Haiku: a perfect nest for our thoughts?

addissgrass sandalshaiku handbook

“Haiku are the perfect size for holding our encounters with the natural world….Haiku are brief, yet incredibly open and at the same time very exact.” — Jane Reichhold, translator

They are direct, remarkably observant, seemingly simple, yet they linger in our minds for a long while. Most haiku take the natural world as its focus, and so (naturally) the Land Library has gathered many such volumes over the years, including several collections for young readers.

On a personal note, my love of haiku may have started with one of the most memorable reading experiences I have ever had — reading R.H. Blyth’s four-volume Haiku set (Volume 1 is pictured below). Blyth introduced me to a new world of Buson, Basho, Issa and many others — while reminding me of an “old world” populated by like-minded Western poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. As we reach the midpoint of National Poetry Month, it feels like another good time for a Haiku immersion. Enjoy!

on a barren branch
a raven has perched —
autumn dusk
— Basho

pictured above: Haiku: An Anthology of Japanese Poems, edited by Stephen Addiss, Fumiko Yamamoto & Akira Yamamoto, Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak, illustrated by Demi (from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library), The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Teach, & Appreciate Haiku by William J. Higginson & Penny Harter (which includes a chapter on Haiku for Kids).

spring rain
in this new mud
the worm’s pink skin
— Penny Harter

It is summer
the river is flowing
My friend has blond hair
— 5th grade haiku student

and here are a few more haiku collections, including one from the Beat Generation!

keroaucnarrow roadblythessential hass
Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac, Narrow Road to the Interior & Other Writings by Matsuo Basho, Haiku — Volume 1: Eastern Culture by R.H. Blyth, The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson & Issa, edited by Robert Hass

Oh, don’t swat!
the fly rubs hands
rubs feet
— Issa

children imitating cormorants
are even more wonderful
than cormorants
— Issa


3 thoughts on “Haiku: a perfect nest for our thoughts?

  1. I can certainly recommend all these books! Bill (William Higginson) also produced the remarkable Haiku World and Haiku Seasons books. Anything brought out by Bill (now sadly passed away) is worth buying.

    all my best,

    Alan, With Words

  2. I’m envious. I never met Bill in person, but we corresponded a few years after the release of Haiku World.

    Bill basically turned my life around by getting me involved in writing haiku. Such a tiny type of poem really, yet so quietly profound because it can change your take on life.

    Thank you Bill, you are greatly missed.

    Alan, With Words

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