Reviews: One Leaf Detaches

Margaret Chula is the recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2019 for her volume One Leaf Detaches (Uxbridge, UK: Alba Publishing, 2019).

Commentary from the Panel:

As soft, as petal-tender as the touch of a fleeting blossom, the work of Margaret Chula explores and illuminates moments which pass quickly in life and are gone. She is a master of her craft, molding her work from the stuff of existence, rather than pure imagination.

chill wind
the leaf and its shadow
tremble and fall

pale sun flickers
across the Buddha’s face
pulse of cicadas

There is truth beyond truth in these wondrous poems: first seeing what is – now – then revealing, subtly, something shimmering, something beyond. The interplay of poignancy and humor glimmer, late afternoon light on a brilliant autumn day:

after the typhoon
starlings peck his shiny eyes
scarecrow in a heap

at the graveyard
I rearrange chrysanthemums
and plastic flowers

Immersed in a Buddhist tonality, these poems wear their sensibility lightly, truly the source of belief and not its effect:

the priest offers me
an orange and apple
left for the Buddha

holding the water
held by it
lotus

In addition, there is, at once, sorrow and compassion, there is life, and its final bloom:

connecting the Kannon’s
one thousand and one arms
spider webs

Jizō statues
for dead children
faceless, nameless

And, of course, there is mystery, and there is awe:

winter evening
a stray dog barks
to his echo

One Leaf Detaches is not only one of the finest volumes of poetry of this past year, it is the accomplishment, the culmination, of a lifetime of awareness, a lifetime of active engaging, for poet and, hopefully, reader alike.