Gregory Longenecker is the recipient of a Touchstone Award for Individual Poems published in 2019 for his poem
strawberry season acres and acres of bent backs
published in The Heron’s Nest XXI:1.
Commentary from the Panel:
“This haiku begins with a seasonal fragment that teases our sense of sight, taste, and scent. The alliteration in lines one and three is balanced on the fulcrum of line two’s assonance. It’s a familiar scene to many of us, especially in the top-producing countries of China, America, and Mexico. Often, it’s migrants who toil for our enjoyment by doing this back-breaking work. It’s not only a tedious job, but one for which foreign workers generally receive low wages and often live in deplorable conditions. Without these acres and acres of bent backs, how many of us would step up to take their place?”
“Upon reading this haiku I see within the shape of strawberries a mirror of the bent backs of human beings laboring in the fields, faces hidden from view. It allows me to appreciate the forgotten human element behind my everyday pleasures and abundance I so often take for granted. This is a subtle haiku with strong impact and social relevance.”
“The first line of this poem evokes a childhood joy that recurs throughout our lives: At last, fresh strawberries — in trays at the farmer’s market, in little baskets at the grocery store. In the second line the poet suggests a bucolic panorama of crops covering the rolling hillsides, only to, in the third line, draw our focus to the “bent backs” of those picking our fruit of their labor. The ‘aches and aches’ suggested by “acres and acres” ring as true a commentary on our need for migrant workers as any, and as compassionate.”
See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.