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Book of the Week: The Shape of Water: A Collection of Haiku by Robert Spiess

In Living Haiku Anthology, we learn that Robert Spiess (16 October 1921 – 13 March 2002) was editor of American Haiku and Modern Haiku. Robert became interested in haiku in the late 1930s, through early translations of Japanese haiku. He contributed to the evolution and success of English-language haiku and was an important mentor and guide to many contemporary haiku poets. A book by Robert in the Digital Library is The Cottage of Wild Plum and be sure to check out the Haiku Foundation videos: Robert Spiess on the Essence of Haiku, Robert Spiess on His History in Haiku and The Haiku Foundation Readings: Robert Spiess.

Just a few of the many articles about Robert and his life and poetry include:

No wind
the chrysalis

Hawthorn blossoms;
the orangutan
sits in his outer cage

It showered—
the desert toads are singing
for a single night

Field of thawing snow—
a boy in muddy boots
flies a crimson kite

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library and please share your favorite poem from the book with us.

Do you have a chapbook published in 2015 or earlier that you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details. Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by THF Digital Librarian Dan Campbell and are used with permission.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I especially enjoyed MDW’s interview with Robert Spiess. I didn’t know Bob that well, but he published some of my early haiku and, later, we exchanged a few letters. A mark of his generosity. . . . When I was the librarian of the El Rito (N.M.) Library (c. 2000), we reminisced about the haiku poet Foster Jewell, who lived in El Rito before I did. Bob responded by sending me several of Jewell’s books, a precious addition to the library’s haiku collection. (Incidentally, since I moved from El Rito, John Brandi and his wife Renee Gregorio moved in; and so, haiku and senryu are still being written in that little, remote village.)

  2. Back in the last century, I sent Robert Spiess one of my many poor attempts at haiku…something about a Shakespeare-quoting-dishwasher with decayed teeth. He responded by sharing one of his masterpieces:

    Blossoming grove
    the holy-man with rotten teeth
    blesses a throng

    I framed Robert’s handwritten haiku and placed it in my sanctum sanctorum (writing room).
    Robert Spiess was not just a master haiku poet and great editor, he was more importantly, a kind and generous man.

  3. Thank you, Dan. I particularly liked:

    Lilacs, —
    the season
    grandmother waited for

    How that rainbow burns!
    – and so common here
    not a forehead turns

    The whistling swans recede—
    their sheer whiteness gleaming
    far down the spring sky

    (I wonder whether editors would accept them from unknown poets, these days..?)

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