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James William Hackett

James William Hackett

August 6, 1929 - November 9, 2015

A pioneer of English-language haiku, James W. Hackett was born in Seattle, Washington. He studied history and philosophy at the University of Washington, and earned a graduate degree in art history from the University of Michigan. He discovered haiku in the 1950s, and was mentored by R.H. Blyth. A near-fatal accident became a spiritual turning point that led him to a life devoted to Zen and haiku. He spent many years in California before settling in Haiku, Hawaii. Some of his early haiku appeared in the premiere issue of American Haiku, the first English-language haiku journal, including a variation on this oft-cited poem that won the Grand Prize (two round-trip tickets to Japan) in a 1964 National Haiku Contest sponsored by Japan Air Lines:

          A bitter morning:
               sparrows sitting together
                    without any necks.

Another of his signature haiku, the opening poem in that premiere issue, won first prize in a contest sponsored by the journal:

          Searching on the wind,
               the hawk's cry . . .
                    is the shape of its beak.

These two haiku, along with Hackett's twenty "Suggestions for Writing Haiku" and his "credo about haiku" were included in Harold G. Henderson's 1965 classic Haiku in English. Hackett's work was cited by Henderson, Blyth, Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Merton, and others. A comprehensive essay, "Shangri-La: James W. Hackett’s Life in Haiku," by Charles Trumbull, appears in the inaugural issue of Juxtapositions: The Journal of Haiku Research and Scholarship, available on The Haiku Foundation website.

Awards and Other Honors: [a partial list] Grand Prize, Japan Air Lines National Haiku Contest [from some 41,000 entries; judged by Alan Watts] (1964); R.H. Blyth included 30 haiku by Hackett in volume two of The History of Haiku as examples of haiku being written in English; in 1974, the Haiku Society of America selected Hackett's Haiku Poetry Volume One, as one of the recipients of that organization's first awards; his work appears in all three editions (1974, 1986, 1999) of Cor van den Heuvel's The Haiku Anthology; The James W. Hackett Annual International Award for Haiku was administered by the British Haiku Society from 1991 to 2009.

Books Published: Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English, Volumes One and Two (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968), Volumes Three and Four (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1968); The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Bug Haiku: Original Poems in English (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1968); The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); A Traveler's Haiku: Original Poems in English (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 2004).

Selected Work
 
The last of winter
     melting into a mountain lake:
          this morning's moon.
 
A single cricket
     warms the quiet
          of this lonely night.
 
 
 
Wherever I look
     within this blue summer wind,
          I can find a seed.
 
Autumn evening . . .
     the weight and shape of this moment
          is a distant bell.
 
 
 
Half of the minnows
     within this sunlit shallow
          are not really there.
 
   Ever lingering
in the taste of the walnut:
   deep autumn.
 
 
 
Deep within the stream
the huge fish lie motionless
facing the current
 
The monastery dog
     bids the stranger welcome
          with wagging silence.
 
 
 
Through the gossamer wings
     of this still dragonfly . . .
          the blooming cosmos.
 
Now at journey's end,
     circling the shallow stream . . .
          years of open sea.
 
 

Credits: [a partial list; some reflect variations] "A bitter morning" – R.H. Blyth, A History of Haiku II (The Hokuseido Press, 1963); American Haiku 1:1 (1963); Haiku ’64 (Japan Air Lines National Haiku Contest 1964), Winner; Hackett, Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); Harold G. Henderson, Haiku in English (Tuttle Publications, 1967); Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English Volume One (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Haiku West 4:1 (July 1970); Joan Giroux, The Haiku Form (Tuttle Publishing, 1974); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 1986); San Francisco Haiku Anthology (1992); Woodnotes 30 (autumn 1996); Haïku sans frontières (Web, 1998); Chaba Website; Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (W.W. Norton, 1999); Swede and Brooks, ed., Global Haiku (2000); Modern Haiku 37:2 (summer 2006); big sky: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2006 (Red Moon Press, 2007); Cornell University Mann Library's Daily Haiku [Web] (November 27, 2007); Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns [editors] Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013); Allan Burns [editor] Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2013);

"Searching on the wind" – First Place, American Haiku Contest (1962); American Haiku 1:1 (1963); Hackett, Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); American Haiku 3:2 (1965); Henderson, Haiku in English; Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English Volume One (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Haiku West 4:1 (July 1970); High/Coo 2:7 (February 1978)); The Haiku Anthology [Cor van den Heuvel, editor] (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 1986); A Haiku Path: The Haiku Society of America 1968-1988 (Haiku Society of America, Inc., 1994); The Haiku Anthology [Cor van den Heuvel, editor] (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 1986); Clement Hoyt, Storm of Stars: the Collected Poems and Essays of Clement Hoyt (1906-1970) (The Green World, 1976); High/Coo 7 (February 1978); Frogpond 1:2 (May 1978); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (Simon & Schuster, 1986); San Francisco Haiku Anthology [Bell, Gay, and Tico, editors] (Smythe-Waithe Press, 1992); Haïku sans frontières (Web, 1998); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (W.W. Norton, 1999); Frogpond 24:3 (2001); Frogpond 28:2 (spring-summer 2005); Cornell University Mann Library's Daily Haiku [Web] (November 16, 2007); Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns [editors] Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013); Allan Burns [editor] Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2013);

"The last of winter" - American Haiku 1:2 (1963); Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English Volume Two (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); Allan Burns [editor] Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2013);

"Wherever I look" - Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English, Volume Three (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1968); Hackett, Bug Haiku: Original Poems in English (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983);

"Half of the minnows" - R.H. Blyth, A History of Haiku II (The Hokuseido Press, 1963); Hackett, Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English Volume One (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, Bug Haiku: Original Poems in English (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Joan Giroux, The Haiku Form (Tuttle Publishing, 1974); The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (Simon & Schuster, 1986); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (W.W. Norton, 1999); Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns [editors] Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013); Allan Burns [editor] Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2013);

"Deep within the stream" - R.H. Blyth, A History of Haiku II (The Hokuseido Press, 1963); Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English Volume One (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, Bug Haiku: Original Poems in English (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Joan Giroux, The Haiku Form (Tuttle Publishing, 1974); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (Anchor Press/ Doubleday, 1974); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (Simon & Schuster, 1986); Haïku sans frontières (Web, 1998); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology (W.W. Norton, 1999); Frogpond 28:1 (2005); inside the mirror: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2005 (Red Moon Press, 2006); Cornell University Mann Library's Daily Haiku [Web, 1998] (November 14, 2007); Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns [editors] Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013); Allan Burns [editor] Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2013);

"Through the gossamer wings" - Hackett, Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English Volume One (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983);

"A single cricket" - American Haiku 1:1 (1963); Hackett, Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English Volume One (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, Bug Haiku; Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Haiku West 4:2 (January 1971); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983);

"Autumn evening" - American Haiku 1:1 (1963); Hackett, Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English, Volume One (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); San Francisco Haiku Anthology [Bell, Gay, and Tico, editors] (Smythe-Waithe Press, 1992);

"Ever lingering" - R.H. Blyth, A History of Haiku II (The Hokuseido Press, 1963); Hackett, Haiku Poetry (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1964); Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English, Volume One (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); William J. Higginson, Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac (Kodansha International, 1996); Patricia Donegan, Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness & Open Your Heart (Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2008);

"The monastery dog" - Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English, Volume Three (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1968); Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); Cornell University Mann Library's Daily Haiku [Web] (December 28, 2007);

"Now at journey's end" - Hackett, Haiku Poetry: Original Verse in English, Volume Two (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1968), Hackett, The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poetry (San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969); Hackett, The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J.W. Hackett (Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc., 1983); Cornell University Mann Library's Daily Haiku [Web] (November 30, 2007).

Additional Reading: "Shangri-La: James W. Hackett’s Life in Haiku," by Charles Trumbull, Juxtapositions: The Journal of Haiku Research and Scholarship, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2015); a biography written by D.W. Bender, additional information, and examples of his haiku appear on the website dedicated to his life and work: http://www.hacketthaiku.com/; Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns [editors], Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013); Allan Burns [editor], Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2013).

Sources Biography: Appreciation is due to Olga Hooper for the photograph taken August 6, 2009, on his birthday. Sources for biographical information include A Haiku Path: The Haiku Society of America 1968-1988 (Haiku Society of America, Inc., 1994); Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns [editors], Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013); Allan Burns [editor], Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku (Snapshot Press, 2013); "Shangri-La: James W. Hackett’s Life in Haiku," by Charles Trumbull, Juxtapositions: The Journal of Haiku Research and Scholarship, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2015). Appreciation is also due Charles Trumbull for assistance in gathering representative haiku and publication credits.

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