Alan Peat is the recipient of a Touchstone Award for Individual Haibun for 2022 for:
The man who keeps each season in a box is spring cleaning. He polishes the silver box that winter is kept in. It is cold to the touch. Autumn’s box is fashioned of driftwood. If you shake it you can hear dryness rustle. He gives it a little dust. You have to be careful with summer; it’s hot to the touch now. Hold it too long and you’ll burn your fingers. He leaves it alone on the high shelf. Ah, but Spring is his favourite box. Open its cloisonné lid and the buttercups will make your chin glow yellow. There are too many shades of green to count. Ask him politely and he’ll point out Crested Dog’s tail and cowslips and Yorkshire fog. Look closely: there, inside the box. Can you see the young boy with the basin cut? The one who is holding his dad’s hand? They are walking through the wildflower meadow in Muker. Soon they will reach the river with its banks of celandines and oxeye daisies.
faded as a haircut
in a barbershop window
—2022 Samurai Haibun Contest
Commentary from the Panel:
In his great work, Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that poetry’s power chiefly resides in its ability to dissolve the division between thoughts and things. One of the primary strengths of “Gaudy Spring” is the manner in which it moves in such an Emersonian direction. In what may be a dynamic reversal of the story of Pandora’s Box, the haibun presents an unnamed man “who keeps each season in a box” and who attends to each according to its needs: the silver box of winter is polished; the driftwood box of autumn is dusted; the box of summer, too hot to hold, is left on a shelf; and the box of Spring, the man’s favorite, holds a world inside. The man opens it to reveal a “young boy” who is “holding his father’s hand” as the two of them walk through field of wildflowers towards their destination of the river, whose banks are resplendent with “celandines and oxeye daisies.” Unlike Pandora’s Box which, when opened, released chaos into the world, the box of Spring, when opened, invites the reader to step into a rich and verdant world, one that brims with natural beauty. In this way, the haibun dissolves the division between reader and word, subject and object; by presenting a world of beauty to enter into, the haibun reveals depths of meaning beyond literalisms: an experiential metaphor that discloses multiple layers of meaning simultaneously. Moreover, the haiku that concludes the prose section of the haibun seems to operate as a kind of time-shift, one where the world has begun to fade, and where flowers are pressed as a kind of certificate of lived experience.
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.