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paul m. — Touchstone Distinguished Books Award Winner 2020

paul m. is the recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2020 for his volume witness tree (Omskirk UK: Snapshot Press, 2020).

Commentary from the Panel:

For those who may have wondered whether the traditional, realistic, nature-based orientation to haiku has become a spent commodity, they need only spend a little time with witness tree to know otherwise … and to find gold.

In its introduction, the poet paul m. (haigo for Modern Haiku editor Paul Miller) states, “I intend my poetry to be a bridge – a way to reconcile myself to a larger creative nature.” The bridges this poet constructs (or discovers) are marvels.

With a few select words, some are capable of spanning light-years, eons or just the Anthropocene.

     returning comet —
     movement within
     a vernal pool

     last of the snow
     chatter marks
     up a granite slab

     petroglyphs
     the short drive
     to Los Alamos

Even closer to home, others connect in ways that may startle, yet accord perfectly with their seasons.

     daffodil tips
     the tension
     in her leash

     autumn colors
     the snap as the jib
     takes the wind

This is a collection with considerable emotional “bandwidth” as well, from the humorous or self-depreciating …

     field of yarrow
     a butterfly’s path
     could be more efficient

     spring clouds
     a mannequin shaped
     nothing like me

… to the somber or poignant:

     a paperclip
     holding the file together
     winter hospice

     his final effects …
     I share the elevator
     with a stranger

Here we find the reflections of a poet who comes to understand the limitations as well as the capabilities of language.

     the night sky
     away from the campfire
     our small words

     bubbles in river ice
     our decision
     to be quiet

That very understanding translates to a work whose words reach beyond words to connect us all with the larger (if ineffable) creative nature we share.

Its fine introduction explicates the volume’s title. Suffice it to say that anyone who cracks the cover of this beautifully-produced, gem-laden collection will bear witness to an instant classic from one of the haiku community’s most sensitive and insightful observers.

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

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