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Rick Tarquinio — Touchstone Individual Poem Award 2020

Rick Tarquinio is the recipient of a Touchstone Individual Poem Award for 2020 for his poem

pasture fence
where the paint ran out
a bluebird’s song

          (The Heron’s Nest XX:1)

Commentary from the Panel:

“Who cannot help but love this haiku? An inspiring vision of a poet’s nature, wherein one sense leads to another, and knowledge of an unseen bird’s song paints the void.”


“Could there possibly be two words that more conjure up the sheer joy of being alive on a summer’s day than ‘bluebird’s song’?”


“The poem is a classic one characterised by the basic aesthetic elements (teikei) of haiku. Line 2 acts as a syntactic pivot for Line 1 as well as Line 3. The art of haiku lies in the sublime meaning behind simple words. The poem is studded with images of colours, sensory of sound, and the idyllic nature. Interestingly the colour of the paint is not revealed. It could be green as that of the colour of the pasture, blue or even a contrast one. The bluebird is pivotal of the haiku with aesthetic bearing. It is associated with culture, spiritualism as depicted in many symbolic stories. There is a weather proverb, ‘Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.’”


“Let us unveil the mystery (yūgen) of the haiku which perhaps the poet wishes to convey to his readers. There is an angle of spiritual or zen-feeling embedded in the haiku. The word ‘pasture’ denotes energy. The colour ‘green’ symbolizes nature and tranquility. The bluebird is a symbol of good luck, happiness, harmony, and prosperity. As the colour finishes or recedes, the lyrical utterance of the bluebird infuses ecstasy of freshness and faith by erasing the doubts and negativity. The colour on the fence could be blue and after it runs out, it reappears as if in the form of a bluebird. Poetically, the colour and the muse represent continuity.

Food is the prime thing for survival as portrayed in the form of pasture. There is an obvious end to everything. But you still continue to be remembered by virtue of your good deed which is metaphorically resonated by the song of the bird. The fence defines the boundary or limitation of the energy or the life span. It can as well be interpreted as if the paint metaphorically represents the mortal stage of life. Perhaps the bluebird represents an angel bestowing messages from heaven.

It is wonderful to search pearls from the ocean of haiku writing. The present haiku preserves the layers of multifaceted meanings. I wish to quote Ezra Pound: An “Image” is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time . . . It is the presentation of such a “complex” instantaneously which gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.”


“A bluebird’s song, after a long winter — something of inexpressible value, freely given. It arrives beyond striving, beyond any need to hold or contain, so unlike the building and maintaining of fences. The song of a bluebird might even liberate the mind of the one hearing it just in the act of hearing it, simply by being what it is. A poem of karumi, I receive this haiku with as much gratitude as I do the Serenity Prayer, especially after such a difficult year. Thank you to the author!”


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

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I’m honored to receive a Touchstone Award for this poem. Thanks to the Haiku Foundation and judges! Their commentary and appreciation are inspirational and gratifying.

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