Haiku in English: Divesting Ourselves of Our Ancestry, Part 2

In my last post we covered why I believe we need to separate English language haiku its origins. This post continues on this line of thinking.

To write good haiku in English, I believe it is little help to read classical Japanese works. Now do not get me wrong, Basho, Shiki and Issa are worth reading but not as a way to learn to write well in English.

Here are my reasons:

Firstly, unless you can read Japanese, what you are getting is second hand news and a lot of the people translating these works cannot write haiku themselves. The works end up butchered or in multiple versions. A good example of this, not from haiku but from tanka: the book Salad Anniversary. The Juliet Winters Carpenter version is alright but the Jack Stamm epic, largely because Stamm knows how to write a decent tanka and could nuance the text.

Secondly, the form of traditional Japanese haiku is not the form that English haiku currently or is developing into as I stated in my previous post. The works of Basho are to English haiku what Australopithecus is the modern humans; an ancestor but one that is not equipped to deal modern life. If you are a Japanese speaker, writing modern Japanese haiku, then by all means, these are texts you should explore. English language haiku has its own rules, methods and interests now.

So you want read well to write good haiku? I recommend you get yourself some contemporary English works. The Haiku Anthology by Cor van den Heuvel is a classic and a must have. Haiku Moment: An Anthology of Contemporary North American Haiku by Bruce Ross is also good. I highly recommend buying the Red Moon Anthologies as they will keep you up to date on the latest and best of what is going on in the haiku world and they also contain very good essays on the evolution of the form. Read journals where you can. There are a lot of good ones available for free.

Notes From The Gean: http://www.geantreepress.com/

Heron’s Nest: http://theheronsnest.com/

A Hundred Gourds: http://www.ahundredgourds.com/

Roadrunner: http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/index.htm

Modern Haiku: http://www.modernhaiku.org/

Frogpond: http://www.hsa-haiku.org/frogpond/index.html

Simply Haiku: http://simplyhaiku.theartofhaiku.com/


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