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haiku books

Tinywords.com recommends the following books on haiku and related subjects. If you know of a good haiku book that's not on this list, please tell us about it: send email to books at tinywords dot com.

You can buy any of the reviewed books by clicking on one of the "buy it now"links. The Powell's link will take you to that book at Powells.com; the Amazon link will let you buy it at Amazon.com. Easy, no? Tinywords.com gets a commission on sales of these books, which we'll use to help support the site and mailing list.

cover photo of If Nothing Else if nothing else, by Harold Bowes (Ravenna Press, 2004). Frequent tinywords contributor Harold Bowes's slim volume of poems is a deceptively powerful collection in the tradition of William Carlos Williams and George Oppen. The book includes haiku, tanka, and longer free verse, but the haiku spirit pervades throughout. In Bowes's poetry, clear, concrete images are presented without sentiment or metaphor; the poems' impact comes from the conjunction of these images and the surprising and sometimes sudden philosophical turns that they take in their final lines. Ordinary things--cars, clouds, mirrors, hands--acquire, through the simple attention Bowes gives to them, an intimacy and meaning that is easy to miss in ordinary life. (58pp, $9.50 ppd)
BUY IT NOW: Order direct from Ravenna Press.

cover photo of Cafe Haiku Cafe Haiku, text by Zenbu Nometa, photography by Jeffrey Goldsmith (Caffeine Society, 2004). This square paperback is a loving tribute to coffee shops and café culture, with lush black-and-white photographs of cappuccinos, espresso machines, café patrons, and even glasses of wooden stirrers. A clever 5-7-5 haiku faces, and comments on, each photo. Whether you like this book probably comes down to how serious you are about haiku and/or coffee. Lover of modern literary haiku? This book is not for you. Coffee fiend? It's a perfect gift. Also see the companion web site, cafehaiku.com. (96 pages, $9.95)
BUY IT NOW: Powell's Books | Amazon.com

photoCool Melons--Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa, story and haiku translations by Matthew Gollub, illustrations by Kazuko G. Stone (Lee and Low Books, 1998). This picture book is a moving introduction to the poems of Japanese haiku master Issa (1763-1827). Each page has a haiku in translation, a beautiful illustration, and the haiku in flowing Japanese script. The accompanying text tells the story of Issa's hard life, his devotion to poetry, and his attentiveness to small creatures such as insects, sparrows, and frogs. Cool Melons--Turn to Frogs! is a children's book, but it is intelligently written and the translations and explanations are done with intelligence and sensitivity. Very good!
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cover photoNEW REVIEW The Haiku Anthology (3rd edition), edited by Cor van den Heuvel (W. W. Norton & Company, 2000). This stellar collection of haiku in English does a remarkable job of showing the range and power of the form. The editor, himself a major figure in American haiku, presents haiku from 89 different poets with little fanfare and almost no explanation. But the haiku, many of which are masterpieces of clarity and concision, stand on their own. More than that: They run, kick, and jump off the pages, notching new marks high on the wall of poetic accomplishment. First published in 1974, this book is available in a variety of editions.
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cover photoThe haiku handbook: how to write, share, and teach haiku, by William J. Higginson with Penny Harter. An indispensable introduction to the history, aesthetics, and writing of haiku. A great tool for teachers, too. Highly recommended.
BUY IT NOW: Powell's Books | Amazon.com

Also by William J. Higginson:

cover photoNarrow road to the interior, and other writings, by Matsuo Basho (tr. Sam Hamill). Basho's classic prose work, the Oku-no-hosomichi, along with three other prose works by Basho and a generous selection of Basho's haiku. Hamill's translations are occasionally wordy but very readable.
BUY IT NOW: Powell's Books | Amazon.com

Back roads to far towns, by Matsuo Basho (tr. Cid Corman and Kamaike Susumu). Another translation of Basho's Oku-no-hosomichi. Poetic and evocative, in this comely but spare edition from Ecco Press -- but the translator, inexplicably, leaves many Japanese words untranslated. Out of print, but you can look up used copies on Amazon.
BUY IT NOW: Amazon.com

cover photoHaiku: this other world, by Richard Wright. Collection of 800 haiku written by Wright, the author of Native Son and Black Boy, during his final illness and exile in France. An astounding collection of formal (5-7-5) haiku on traditional and nontraditional themes. Highly recommended.
BUY IT NOW: Powell's Books | Amazon.com

cover photoSeeds from a birch tree, by Clark Strand. Haiku writing as a form of Zen spiritual practice. The author, a former Zen monk, includes many of his own and others' haiku, along with meditations, advice, and anecdotes.
BUY IT NOW: Powell's Books | Amazon.com

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editor / publisher: d. f. tweney (dft at tinywords dot com)
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Except as noted, all haiku are copyright (c) their respective authors.