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Chuck Brickley — Touchstone Distinguished Books Award Winner 2017

Chuck Brickley is a recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2017 for his volume earthshine (Omskirk UK: Snapshot Press).

Commentary from the Panel:

“The images in Chuck Brickley’s first collection, earthshine, spring as if from a deep well, although in counterargument to one of his poems, one sip isn’t nearly enough of this deeply resonant sequence of poems. Although the haiku in the collection are sequenced as a single year, they were composed over long periods of the author’s life, the earliest during the 1970s, and in large part document observations and experiences he had while living in remote parts of British Columbia. For a time, he resided in a log house on an ecological reserve and in a two-room shack near the Coquihalla river, which divides two portions of the Cascade Mountains in British Columbia. The remoteness of some of the landscapes in which he lived comes through in such poems as these:

my hen back home
the day’s warmth

lovers down the beach
turn out to be

The section breaks between sequences of poems are set off with a single word or phrase from a poem in the forthcoming section, such as first caw or driftwood. These simple lead-ins are effective in offering a hint of the next section, without feeling intrusive or overdone.

People who do make an appearance are family members, by and large, and the poems on his family are very moving:

she grows quiet
the drops of milk on my wrist

smacked upside the head
by her snowball . . .
still in love

Brickley’s poems on flora and fauna are likewise carefully observed and remarkable for their fresh simplicity:

waterfall spray
a hummingbird draws up
to a rainbow

a snowshoe hare
hops through its breath
morning star

One feels the immense silence and vastness around the hare. It has the quiet depth characteristic of so many of Brickley’s images. Remarkable, too, is the sense of passing through the seasons of years: the reader feels the movement to different localities, through varying landscapes, and as family members grow or move or pass away. Despite that the poems sequence a single year, the reader has a strong sense, by the book’s end, that a much longer time period has passed. The nostalgic poignancy of passing time, the transience highlighted by changing circumstances and locales throughout the author’s life, is effectively carried by the book.

The title, earthshine, refers to the glow on the unlit portion of the moon, due to sunlight reflected off the earth’s surface and back onto the moon. In this elegant and deeply resonant collection, a reader will find poems that reference earth, sun, and moonlight, as well as the hidden or unsaid things suggested by the moon’s visible dark portion:

her voice breaks
into a whisper

A wonderful collection to return to over the years, as Brickley has to his own past with observations he so deftly brings forth in these finely-wrought poems.”

See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Hello Chuck, congrats on such a fine collection. We have a good friend in common, Vicki McCullough. She has been singing your praises for a long time. It is wonderful to finally meet you, even if it is a virtual handshake. I truly know what you mean by “putting the work out there”. You just never know how it will be received. I feel so fortunate to be part of this wonderful “haiku family” this “haiku network” that stretches around the world. I understand that you live in California now, but if you ever find yourself back in B.C. (I live in Victoria) I would love to have you speak to my group here (Haiku Arbutus) Many Vancouver haiku poets often come to these “meetings” . I’m sure they would love to hear you, too! Again, congratulations! Terry Ann Carter (president/Haiku Canada)

    1. And a big hello to you, too, Terry Ann! I didn’t see this post until just now, but did contact you on Messenger earlier today. Mucho thanks for the congratulations, and right back atchya. Yes, isn’t it wonderful, this “haiku network?” Back in the seventies and eighties, I would actually meet with another haiku poet one, two times a year, if. Would I have strayed from the path for so long if I had had the community I enjoy now? I miss B.C. like you would never believe. We still own our house in there (renting it out), and may move back (we’re dual citizens). Right now, our daughter’s here in SF, with her family, so you can imagine why we won’t be leaving anytime soon. But we do plan on heading north early next year. So let’s keep in contact and arrange to get together!

      Looking forward to meeting you, hanging with Vicki and all our northern friends!


  2. Glad I snapped up this collection, and have re-read it, and will read it again.
    One of my favorites is this one that you show on this page:
    a snowshoe hare
    hops through its breath
    morning star
    If Helen Buckingham doesn’t post, I can say she is a huge fan of this book, and keeps urging me to read and read again! 🙂
    warm regards,

    1. Hello Alan!

      I thought I was having the best day ever, playing with my youngest granddaughter all morning. After reading several congratulatory emails, and then seeing these posts on THF—wow! I’m not sure that I will be able to handle what the evening will bring! J

      I must say: to send one’s work out there, and to get such poz feed in return, is truly a rewarding experience. I appreciate your comments, Alan, and your bringing Helen into the conversation–both of you, such wonderful haiku poets. I am honoured.


    1. Thank you, Scott. Not sure if the hat you tossed my way will fit just now. Maybe later, when the swelling’s subsided. J

      Congratulations to you as well. As I have written to you, I would like to see THE WONDER CODE in every school and library in America. And indeed, why stop there? Excellent work!


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