Saturday, 14 May 2016

Touchstone Awards judges' comments on The Lammas Lands

In bestowing an 'honourable mention' on my collection, The Lammas Landsfor the Haiku Foundation Touchstone Awards 2015 for distinguished books, the judges very kindly said this about my book:

“A powerful sense of solitude pervades Matthew Paul’s collection of haiku, The Lammas Lands, with imagery drawn from his native England. Often it is a bleak landscape he describes, one of frost on brambles and permutations of a cold weather sun, with various species of birds offering points of life or flashes of color. Paul’s deep sensitivity to his natural surrounds is readily apparent in these deft haiku that frequently describe the flora and fauna of his homeland. “Lammas” references the time of the first wheat harvest in August, with the end of summer ushering in the colder seasons. It is an apt title since the authorial presence in these poems is a keen observer who feels the necessity of survival in the natural world, as living creatures hunker down for the approaching winter, a time of hibernation or migration for many animals, and perhaps one of retreat for humans. The author himself communicates a profound sense of isolation, which feels both personal and metaphysical, in references to “slipping unnoticed,” or to a one-man band that “strums to no one,” or to a pavement-sweeper that “waits for me to pass.” Other poems that juxtapose the human-made with natural processes of erosion or decay reinforce that vulnerability and aloneness and foreshadow the inevitable fall of even the grandest structure:
the holes that insects
have bored in the megalith
winter wind
cobweb morning
the merest outline
of ship funnels
In other moments, light counterbalances the prevailing darkness when Paul calls us back to the possibility of future harvests and the cyclical nature of death and rebirth with the seasons:
the last sun
across the lammas lands
perennial asters
This collection’s potency lies in the evocative pairings of natural species in scenes that capture their familiar resonance for the author — and n the sense of isolation evoked by these native landscapes which is deeply realized in the reader.”

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