Interview with the 2020 Haiku Soap Award Winner
Recently, I had the chance to intervie our 2020 soap Haiku winner, Christina Tang-Bernas. Her winning haiku is here:
Matter is never lost
I eat the fruit of the tree
you are buried beneath
Please continue reading to “hear” our discussions of writing influences, a sense of the spiritual, the writing process, soCal traffic, and the quiet places we escape to recharge.
WLS: Describe your current journey as a writer?
CTB: I’ve currently been challenging myself to explore new ways of expressing my ideas so as to keep improving as a writer.
WLS: What life experiences do you draw from to help shape your writing?
CTB: Almost anything I experience in my life has a chance of making it into my writing: a book I read, a passing line I overheard, a discussion I had, or even someone’s name. I never know what may end up on paper.
WLS: In terms of your winning poem, what was the inspiration for it? I was personally drawn to it because of Covid-19, and it was a nice reminder that nothing is ever truly gone.
CTB: I like how you were reminded that nothing is ever truly gone, which is true at the very least in the sense of physical matter and energy, but also I believe in the more philosophical sense as well.
For many years, I’ve been interested in cultural and historical death practices along with spiritual practices that emphasize being in accord with the cycles of nature. I also lost someone this past year, though not to COVID, who supported me in an important part of my life, and it has started me thinking of legacies and how one can live on through other’s lives.
WLS: What is your writing process like?
CTB: I usually start with questions, something like “how would someone realistically end up in this specific situation?” or “how would teleportation or time travel feasibly work?” For this haiku, I asked myself “what does ‘Transformation in Nature’ mean to me personally?”
And then I work in bits and pieces, maybe a beginning image or an ending line, building it up with images and blocks of thought or action, and then bridging these sections with the transitions in-between. I smooth out everything during the editing process. It’s a weird scattershot non-linear process, but it works for me.
WLS: How do you feel about having your poem imprinted into soap? I do this by hand, as it's part of my business theme to be rustically handmade. I have a 3D printer I use to make the stamp, just so you know.
CTB: In a way, writing shapes an abstract and fleeting idea into recognizable shapes that are potentially long-lasting. Imprinting it into soap seems to be the next step, something I can hold in my hand and use. I love it.
I also love the contrasts in your soap, something that is rustic and handmade, but also uses the modern technology of a 3D printer, something that is new but made with pieces of previous soaps, something that can last a long time if unused but disappears when it’s used. I feel like it really matches the contrasts found in haiku poetry, so it’s very fitting to have haikus imprinted in it.
WLS: Aside from this poetry contest, what is something you have published that is especially meaningful to you? Please discuss this to some extent.
CTB: One of my creative non-fiction pieces, “I <3 You”, is a very personal piece regarding my feelings for my husband. He was the one to encourage me to take my writing more seriously, and many of my best ideas come from our discussions about the most random subjects. This piece was an ode to our relationship, and one of my more experimental pieces.
WLS: I notice you live in southern California? how does the busy-ness of soCal life impact or influence you? I live here, too, and I find it can be quite exasperating, but perhaps I am alone in that.
CTB: I’m a born and bred Southern California girl, so I probably don’t even notice a lot of the quirks and uniqueness of SoCal life. I definitely agree that the busy-ness of SoCal life can take a toll on my creative life, but I’ve learned to seek out the little pockets of quiet to recharge. There’s a tiny forest of redwoods near my home that I love to stand beneath, and nothing beats watching the ocean waves crash along the beach at sunset.
The traffic is the worst though. My husband and I travelled for 10 months around the world, and when we came back, we were like “ah, now I remember how much I hated the traffic here.”
WLS: What do you normally write? Do you have any published works soon-to-be released? If not, are you working on anything specific?
CTB: I usually write short fiction and non-fiction. I keep meaning to write a novel, and I have quite a few half-finished drafts lying about, but the shorter pieces keep drawing me back. If you’re curious about my other writing, I have links to them on my website: christinatangbernas.com.
WLS: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
CTB: Be curious about everything. I think everything else flows from that. Whether it’s coming up with new ideas, developing characters, learning about which writing styles fit best, or anything else, the urge to seek out knowledge and experiences will stand you in good stead.
WLS: Anything else you would like to add about you, writing, life, or whatever.
CTB: I just want to say thanks, Bill, for these great questions and for sponsoring this annual contest. It has been such a fun experience, and I really appreciate the chance to take part in it!
WLS: No, thank you. It’s always a pleasure to read good poetry. I am so glad you discovered us.
Note: This contest is sponsored in part by Rattle Magazine. I would like to thank their editor Tim Green and the magazine for their generosity and constant support for this annual event.