Paul Chambers is the recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2021 for his volume The Dry Bones (New Mills, UK: Red Ceilings Press, 2021).
Commentary from the Panel:
Paul Chambers’ third book of haiku is a beautifully written, deeply reflective collection that rewards re-reading. A quiet book of closely observed moments and small movements, it reads as an orchestrated piece.
The spare, abstract cover, with its suggestion of landscape, sets the tone for the poems within. Blank pages separate 86 haiku into four unnamed sections — an unusual strategy that suits this collection. The blank section breaks offer the most minimal guidance, inviting the reader to pause before moving to the next group of poems. The haiku that appear immediately before each blank page linger in the mind and reinforce the power of the moment.
than before it came
Throughout the book, care has been given to the sequencing and placement of haiku. The resonance across poems on a page creates larger moments and images, as in these haiku . .
deep under snow
the road turns
the thawing stream
These are haiku that heighten the senses and invite contemplation. One is simultaneously surprised and struck by the realization, “yes . . . it is like that.”
the river unreeling
just enough rain
to darken the scent
of the pine woods
There are moments of bleak beauty in nature.
a broken antler
in the leaf litter
Chambers understands the power of understatement, and some haiku provide just a suggestion of story.
night bus . . .
a handprint fills
Only haiku can frame a parent’s love — and the attentiveness it commands — in this kind of way . . .
magnolia scent . . .
sunlight in the hairs
along my son’s ears
or conjure something magical out of a common childhood experience.
with each throw
the boy’s stone lands
in the centre of the universe
In The Dry Bones, Paul Chambers has given us a stunning collection of haiku that honor the truth of things as they exist and our greater connectedness.
See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.