Author Topic: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku  (Read 4189 times)

Larry Bole

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Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« on: May 08, 2011, 09:17:59 PM »
Reading things here and elsewhere recently has led me to wondering what English-language books on the subject of haiku people have read.

What books do people think are essential for an understanding of the Japanese haiku tradition? And what books may not be essential, but are important to people for one reason or another?

And I'm also curious, if the same books appear over and over (assuming anyone finds this topic interesting), how many people who frequent this site, particularly those under 40 let's say, have read these books?

And finally, does one need to understand the Japanese haiku tradition in order to be an accomplished English-language haiku poet? If not, then reading these books becomes merely academic. I bring this up because I think there are two approaches being taken toward English-language haiku writing today: attempting to follow the Japanese haiku tradition as closely as possible in English, and following what I call a 'concept' of what a haiku is. These two things often overlap, or at least touch on each other, but they are not necessarily always the same thing. I think the 'concept' of haiku approach to writing English-language haiku has developed out of the numerous attempts  over the years by various English-language authors/authorities to define for an English-language audience just what a haiku is.  These definitions have tended to be, in my estimation, inclusive as opposed to exclusive; and in order to be as inclusive as possible, have created a 'concept' of what a haiku is that doesn't always correlate to the Japanese haiku tradition. Of course, a number of modern practitioners of haiku in Japan (since Shiki) haven't always conformed to the Japanese haiku tradition either. Anyway...

My list of English-language books I consider essential for an understanding of the Japanese haiku tradition are:

Blyth's 4 -vol. Haiku, and 2 - vol. History Haiku. These books would be even more essential if Blyth had provided more background and contextual information than he does about the haiku translated.

Ueda, Modern Japanese Haiku (for the introduction)

Miner, Japanese Linked Poetry

Miner and Odagiri, The Monkey's Straw Raincoat and Other Poetry of the Basho School

Higginson, The Haiku Handbook

Higginson, The Haiku Seasons

Ueda, Basho and His Interpreters (for its glimpse of Japanese haiku criticism)

Shirane, Traces of Dreams (along with Blyth, the most essential of the essential)

Keene, Dawn to the West (section on The Modern Haiku)

Kawamoto, The Poetics of Japanese Verse (Chapter 2, The Poetics of the Haiku)

Qiu, Basho and the Dao


And books I've found important, but not absolutely essential:

Henderson, An Introduction to Haiku

Mayhew, Monkey's Raincoat

Giroux, The Haiku Form

Beichman, Masaoka Shiki

Gill and Gerstle, ed., Rediscovering Basho (some of the chapters)

Nakagawa, Studies on English Haiku

Kametaro, Messages from Matsuyama


--Larry





AlanSummers

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Re: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2011, 05:11:55 AM »
Hi Larry,

Welcome to the THF forum, I see this is your third post. ;-)


Reading things here and elsewhere recently has led me to wondering what English-language books on the subject of haiku people have read.


Gosh, I couldn't possibly list all my books on haiku as I never data input them, some 1000 titles at least. 

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What books do people think are essential for an understanding of the Japanese haiku tradition? And what books may not be essential, but are important to people for one reason or another?


Good questions!

For the first question, any book that contains quality English-language translations of either Classic, Modern or Contemporary Japanese haiku.  You can't simply read Classic Japanese Haiku only, that's weird, and you need to read both Modern and Contemporary Japanese haiku as well.

So Modern Haiku Association anthologies are a must of course, and ones by Ban'ya Natsuishi as well.
Richard Gilbert's Poems of Consciousness book and DVD on gendai haiku.

I also collect a few nonsense books like the Hallmark Cards Haiku Anthology which forms part of my collator duty as historian.

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And I'm also curious, if the same books appear over and over (assuming anyone finds this topic interesting), how many people who frequent this site, particularly those under 40 let's say, have read these books?


I'll have to leave that to the under 40s then. ;-)

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And finally, does one need to understand the Japanese haiku tradition in order to be an accomplished English-language haiku poet?


Unfortunately no.  Being a Virgo I studied, and still constantly study, Japanese haiku, for nearly 20 years now.  Many people do not bother alas.  You can be an accomplished and published EL haiku writer without knowing almost anything about Japanese haiku.

Personally I couldn't do that. ;-)


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If not, then reading these books becomes merely academic.


There could be a lot of people who would resist reading essays and articles on Japanese haiku, and also resist reading any tomes on haiku.  When I first discovered haiku I was lucky to stumble across copies of the Haiku Handbook by Bill Higginson and Penny Harter at a local branch library in Ipswich, Queensland.  I immediately got a copy out, and as I was popping over to KL, Malayasia the next day I decided to read the book on the plane, and during the nights I stayed over at the conference hotel.  Of course I devoured the book from cover to cover, and then back again to the beginning.  Would many people have that patience?

I studied books (little quality stuff on the internet in early 1990s) for five years, as well as submitting to Japanese magazines, and USA ones such as Modern Haiku and Frogpond, before I felt I should hold my first workshop. 

Alas, many people hold workshops on haiku and don't know the slightest thing about haiku, which I find weird as well, but others don't. ;-)

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I bring this up because I think there are two approaches being taken toward English-language haiku writing today: attempting to follow the Japanese haiku tradition as closely as possible in English, and following what I call a 'concept' of what a haiku is.


Intriguing. ;-) 

I certainly had to suffer reading endless cherry blossom haiku from every country in the West, and  other clichés as if they were Japanese haiku but in English.  Things are better in the haiku community, but the wide world web still has tens of thousands of badly written verse pretending to be Japanese etc...

We cannot ignore tens of thousands of people who feel anything in 17 syllables in a 575 pattern is automatically haiku, and have no interest in knowing any other aspect of what they think haiku are.

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These two things often overlap, or at least touch on each other, but they are not necessarily always the same thing. I think the 'concept' of haiku approach to writing English-language haiku has developed out of the numerous attempts  over the years by various English-language authors/authorities to define for an English-language audience just what a haiku is.  These definitions have tended to be, in my estimation, inclusive as opposed to exclusive; and in order to be as inclusive as possible, have created a 'concept' of what a haiku is that doesn't always correlate to the Japanese haiku tradition. Of course, a number of modern practitioners of haiku in Japan (since Shiki) haven't always conformed to the Japanese haiku tradition either. Anyway...


Do you mean in that last statement, that Japanese haiku writers didn't conform to Shiki's interpretations?  Do you mean just his shasei beginner stage or all of his stages?


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My list of English-language books I consider essential for an understanding of the Japanese haiku tradition are:

Blyth's 4 -vol. Haiku, and 2 - vol. History Haiku. These books would be even more essential if Blyth had provided more background and contextual information than he does about the haiku translated.


I've borrowed them from the Haiku Library (UK) but rarely go back to these anymore due to the slant towards zen buddhism, and his avoidence of gendai. 

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Ueda, Modern Japanese Haiku (for the introduction)

Miner, Japanese Linked Poetry

Miner and Odagiri, The Monkey's Straw Raincoat and Other Poetry of the Basho School


Yep, good standard books to get from a library, unless you have a great budget, because there are so many books out there. ;-)

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Higginson, The Haiku Handbook

Higginson, The Haiku Seasons


Anything by Bill Higginson is an absolute must.  I notice that you don't include Haiku World by Bill, any reason for that?

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Ueda, Basho and His Interpreters (for its glimpse of Japanese haiku criticism)

Shirane, Traces of Dreams (along with Blyth, the most essential of the essential)

Keene, Dawn to the West (section on The Modern Haiku)

Kawamoto, The Poetics of Japanese Verse (Chapter 2, The Poetics of the Haiku)

Qiu, Basho and the Dao


But not 1020 Haiku in Translation? : http://www.amazon.com/1020-Haiku-Translation-Heart-Basho/dp/1419627651

A few more Basho era titles (the ones in English that are proper ones, I have):
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&field-author=Matsuo%20Basho

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And books I've found important, but not absolutely essential:

Henderson, An Introduction to Haiku

Mayhew, Monkey's Raincoat

Giroux, The Haiku Form

Beichman, Masaoka Shiki


I've a soft spot on Janine Beichman's book after a long and pleasant ride on shinkansen with her from Akita. ;-)

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Gill and Gerstle, ed., Rediscovering Basho (some of the chapters)

Nakagawa, Studies on English Haiku

Kametaro, Messages from Matsuyama


All good to have as part of the kit though.  I got Messages from Matsuyama from a Santa Monica bookshop so it pays to get around and check. ;-)

I'll look forward to other responses, and try to type some of my books into the computer some time. ;-)

Alan

chibi575

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Re: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2011, 06:41:43 AM »
Great references all.

I personally would add any of Robin D. Gill's books as well as Paul O. Williams, "The Nick Of Time: Essays on Haiku Aesthetics".  Anything from Patricia Donegan, too.  I would also google my pants off with key words like "kigo" "kireji" "kakekotoba" "World Kigo Database" etc...  Of course, you could spend the rest of your life and a large part of you time "reading" about poetry (Japanese poetry especially); but, the muse inside us poets just won't stand for too much of that... you know!!

Thanks Larry and Alan...

Ciao... chibi
知美

AlanSummers

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Re: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2011, 07:43:08 AM »
I have three of Robin's books, and he may still respond to emails.  He's very open and polite and generous.

A big yes to everything you've said.  Can't wait for others to add books etc... ;-)

Alan

Don Baird

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Re: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2011, 01:57:04 PM »
Hi Larry,

Welcome aboard!  It's great seeing you here.  Thanks for joining in.  Your posts are wonderful and a pleasure to read and ponder.

take care ... and thanks again for joining in.

Don
I write haiku because they're there ...

through
the hole of a cheerio,
spring!

Larry Bole

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Re: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2011, 11:04:47 AM »
Thanks for all the comments so far!

I tried to make the lists fundamental and manageable. I won't be able to read a thousand books about haiku, in this lifetime anyway!

I didn't include Higginson's World Haiku, because it is an attempt to establish a worldwide, contemporary saijiki, which goes beyond a basic understanding of the Japanese haiku tradition in my opinion. I think Higginson's The Haiku Seasons is more fundamental reading for an understanding of saijiki and seasonality in the Japanese haiku tradition.

I think it's possible to spend too much time reading, especially if it cuts into time spent writing. This is a delicate balance that writers in all genres have to deal with.

Many of the books I've listed I haven't read in years, but I do go back to them from time to time for reference purposes. I do think it's possible to get too caught up in the Japanese haiku tradition, in a way that can be inhibiting in the writing of ELH.

By post-Shiki, in terms of straying from the Japanese haiku tradition, I mean Japanese haijin such as Hekigodoo, Seisensui, and Soojoo (and not forgetting eccentrics such as Hoosai and Santooka), who started writing outside the tradition of Japanese haiku in terms of accepted form, the use of kigo, and traditional subject matter. This  new 'tradition' of experimentation, as has been pointed out, continues to this day.  Although it's been reported that Mayuzumi Madoka has recently asserted that the writing of haiku in Japan is beginning to move away from experimentation and back toward a more traditional approach.

I enjoy Donegan's work on haiku, but I wouldn't call it essential in a fundamental way. I think I took a workshop from her in Chicago back in the 70s, when she had recently returned from being a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea (or some kind of volunteer), although I may be misremembering, and confusing her with someone else.

Blyth is somewhat essential for the sheer number of haiku he translated. But for me, the most essential Blyth is found in his History of Haiku, particularly in the two chapters on Shiki as a critic. In my opinion, there has not been nearly enough translated into English of haiku criticism by Japanese authors. For instance, where is the complete Kyorai's Conversations with Basho in English? Or maybe it exists, and I've missed it?

I also should have probably included Sato's One Hundred Frogs in my list of informative books.

Larry Bole

AlanSummers

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Re: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2011, 11:32:53 AM »
Hi Larry,

re:
Although it's been reported that Mayuzumi Madoka has recently asserted that the writing of haiku in Japan is beginning to move away from experimentation and back toward a more traditional approach.

The Hepburn Club creator, not to be confused with the language sorter, has a residency in France, and has appeared at British and French Embassies recently for invited guests.

Alas I was busy working so couldn't catch her in Britain.

I'm a big fan of her work but disagree that French haiku should follow 575 syllables etc...

Alan

AlanSummers

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Re: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2011, 11:43:05 AM »
I'd also say it's necessary to read a lot as a poet.  U.K. national poets like Tim Liardet (a poet's poet) and Carrie Etter (recently won £10,000 for her poetry collection) read as much contemporary poetry as they can, plus modern and classic work from Milton onwards.

Both are of course, reviewers, but they'd buy the books most of the time anyway, if they weren't given them to review for literary poetry journals or national newspapers.

If I had the budget I would buy every single poetry book in the world, and spend time writing as well, but nowhere nice, that's my undoing.  A book in a pokey corner and a With Words Haiku Journal notebook when something kicks off in my brain will do for me! ;-)

Alan

Mary Stevens

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Re: Books in English on the Subject of Haiku
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2011, 06:25:36 AM »
Carter, Steven. Traditional Japanese Poetry

Gurga, Lee. Haiku: A Poet's Guide

Strand, Clark: Seeds from a Birch Tree
"A word that breathes distinctly
Has not the power to die..."

            —Emily Dickinson