The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The Unswept Path: Contemporary American Haiku

Ok, ok, I admit it. I am a HAIKU JUNKIE, I can say it, I'm not afraid. And this week my weakness won and I bought this lovely book of Contemporary American Haiku.
I have quite a few Haiku collections which I hope to feature here at times in the future, and from which I feature poems for Haiku of the week (in the column to your right). I love both traditional and contemporary versions of these three line poems. I am not going to present the Japanese history or dynamics here. You can learn more about Haiku origins and rules, if you wish, by clicking here.
Each chapter in this anthology is written by a different poet, with a short introduction followed by a small collection of their work. Each chapter is very firmly written in the voice of its author, creating some very diverse styles of thought and subject matter, some traditional, gentle, nature-based and seasonal, some more modern, punchy and unusual, even.
The introductions to each poet are also individual and a joy to read. We have a couple who lived in a run down house in Japan for many years and wrote poetry about their stay. We have a man who had a brief but passionate affair with a mysterious Japanese woman with whom he translated some haiku into English and then wrote his own about her. We have an old couple who have lived in Japan for many years, writing and walking their way through the landscape they love, only now in their eighties, find themselves in sheltered accomodation and too ill to go far from home. There are many more.
The introductions also include many descriptions of what Haiku means to them, why this very distinct form of writing is important to them. My particular favourite came from Patricia Donegan...
"Haiku can be the antedote to the speed of post-modern culture, allowing one to step off the spinning wheel, to stop and breathe deeply and slowly. To note the birth and death of each moment."
There will be many haiku from this book that will make it onto Haiku of the week so look out for those. There are also links on the right hand column for good Haiku sites that I know of...


Gentle Reader said...

I love the quote from Patricia Donegan--"to note the birth and death of each moment". Haiku sounds like meditation to me! I think I might need to read some :)

Leah said...

There are some lovely descriptions throughout the book, and I guess haiku are like meditations, especially when you revisit them again and again. There is a sense of calm about them.

Alan Summers said...

I've enjoyed this book too, and it nestles quite comfortably with the other 200 or more books on haiku without getting lost at all.

I don't know if you can come to either South of England book launches of Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku but we'd sure love to see you! ;-)

Details of both launches
are at Area 17: weblink

Cloudscome said...

This looks fabulous. I am looking forward to your postings.

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