BOOK REVIEW: Book of Haikus

Book of HaikusBook of Haikus by Jack Kerouac
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

For a guy who didn’t realize “haiku” was singulare tantum (like “deer,” having only a singular form,) Kerouac crafted poignant and evocative haiku. This Beat writer, best known for his semi-autobiographical novels (e.g. On the Road and The Dharma Bums) sought to create a sub-form that he called “American Haiku.” Like many English language haiku poets, Kerouac abandoned the 5-7-5 syllable format, but where others traded in the rule for a more English-friendly one (e.g. 2-3-2 stressed beats,) his American haiku used three simple lines and no strict counts. [Note: The relatively long syllables of English can cause the stark, sparse feel of Japanese language haiku to be lost.]

Lest one think this Beat poet jettisoned all the rules, he’s truer to the rules of content than to those of form. He uses season words widely in evoking a state of mind. Also, he sticks to pure observation to a surprising degree. [Traditionally, haiku merely suggested imagery, letting readers reach cognitive and emotional insights on their own.] There are some poems that are actually senryū [a poetic style that is the same as haiku in form, but which deals in humor and human foibles,] but not as many as I expected. Kerouac deals much less in political rage and shocking content than his Beat contemporary, Allen Ginsberg.

To give a taste of his haiku, here are a couple fine examples:

One flower
on the cliffside
Nodding at the canyon


Birds singing
in the dark
In the rainy dawn


I delighted in this collection. It reflects Kerouac’s Buddhist insights, plays off the work of Japanese haiku masters, and blends classic haiku with rare touches of uniquely American irreverence. I’d highly recommend it for poetry readers.


View all my reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.