Chad Lee Robinson is the recipient of a Touchstone Award for Individual Poems for 2022 for the poem:
where my son
grew too old
— Prune Juice Journal, Issue 37
Commentary from the Panel:
A poignant haiku that draws me in with the first line, a bookmark. This marks the occasion, for the parent, where the child changed, became different, grew up in some way. It’s telling that the three stressed syllables in this haiku are, book, son, and grew; a suggestion that the child could see beyond their reading to something else in their life.
Questions beyond the words of the haiku come to me. Does the parent recall some way the child changed when reading the book? Did the parent happen upon the book while cleaning up the mess left when the child went off to college or elsewhere in life? Is the bookmark found by the mother or the father? The simple act of finding the bookmark sets the parent on a path of love and remembrance in this haiku.
A relatable poem about things left behind at the subtle point between childhood and adolescence. The hard k sound ending that first line creates a natural kireji, much like the point at which a parent marks a point of no return – literally in the book and figuratively in the child’s journey from having books read by a parent to reading on their own, or perhaps losing interest in a narrative they’ve outgrown.
Here we are presented with the universal themes of love and loss, beautifully evoked in this simply worded haiku. Because the haiku shows rather than tells, the reader has work to do. The poet rightly eliminates extraneous description, such as the appearance of the bookmark or the title of the book. There is an additional omission found in the ending of line 3. This lack of specificity adds a layer of mystery to a very fine haiku, one that perhaps is best viewed through the prism of the individual reader’s experience. In doing so, this poignant haiku, like the bookmark, is complete, the same, yet different.
A poignant note on how quickly time passes as a child grows up. One day you’re happily cuddled on a couch reading a book together and the next day he’s out playing ball or riding his bike with friends. He is moving on, leaving you behind. That bookmark in a sense is his declaration of independence, something very final.
The poem (senryu) is written in a formal style without a distinct line break. Generally, the word ‘bookmark’ refers to a marking tool such as a card or a colored fabric to keep track of the progress of reading a book. Here it embodies a sense of emotive attributes. Parents reminisce about their kids’ birthdays with profound happiness. As the kids grow, they experience the divine beauty of the journey of life.
There is a sense of insightful observation (ugachi) in the poem. Now the kid is grown up and will enter a different world. The poem is transcendental and the mother recalls the joy of the journey from the birth of her child to the present.
The words ‘grew’ (written in past tense), and ‘too old’ depict emotional resonance. Could it be that she lost her son at an early age and she is still in shock? The poem is characterized by the sense of wabi-sabi. Might be she holds the ‘bookmark’ that her son/daughter made long back, especially for some memorable occasion and now she recounts the past in solitude. The poem elucidates a metaphorical insight.
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.