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Chad Lee Robinson — Touchstone Award for Individual Poems Winner 2023

Chad Lee Robinson is the recipient of a Touchstone Award for Individual Poems for 2023 for the poem:


advice for my son —

the tissue paper

protecting each pear

     —Chad Lee Robinson, The Heron’s Nest, Volume 25, March 2023

Commentary from the Panel: 


At once universal and personal, this poem brilliantly juxtaposes the act of giving our children advice with the image of a delicate tissue paper protecting pears. As much as we would like to ‘be there’ for our children and safeguard them against all harm, it is wise to keep in mind that they are their own individuals who should be given the agency to figure things out by failing and trying again. We cannot win their battles for them. What we can proffer is guidance, encouragement, and sound advice when needed. This haiku shows a certain distance between parents and their children—a restraint in knowing how to deal with each other without overstepping boundaries. The first line could also be read as a statement on the upbringing of sons in our society and everything it entails. Is the tissue paper tensile enough for the pear? 


Tissue paper is at the heart of this poem. More deeply, an image is the gift around which everything is wrapped. What makes haiku reveal a quality of lifefulness, is its reliance on images that do the work of suggesting. This poem features a son and protected pears that will show their bruises eventually. The pear begins as fruit does, harder for protection against a fall, but then there is a softening with age, and this image knows well that the bravado of youth with its frail ego will give way to ripeness, a softer way of relating in maturity, and the wonder of the rotten ice we walk on when we give advice.


“Advice” is a haiku that seems to focus on a child going off to school, but is, I think, more about the parent recognizing their own emotions surrounding this event. Line 1 suggests an old-fashioned booklet for a young man going out into the world. “Tissue paper” carries both the senses of touch and sound that go into protecting a gift, the pear, often sent in autumn. Is the gift the son? In a way, yes, and one that needs protecting in the parent’s view. They know the child has grown, still they want to wrap them up in advice as they leave. A well-earned Touchstone recipient.



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.

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