Haiku (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets)

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Reading a bulk of haiku at once helped me to get a general appreciation for the format. I enjoy the clear but succinct image that three short lines are able to conjure. The volume I enjoyed (Haiku, selected and edited by Peter Washington and published by Everyman’s Library Pock Poets series) included mostly Japanese classic haiku (for about 200 pages), with a few Western style haiku as well for the remaining 50 pages. I found I related better to the Western style haiku, I think because the images were more familiar to me: Japanese traditions of snow fall, flower blossoms, and so forth seemed foreign, rather than calming.

Reading haiku in an anthology is probably not the best approach: each poem is written to be pondered on an individual level at its own pace. Each poem deserves attention. The Everyman’s volume was arranged essentially by subject, with six haiku on each two-page spread. As such, I read through them quickly, even when I tried to pace myself.

Here is one of my favorite of the Japanese haiku:

From what flowering tree
I know not,
But ah, the fragrance!


And then my favorite from the Western haiku was by Wordsworth, whose sappiness I admit that I really enjoy.

A violet
By a mossy stone,
Half hidden from the eye.


And I think it may be permissible to show my poetry shelf. I am collecting the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets one volume at a time. I order them by color because I think it is so pretty. I don’t use the dust jackets. (For the most part I buy the books used and they don’t come with a dust jacket. Even when I do have the dust jacket, I admit I love the pretty colors of the books, so I won’t use them anyway.)

The Everyman’s are the short, colorful volumes in the middle of the shelf. My first was the Wordsworth (light green, looks yellow in the picture) and my latest are the Haiku (grey, which I bought last month) and Love Letters (white, which I found on Paperbackswap a week or so ago).

Reviewed on September 7, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

    • Coffee and a Book Chick, Sometimes I like dust jackets– but not on the Everyman’s, which are so pretty without them!

      I agree, it takes conscious effort to remember to read poetry after school days are over. I need to read it more often.

  • I never really appreciated haiku until I met my partner, whose parents spend a lot of time in Japan on business and have many Japanese friends/business associates. It’s one of David’s favorite forms, and he writes them for fun (although our Japanese friends say it’s not exactly haiku he’s writing, but senryu, which are less about nature and more about human foibles). Once I understood that the last line is supposed to take you somewhere different or surprising, like a twist in a path, I felt I understood the form a lot better, and now I quite enjoy it (though I’m sure there’s still a ton of subtlety I’m not getting!). Sounds like this was an enjoyable anthology for you. 🙂

    • Emily, it sounds like it helps to have a partner who loves the form! I really did enjoy my little introduction to haiku– I’ll have to make an effort to read it again at some point.

    • christina, that’s what I thought too (17 syllables total), but my intro says “What matters more is the combination of subtlety, force, economy and technical refinement applied to variations of traditional themes. The trick lies in giving old material a new twist.”

      So yeah, the 5-7-5 and the 17 syllables thing is not as important as the other things.

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