for the poem:



feeling my wings


     —Mark Gilbert, Stardust Haiku, Issue #73 January 2023

Commentary from the Panel: 


This concise five-word haiku stands out for its originality along with the musicality of its language. It draws the reader into a haiku journey, one on which a caterpillar-like introvert transforms into something capable of soaring. The way each line is placed is not only pleasing to the eye. It also adds depth as the reader sees the metamorphosis unfold not only in the mind’s eye but also on the page. Adding to this quality is a certain mellifluousness that imbues the wording of this haiku. Connective strands of invisible silk link ‘cocooned’ with ‘become’ and result in a further connection between poet and reader. In this time of global dissonance, this winning haiku bears witness to a willingness to engage with the world, rather than shun it.


The word “cocooned” caught my attention the first time I read this poem. It begins with two k sounds, followed by double o’s giving the impression of a shout or howl. Yet, the word is benign, one of safety, of protection. The second line, feeling my wings, moves to a sense of touch, of noticing the poet’s wings. Finally, become, brings out the self-awareness that change is taking place. This is the heart of this haiku, the writer knowing they are transforming—that they will soon be someone different.


When my grandchildren were young, we raised Monarch butterflies. We watched them move through the various stages of transformation, from tiny caterpillars nibbling pinholes in milkweed leaves, to very large caterpillars eating their way through the plant. Then came the chrysalis—we waited in anticipation of the changes we couldn’t see, but were happening nonetheless. Eventually, the chrysalis became transparent, and we saw the black wings folded up inside, on the verge of stretching, unfolding. It is in this becoming stage, in reference to their own life, that the poet captures so beautifully in this haiku, their personal metamorphosis. The poet focuses on the present moment, the act of becoming, not the past or the future. Being “cocooned” is the protective layer that allows the metamorphosis to take place, to give transformation the time it needs, the poet on the cusp of a new way of being. In death of the old, comes renewed life. An elegant haiku that holds so much “in its wings”. 


Touchstone winners receive a crystal award to commemorate their selection. See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Thanks again to the panel of judges and I’m glad this haiku had a positive affect on readers!

  2. Wonderful commentary that really captures why this poem hits all the right notes and brings such hope for transformation. Congratulations, Mark!

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