Chuck Brickley is a recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2017 for his volume earthshine (Omskirk UK: Snapshot Press).
Commentary from the Panel:
“The images in Chuck Brickley’s first collection, earthshine, spring as if from a deep well, although in counterargument to one of his poems, one sip isn’t nearly enough of this deeply resonant sequence of poems. Although the haiku in the collection are sequenced as a single year, they were composed over long periods of the author’s life, the earliest during the 1970s, and in large part document observations and experiences he had while living in remote parts of British Columbia. For a time, he resided in a log house on an ecological reserve and in a two-room shack near the Coquihalla river, which divides two portions of the Cascade Mountains in British Columbia. The remoteness of some of the landscapes in which he lived comes through in such poems as these:
my hen back home
the day’s warmth
lovers down the beach
turn out to be
The section breaks between sequences of poems are set off with a single word or phrase from a poem in the forthcoming section, such as first caw or driftwood. These simple lead-ins are effective in offering a hint of the next section, without feeling intrusive or overdone.
People who do make an appearance are family members, by and large, and the poems on his family are very moving:
she grows quiet
the drops of milk on my wrist
smacked upside the head
by her snowball . . .
still in love
Brickley’s poems on flora and fauna are likewise carefully observed and remarkable for their fresh simplicity:
a hummingbird draws up
to a rainbow
a snowshoe hare
hops through its breath
One feels the immense silence and vastness around the hare. It has the quiet depth characteristic of so many of Brickley’s images. Remarkable, too, is the sense of passing through the seasons of years: the reader feels the movement to different localities, through varying landscapes, and as family members grow or move or pass away. Despite that the poems sequence a single year, the reader has a strong sense, by the book’s end, that a much longer time period has passed. The nostalgic poignancy of passing time, the transience highlighted by changing circumstances and locales throughout the author’s life, is effectively carried by the book.
The title, earthshine, refers to the glow on the unlit portion of the moon, due to sunlight reflected off the earth’s surface and back onto the moon. In this elegant and deeply resonant collection, a reader will find poems that reference earth, sun, and moonlight, as well as the hidden or unsaid things suggested by the moon’s visible dark portion:
her voice breaks
into a whisper
A wonderful collection to return to over the years, as Brickley has to his own past with observations he so deftly brings forth in these finely-wrought poems.”
See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.