Review of Modern Haiku: (2003)

Review of Modern Haiku (Volume 34.2, 2003)
by J. Zimmerman.

Best of issue - check out: * Translations * Reviews
Also see: * Haiku * Haibun * Essay * Order Modern Haiku * Books


Submitted haiku and senryu fill 26 pages, while 4 additional pages showing award-winning and other recognized poems.

Submitted poems are printed alphabetically by author. So, you soon find the work of the less well known interleaved with those of the famous (including U.S.A. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Sharon Olds, and Cor van den Heuvel).

Formats include not only the english-language "standard" of 3-line, but also several poems written as 1 line and one poem written as 2 lines. Much of the work is good.


Haibun (interleaving prose and haiku) fill 8 pages with the work of 5 poets. However, Lenore Mayhew's Chapter 8 from "Year of the Comet" quotes poems by other authors.

The best haibun is Cor van den Heuvel's Two Seeds, a delicate and entrancing meditation on movement and time.


The superb translations of haiku by Itaru Ina (translations by Hisako Ifshin and Leza Lowitz) make the Translation section the best among the many marvelous parts of this issue.

Itaru Ina was born in California in 1914, educated in Japan for 11 years, and then returned to the USA (where he was a citizen) to work. By March 1942 (a year after his marriage and 3 months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor), he and his wife were incarcerated, together with many other people of Japanese descent.

During his imprisonment (and subsequently, after his release), Itaru was an active member of haiku communities.

The section in this issue shows Itaru's notes and haiku from 1945. While good haiku in themselves, they have additional poignancy because of his circumstances. For example:

  The daytime moon
  following a bus --  
  summer journey.


Modern Haiku's reviews are of great interest, occupying almost a quarter of the magazine. The reviewers are mostly well-known authors and editors.

Cor van den Heuvel reviews Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac. Yes, that is "haikus" not the expected "haiku." Van den Heuvel wishes that the book's editor (Regina Weinreich) had selected fewer of Kerouac's poems, excluding the weaker ones. However, he highlights how the images in the best poems "catch Kerouac, too, doing what he did best; noticing the magical moments in our ordinary, everyday lives, and capturing them in words."

William J. Higginson (author of several books on writing haiku) spends three pages correcting Hokku: Writing Traditional Haiku in English by David Coomler and seven pages fixing Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-On Guide by Jane Reichhold.

Of the former, Higginson writes: "Coomler's book not only attacks modern Japanese haiku, but ignores all post-Blyth books and other resources." Of the latter Higginson writes: "there's at least as much trouble afoot in Writing and Enjoying Haiku as in any other guide to haiku published recently." However, he does praise Reichhold's on-line Web site for including "a more helpful annotated list of haiku resources on the Web."

Six other books are reviewed, with quoted poems for the reader's own judgement. Finally, a handful of other books and booklets each get a paragraph or two in a "Briefly Noted" section.


John Stevenson's essay "Some Thoughts About the Shape of a Haiku Career" mulls over ideas suggested by his title, and asks questions such as "What are the developmental phases of a haiku career in America?" (Stevenson is working on a biography of Bob Spiess.)

Bob Grumman's essay "A Divergery of Haiku, ToxanAtomyzd" gives examples of various types of haiku and creates a cumbersome terminology.

To order Modern Haiku.

Order Modern Haiku

See also review of Modern Haiku: The Robert Spiess Memorial Issue (2002). The first third of the magazine is a memorial to Robert Spiess (1921-2002) and his many contributions to the development of haiku in North America. The rest of the magazine has haiku and senryu (includes work by Billy Collins, Jane Hirshfield, and Gary Snyder), essays, and book reviews.

Other Books on Haiku

Buy Essential Haiku The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa edited by Robert Hass. His essays and examples of the work from the haiku tradition in Japan by: Matsuo Basho (1644-94, the ascetic and seeker), Yosa Buson (1716-83, the artist), and Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827, the humanist).
Buy Haiku Seasons The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World by William J. Higginson.
Buy Haiku World Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac by William J. Higginson, Meagan Calogeras (Editor)
Haiku:Summer - Autumn, by R.H. Blyth. One of the four volumes that introduced many Americans (including Jack Kerouac) to haiku. (R.H. stands for Reginald Horace.)
Buy Haiku Handbook Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku by William J. Higginson, William S. Higginson.
Buy Introduction to Haiku An Introduction to Haiku: An Anthology of Poems and Poets from Basho to Shiki by Harold Gould Henderson (Editor). First published in 1958, it analyzes the development of Japanese haiku under the leadership of Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki. Includes the Romanized ("Romaji") transliteration of the original Japanese. Henderson translate mainly into 5-7-5 syllables and rhymes the first and last lines.

Other Books.

Books on Other Poetry Forms.

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