Resources

Haiku Books (in my library):

  • Bowers, Faubion (editor).  The Classic Tradition of Haiku:  An Anthology.  Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1996.
  • Collins, Billy. She Was Just Seventeen.  Lincoln, IL: Modern Haiku Press, 2006.  (Billy Collins’ little book is a piece of art, currently out-of-print, and haiku in the hands of this critically-acclaimed, popular, prolific poet—a former US Poet Laureate—is delicious and even a little tongue-in-cheek subversive!)
  • Donegan, Patricia.  Haiku:  Asian Arts & Crafts for Creative Kids.  Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2003.  (Patricia Donegan’s how-to-haiku book is perfect for children, teachers, classrooms, school libraries and first-time adult haiku writers—my first haiku book!)
  • Donegan, Patricia.  Haiku Mind:  108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness & Open Your Heart.  Boston: Shambhala, 2008, 2010.
  • Donegan, Patricia.  Love Haiku:  Japanese Poems of Yearning, Passion, and Remembrance.  Boston: Shambhala, 2010, 2015.
  • Gurga, Lee.  Haiku:  A Poet’s Guide.  Lincoln, IL:  Modern Haiku Press, 2003.  (Lee Gurga is one of the most authoritative voices in modern English-language haiku; his book is essential to any haiku library.)
  • Higginson, William J. and Harter, Penny.  The Haiku Handbook:  How to Write, Teach, and Appreciate Haiku.  Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1985.  (This work has become a classic “textbook” on writing haiku; a must-have.)
  • Janeczko, Paul B.  How to Write Haiku and Other Short Poems.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2004.
  • Kacian, Jim (Editor-in-Chief); Rowland, Philip and Burns, Allan (editors).  Haiku in English:  The First Hundred Years.  New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.  (This recent Norton anthology looks at the first century of development of English-language haiku; excellent introduction by Billy Collins, a former US Poet Laureate.)
  • Kerouac, Jack.  Book of Haikus.  London:  Enitharmon, 2004.
  • Reichhold, Jane.  Writing and Enjoying Haiku:  A Hands-on Guide.  New York:  Kodansha USA, 2002, 2013.  (Encouraging and inviting, Jane Reichhold’s book is a wonderful guide for new haiku poets.)
  • Van den Heuvel, Cor.  The Haiku Anthology:  Haiku and Senryu in English.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
  • Wright, Richard. Haiku:  The Last Poems of an American Icon.  New York:  Arcade Publishing, 1998, 2012.  (This work, published posthumously, contains over 800 haiku written by the author of Black Boy and Native Son.)

Haiku Journals:

To participate in the haiku community, consider subscribing to a haiku magazine or journal, or joining the Haiku Society of America (publishers of Frogpond, a leading haiku journal).  Some of the journals are online and you can submit your own haiku to many of them to be considered for publication.  A good list was recently compiled by a professor at Millikin University in Illinois for his students:   http://performance.millikin.edu/haiku/magazines.html

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Improving Our Haiku:

After having fun with the “old school” or “traditional” haiku format you learned in school (i.e., seventeen syllables arranged in three lines of  5, then 7, then 5 syllables), you may want to try a more advanced approach to haiku as written by poets who are serious about haiku as a literary art form.  If so, the list of books and journals on this page will get you well on your way.  You will quickly see that many mature haiku poets—and one can even speak of a haiku poet community—typically write shorter poems, without worrying about the number of syllables on each line or how many lines there should be.  “Less is more” is often the case in haiku writing.

Struggling to interpret a centuries-old Japanese literary art form in their own language, with a radically different structure from Japanese, Anglophone poets in the 20th and 21st centuries have focused more on other aspects of classical Japanese haiku, desirable aspects they feel are more important than syllable and line counting, for example:  the inclusion of an internal pause or “cutting” in the poem (sometimes called the “phrase and fragment” structure; see Reichhold above); an emphasis on plain language; avoiding direct metaphor; a quality called “lightness;” the juxtaposition of two images or sensory experiences; the attempt to write a poem that does not become a single, run-on sentence; a poem spoken in one breath; the insistence on real experience as opposed to imagined scenes; a preference for the present moment; references to the seasons; the discovery of the poet’s “aha!” moment; and so on.

Seasoned haiku poets also avoid expressing their emotional states directly and usually avoid words such as mind, soul, heart and spirit.  They try to show how they feel through the juxtaposition of concrete sensory experiences—drawing readers into the poem to form their own ideas of how the poet is feeling.   Many, but not all, haiku are observations of nature.  Sometimes the label senryu is applied to haiku that are more about human interactions or artifacts.  Haiku and senryu can be humorous or poignant, sad or joyful—every emotion is allowed.

There is still much healthy debate over which of these desirable aspects to a haiku are essential.  Fitting as many of them as possible into our own haiku is what makes writing haiku both challenging and fun.

There’s a lot going on in 17, or fewer, syllables!

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