Lee Gurga is the recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Honorable Mention for 2020 for his volume Without Syntax (White Heath IL: Modern Haiku Press, 2020).
Commentary from the Panel:
Lee Gurga’s without syntax, though a slight volume, is a very fine example of “less is more” — a complete and engaging book from beginning to end. Gurga is a master poet, and one of the things we particularly valued in this work is his innovation. We found these sixteen haiku to be both thought-provoking and moving.
The artwork on the cover by Kelly Sauvage Angel is an enigmatic scribble which sets the stage for what is to come. The book is minimal in size, minimal in number of poems, minimal in introductory material. The title suggests this book is going to be different and the short quote of Charles Bernstein at the beginning gives the reader a further clue that we are going somewhere new; through this quote Gurga tells us what he values and how to read these poems. Each of the carefully selected haiku is a gem; here is the title poem:
And the penultimate ku:
looking up from my thesaurus dusk
The arrangement is carefully done so that together the haiku play off one another in interesting ways. Two examples of poems on facing pages:
floating in the sonogram summer moon
and on the opposite page
the world within the world without this bird fluttering
hard to say the soldier’s eyes
This is next to:
The book design is by Lidia Rozmus; Kelly Sauvage Angel’s “Uncertain Times” from the cover is echoed throughout the book tying it together beautifully.
See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.