When Rob Scott invited me to guest edit a Per Diem collection for the Haiku Foundation at the end of last year, I readily and gratefully accepted, choosing the theme ‘Crimes of Passion’ for the month of August 2020. I chose this theme because it fascinates me — the subject is ripe with possibility, and it has not been overly exploited in modern haiku.
As I scoured the archives, journals, and social media for haiku on the theme, I discovered that such haiku are in fact quite rare in modern English Language haiku, comprising only a small percentage of all haiku. But like all haiku, some touched on the theme only tangentially, some quite subtle in their approach, while still others were strikingly overt.
I could not find all the authors of the haiku I wished to include in the Per Diem and even had to leave out a few poets and poems I would like to have included because there are only 31 days in August.
During my search, I became obsessed with one particular haiku and spent countless hours researching its author in an attempt to obtain the rights to publish his haiku for the August Per Diem. It is the story of a man residing in a remote and sparsely populated mountain region of Western Japan, who bludgeoned to death in a revenge killing several of his elderly neighbors and burned their houses to the ground. He wrote a haunting haiku and pasted it to the window of his home…
setting a fire
smoke gives delight
to a country fellow
The police found Kosei Homi, the murderer, hiding in the woods in only his underwear. He has been sentenced to death by hanging for his crime of passion.
— Michael H. Lester