William J. Higginson

William J. Higginson

December 17, 1938 - October 11, 2008

An icon of English-language haiku, William J. ("Bill") Higginson was born in New York City and was raised there and in Bergenfield, New Jersey. Before moving back to Summit, New Jersey, where he lived with his wife, poet and fiction writer, Penny Harter, from 2002 until his death in 2008, Higginson had lived for some years in Hamden, Connecticut; Paterson, New Jersey; and, with Harter, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Higginson received his B.A. with honors in English from Southern Connecticut State College. While in the U.S. Air Force, he studied Japanese at Yale and served two years in Japan, where he began writing and translating. He taught high school English, mathematics, and Japanese, and taught literature, composition, public speaking, and creative writing at Union County College, New Jersey. He led writing workshops for children and adults at schools and literary and arts festivals throughout North America, including the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festivals in New Jersey and the Border Book Festivals in New Mexico, and in Japan. In 1975, Higginson founded From Here Press in Paterson, New Jersey, publishing poetry chapbooks by Allen Ginsberg, Ruth Stone, and others. Poet, translator, author, workshop leader, editor, and teacher, as well a charter member and past president of the Haiku Society of America, Higginson helped bring haiku and linked-form Japanese poetry to the English-language world. His Haiku Handbook, written with Harter, is one of the most widely-read English-language haiku books and will be released in a deluxe 25th anniversary edition. Two other books, Haiku World and The Haiku Seasons, continue to be very popular as well. He was a mentor to countless haiku poets, including extensive involvement through various Internet activities. His blog, with commentary on haiku publications, remains a key research and information tool: http://haikaipub.wordpress.com/about/. His Renku Home Website is an essential compendium for anyone interested in Japanese-style linked poetry: http://www.2hweb.net/haikai/renku. He also served as moderator of the "Haiku and Related Forms" category on the Open Directory. Jim Kacian, editor of the Postscripts Series (Red Moon Press), wrote that Higginson "was particularly active as a promoter of, as well as a joyful collaborator in, renku in his last decade, and often brought a professorial mien to these activities. Nevertheless, it is an opposing quality—beginner’s mind—that was his greatest charm and will be his most enduring legacy."

Awards and Other Honors: (a partial list): Member, Selection Committee for the Masaoka Shiki Awards in International Haiku, Ehime Prefecture Culture Foundation, Japan (2000, 2002, 2004); Honorary Curator, American Haiku Archive, California State Library, Sacramento, California (2003-2004); Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award for translation (with Tadashi Kondō), for Red Fuji: Selected Haiku of Yatsuka Ishihara (1998); Translation Grant, Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry (1994); Inducted into the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame (1989); Member, Governor's Task Force on Literacy in the Arts, a New Jersey Educational Commission (1987-1989); Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award for Textbook/Scholarly Work (with Penny Harter), for The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (1986); Writing Fellowship in Poetry, New Jersey State Council on the Arts (1977); Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award for critical writing, for Itadakimasu: Essays on Haiku and Senryu in English (1974, one of the first Merit Book Awards); Prize for Best Haiku of the Meeting, Haiku Society of America (May 1969); winner of the first Haiku Society of America adjudicated haiku contest (1968). Higginson’s poems and essays appear in numerous literary journals, anthologies, and encyclopedias. His work as a visiting poet in elementary and secondary schools and community arts programs has been documented in New Jersey English Journal and in books from Teachers & Writers Collaborative, including Classics in the Classroom: Using Great Literature to Teach Writing (1999) and The Alphabet of the Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing (2000).

Books Published: (a partial list): The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World, second edition (Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2008) [Literary history and comparative literature: First edition from Kodansha International, 1996]; 4 Sequences (From Here Press, 2007); Surfing on Magma (Summit, NJ: From Here Press, 2006) [Poems]; Butterfly Dreams: The Seasons through Haiku and Photographs, translator, with Michael Lustbader, photographer (Aliquippa, PA: Natural Tapestries, 2006) [Electronic book, translations of Japanese haiku, with commentaries]; A Summer Surgery (Summit, NJ: From Here Press, 2005) [Haiku and prose, with Waiting, a haiku sequence by Penny Harter]; Kiyose: Seasonword Guide (From Here Press, 2005); Sixty instant messages to Tom Moore [with Paul Muldoon and Lee Gurga] (Modern Haiku Press, 2005); Over the Wave: Selected Haiku of Ritsuo Okada, co-editor and co-translator with Tadashi Kondô (Santa Fe: From Here Press, 2001); The Seasons in Haiku (Mountains and Rivers Press); Red Fuji: Selected Haiku of Yatsuka Ishihara, co-editor and co-translator with Tadashi Kondô (Santa Fe: From Here Press, 1997); Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1996) [Anthology of 1,000 poems by 650 poets from 50 countries, with commentary]; The seasons in haikai (Irvington Press, 1996); Haiku Compass: Directions in the Poetical Map of the United States of America (Haiku International Association, 1994); Met on the Road: A Transcontinental Haiku Journal [chapbook that includes the work of 48 poets met during the journey Bill and Penny made from New Jersey to New Mexico] (Press Here, 1993); Wind in the Long Grass: A Collection of Haiku, editor and translator (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991/Silver Burdett-Ginn, 1993) [International anthology for children]; Seasoned haiku: a report on haiku selected by the seasons for publication in Frogpond in 1990, with an invitation to participate (Fanwood, 1990); The big waves : Meisetsu, Shiki, Hekigotō, Kyoshi, Hakyō (translator) (Fanwood, 1989);Ten Years Collected Haiku, Volume 1 (From Here Press, 1987); The Healing and Other Poems (Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1986); The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku, with Penny Harter (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985/Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1989); Paterson Pieces: Poems 1969-1979 (Fanwood, NJ: Old Plate Press, 1981); Between Two Rivers: Union County Literature Today, co-editor with Penny Harter (Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1981) [Anthology of a wide range of literature]; Death Is & Approaches to the Edge (From Here Press, 1981); Christmas night in Paterson (From Here Press, 1975); Don't you build your highway here (From Here Press, 1975); Thistle Brilliant Morning: Translations from the Japanese (translator) (From Here Press, 1975); Eastre (From Here Press, 1975); Used poems (with Penny Harter) (Winter Solstice, 1978); Twenty-Five Pieces of Now: Classical Japanese Haiku with English Translations (translations self-published by Higginson -- as "Hian", 1968).

Selected Work
 
Holding the water
held by it—
the dark mud.
 
thump and screech—
the long freight pulls out
in robin's song
 
 
 
the kinglet weighs . . .
nothing in my hand
October
 
the fence post
hangs upright in the washout—
mid-summer heat
 
 
 
the tick, tick
of snow on the reeds . . .
sparrow
 
delicate bones
of a hand tracing histories—
the cold studio
 
 
 
writing again
the tea water
boiled dry
 
spring rain
rereading my own book
I fall asleep
 
 
 
New Year's Eve…
thieves have left my car open
in the falling snow
 
The clock
   chimes chimes and stops,
      but the river . . .
 
 

Credits: [incomplete] "Holding the water" - Haiku West 3:2 (1970);The Haiku Anthology (ed. Cor van den Heuvel, Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1974); The Haiku Anthology (ed. Cor van den Heuvel, Simon and Schuster, 1986); Ten Years Collected Haiku Vol. 1 (From Here Press, 1987); Haiku Moment: An Anthology of Contemporary North American Haiku (Bruce Ross, ed., Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1993); The Haiku Anthology (ed. Cor van den Heuvel, W.W. Norton Company, 1999); upright in the washout [a posthumous collection of the haiku of William J. Higginson] (Jim Kacian, ed., Red Moon Press postscripts series #9, 2008); "the kinglet weighs: - Modern Haiku 36:3 (from haibun, 2005); "the tick, tick" - Modern Haiku 20:2 (1989); Haiku Moment: An Anthology of Contemporary North American Haiku (Bruce Ross, ed., Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1993); upright in the washout [a posthumous collection of the haiku of William J. Higginson] (Jim Kacian, ed., Red Moon Press postscripts series #9, 2008); "writing again" - The Haiku Anthology (ed. Cor van den Heuvel, Simon and Schuster, 1986); The Haiku Anthology (ed. Cor van den Heuvel, W.W. Norton, 1999); Still 2:1; Summer Surgery/Waiting (by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter, From Here Press 2005); upright in the washout [a posthumous collection of the haiku of William J. Higginson] (Jim Kacian, ed., Red Moon Press postscripts series #9, 2008); "New Year's Eve" [after Bashô's met with thieves] – Frogpond 17:4 (1994); upright in the washout [a posthumous collection of the haiku of William J. Higginson] (Jim Kacian, ed., Red Moon Press postscripts series #9, 2008); "thump and screech" – Heron's Nest Award: The Heron's Nest 2:7 (2000); "the fence post" - The Haiku Anthology (ed. Cor van den Heuvel, W.W. Norton, 1999); upright in the washout [a posthumous collection of the haiku of William J. Higginson] (Jim Kacian, ed., Red Moon Press postscripts series #9, 2008);"delicate bones" - Frogpond 20:2 (from sequence for Geraldine Little, 1997); upright in the washout [a posthumous collection of the haiku of William J. Higginson] (Jim Kacian, ed., Red Moon Press postscripts series #9, 2008); "spring rain" - Modern Haiku 36:3 (2005); upright in the washout [a posthumous collection of the haiku of William J. Higginson] (Jim Kacian, ed., Red Moon Press postscripts series #9, 2008); "The clock" - Ten Years Collected Haiku Vol. 1 (From Here Press, 1987); Haiku Moment: An Anthology of Contemporary North American Haiku (Bruce Ross, ed., Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1993).

Additional Reading: (a partial list): “Haiku Is Mainstream" (with Penny Harter), Modern Haiku 37:3 (2006); "Haiku by the Numbers, Seriously” (critical/historical essay), Haikai Home web site; “Net Kasen Renku: Summer Haze” (experimental multi-dimensional poetry) with Paul Terrance Conneally and Peggy Willis Lyles, Renku Home web site; “Less is more: Haiku is flourishing in the Internet age” (article on history and current situation of haiku in English): The Writer (September 2001, 20-23); “The ‘Webolution’ of Haiku” (portions of keynote address from the Global Haiku Festival, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois, April 15, 2000); Temps Libre web site, http://www.tempslibres.org/aozora/en/hart/hart08.html; “thump and screech” (haiku, “The Heron’s Nest Award” with editor’s comments; The Heron’s Nest 2:7 (online and print, July 2000), (August 2000); “Selected Tanka Bibliography with Notes” (expansion of the bibliography published with article “Tanka: With Feeling,” Gerald England, editor: The Art of Haiku 2000 (UK: New Hope International, 2000; page put up January 24, 2000); “The concerns of a half-century career” (review of The Gary Snyder Reader by Gary Snyder (Washington: Counterpoint, 1999), (The Santa Fe New Mexican, November 7, 1999, F-2); “Legatura si schimbarea: ghid practic pentru compunerea poemului renku” [Link and Shift: A practical guide to renku composition] (how-to) co-authored with Tadashi Kondo, translated by Mihaela Codrescu (Albatros/Albatross, combined issue whole numbers V and VI (Constantsa, Romania, Spring 1996-Winter 1997, 124-136); “The Four Seasons in Santa Fe” ([personal essay with 8 haiku, with a Japanese translation by Hashimoto Kayoko] (Suimei, 70:4 (Urawa, Japan, Apr. 1997), 36-41); “Haiku Compass (U.S.A.)” [selection of 13 haiku by U.S. poets, including “the withered iris” by Higginson, presented with Dutch translations] (Vuursteen: tijdschrift voor haiku, senryû en tanka 15:3 - Best, Netherlands, Autumn 1995, 114-115); “Kasen Renku: The Full Moon” co-coordinator with Penny Harter—winner, 1993 HSA Renku Competition. Frogpond, 17:1 (Spring 1994, 15-18); “A Sense of the Language” [essay] (Blithe Spirit, 3:3, Northumberland, UK, July 1993, 10-11); “Bashô Kikô” [“Bashô Travel Diary”] (Japanese translation by Kondô Tadashi of travel diary with haiku by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter of visit to Bashô-related sites in Kyoto, Ueno, and Otsu, Japan): Haiku Kenkyû, 56:10 (Tokyo, Oct. 1989, 176-179); Itadakimasu: Essays on haiku and senryu in English (J & C Transcripts, 1971); Cycling Paterson: a Haiku / Senryu Sequence (Seer Ox, 1974).

Sources Biography: Penny Harter; biographical and autobiographical information posted on Higginson's Web site http://www.2hweb.net/; upright in the washout (ed. Kacian, Red Moon Press postscripts series volume 9, 2008). Appreciation is also due Charles Trumbull for assistance in gathering representative haiku and publication credits.

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