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4th Annual Haiku Chapbook Contest

Julie Schwerin is the winner of our 2024 Haiku Chapbook Contest and Victor Ortiz is the runner up, selected by judge and previous winner Chad Robinson Lee.

To feel a sense of home in another poet’s words is one of the highest compliments I can offer. In still growing wings… Julie Schwerin’s keen observations of the prairie landscape turn into something like reverence evident in this haiku:


gentle snowfall . . .
acre upon acre
of the same prayer


In the turning of seasons and the expeditions of migratory birds, Schwerin finds faith in the natural world of life on the prairie. still growing wings… is a gathering of light, a prayer worth reading and reading again.


— Chad Lee Robinson, author of The White Buffalo

5th Annual Chapbook Contest Results

Congratulations to D. Keali‘i MacKenzie, winner of the 5th Annual Backbone Press Chapbook Contest. His manuscript, The Mana of Salt, was selected by our final judge Khalisa Rae.

Please see the judge’s comments:

The Mana of Salt is a beautifully executed chapbook with language that’s gripping and evocative. In many ways, the collection works as both a catalog of family history and research of chemistry. The passion around family and tradition is palatable and resonates throughout like an ancient song. Poems like “Make a Meal” and “Invocation” are striking and call attention to generational food traditions along with the pain and complexity behind it. I was particularly intrigued and invested in that exploration and I found myself thirsting for more. Mana of Salt deserves all the praise.

Extending an additional Congratulations to the runner up, Angel Dye. Her manuscript, My Mouth A Constant Prayer, will be published along with the winner’s chapbook.

Pre-order The Mana of Salt by D. Keali‘i MacKenzie via Paypal!

Pre-order My Mouth A Constant Prayer by Angel Dye via Paypal!



Featured Poem

… Beyond the Ends of the World


Past the moon. Past humanity’s space junk.
Past Mars’ planet, the Kuiper belt,
Jupiter with its storm-burned eye,
Past all the outer planets
– past planetoids – Eris, Pluto, Haumea –
past (the hypothetical) Oort cloud.

Past the limits of solar wind,
but not Humanity’s imagination.
When we have slipped beyond our

system, what is carried for our new lives?

Food, technology. Plants and minerals.
The seeds of human civilizations.

I carry a palmful of pa‘akai, evaporated
on Kaua‘i and red with the memory of distant ‘āina.

A reminder that Indigenous peoples
have sung the stories of distant stars.
We are always present throughout the solar system.

Present throughout the galaxy.

I carry presence, and culture on my skin
(now also beyond the solar system)

– Tatau – on my arms
are lines from the Kumulipo.

Placed here so as to always carry
genealogy, remind others—or those we may meet—‚
there are other ways of knowing besides science.

Wrapped along my right arm,
spiraled up and out :

O kane ia, o ka wahine kela
O kane hanau i ke auau po-‘ele’ele
O ka wahine hanau i ke auau po-haha
Ho’ohaha ke kai, ho’ohaha ka uka
Ho’ohaha ka wai, ho’ohaha ka mauna
Ho’ohaha ka po-niuauae’ae’a
Ulu ka Haha na lau eiwa
Ulu nioniolo ka lau pahiwa
O ho’oulu i ka lau palaiali’i
Hanau o Po-‘ele’ele ke kane
Noho ia e Pohaha he wahine
Hanau ka pua a ka Haha
        Hanau ka Haha

Tell me, as we go beyond
all we thought we knew,
have you ever tasted life’s
essentials on a flake of salt?

Have you ever chanted the universe?

D. Keali‘i MacKenzie

D. Keali‘i MacKenzie is the author of the chapbooks From Hunger to Prayer (Silver Needle Press) and The Mana of Salt (Backbone Press). A queer poet of Kanaka ‘Ōiwi, European, and Chinese descent; his work appears in Pacific Islander Eco-Literatures, Qu, Cobra Milk, Foglifter, Ribbons, and Prismatica LGBTQ Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. A past member of the Worcester Poetry Slam team, he has performed his poetry at The ʻAha Moʻolelo Hawaiʻi, The Worcester Art Museum, The Science Fiction Research Association’s Annual Conference, and the Wonsolwara Wave Dance held in Madang, Papua New Guinea. A co-editor for Bamboo Ridge’s Snaring New Suns: Speculative Works from Hawai‘i and Beyond, he received an MA in Pacific Islands Studies, and an MLIS, from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.