Haiku in English

Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years


I’ve spent a couple of weeks swimming around dazedly in this, which was officially published a couple of weeks ago, to coincide with Haiku North America. You probably want to get it if you haven’t already, though warning: it’s thick. Well, it’s a century’s worth of haiku. In chronological order, no less, so you can watch English-language haiku evolving before your very eyes.

As with all anthologies, it’s almost as much fun deciding what you would put in it instead of what the editors put in it (like me…what? what am I doing in here? still trying to figure that one out) as it is actually reading the poems. But in the end there’s not much to quarrel with. The fact that you could probably replace half of these haiku with other haiku and have an equally strong anthology is really just an indication of how many good haiku have been published since Ezra Pound did his thing with the metro station and the wet black bough.

At HNA there was a reading of the anthology, straight through, one poem to a poet. Those poets who were in attendance (there were a few dozen of us, which was kind of … amazing and terrifying, considering there are only 200-odd poets in the anthology) read their own work, and the absent poets had their work read by Sandra Simpson and Ron Moss. In case you don’t know, Sandra is from New Zealand and Ron from Tasmania, so to American ears they have lovely but exotic accents that made these poems, many of which are very, very familiar to us, seem fresh and new. The reading took an hour or so and it was a little like flying, high and fast, over the vast and varied terrain of English-language haiku, catching your breath every once in a while when you saw something particularly lovely.


Sandra Simpson and Ron Moss read from "Haiku in English" at Haiku North America in August 2013.

(That’s Sandra and Ron up there reading and Jim Kacian emceeing and the Queen Mary being very regal and intimidating all around us.)


To my dismay, the poem that I read has suddenly become timely again of late:


radiation leak moonlight on the fuel rods

(written 3/13/2011, originally published in Haijinx IV:1, reprinted in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, 2013)


11 thoughts on “Haiku in English

  1. Sounds like it would have been amazing, wish I’d been there! 🙂

    Here’s one of my favs from the book – another Aussie! From Graham Nunn:

    swinging the axe
    sunlight splits
    the firewood

  2. It was fun – but scary – reading all those great poems by all those great poets. So pleased to have (randomnly) been allocated Seamus Heaney and Billy Collins.

    And I was so pleased that there were so many poets in the book there on the night, that was a real treat.

    • Wow! Thanks Patrick. I was humbled to be included in such an august collection with such august poets … your comment is like double-icing!

      (PS: I hope I didn’t act like a fan-girl when I met Melissa)

  3. Wow! I was searching for a review of the book to include in a blog post, and I scored one by a poet in the book! I’m very impressed. I am a published poet since 1988, but have only recently decided to read up on haiku to see if it is something I might try. I love the book as it really gives me what I feel is a good overview of haiku in English, I’m amazed at the number of poets I’ve heard of whose haiku are included.

  4. Congratulations Melissa 🙂
    It was lovely to read with Sandra on this very special occasion on the old tub….one of those moments that will stay with me always.

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