BOOK REVIEW: Writing Haiku by Bruce Ross

Writing Haiku: A Beginner's Guide to Composing Japanese PoetryWriting Haiku: A Beginner’s Guide to Composing Japanese Poetry by Bruce Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Page

Out: March 15, 2022

With this guide, Ross offers a compact guide to navigating Japanese poetic forms and the offshoots and variations that have evolved in America. The book does have a particular focus on the American and international style of haiku, and related forms, though the author always lays the groundwork by first exploring the “rules” of the traditional Japanese form. He also discusses concepts, such as wabi and sabi, that heavily inform Japanese poetry. However, most of the examples come from English language writers, and there’s extensive discussion of how American haiku differs in form and substance. This makes the book particularly useful for English-as-native-language writers who wish to capture the flavor of this spare and elegant poetic form, but who have limited acquaintance with the Japanese language and culture.

I didn’t think I’d need another guide for writing haiku after reading and re-reading William Higginson’s The Haiku Handbook, but Ross does cover a few topics in greater depth and detail, particular haiga (combining graphic arts with haiku,) renga (a partnered / team style) and several American variations, and ginko (a nature walk-based practice.)

The book has graphics as needed (i.e. in the haiga section,) and offers and extensive set of recommendations for further reading as well as resources.

While I’ve been writing haiku, tanka, and senryū for some time, I learned a lot from this book, and it got me excited to try some of the forms with which I’m inexperienced. I’d highly recommend this book for beginner, intermediate, and advanced haiku poets.

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A Few Senryu [Day 13 NaPoMo: Senryu]

[Senryu is a Japanese style of poetry that’s identical to haiku in form, but different in content. While haiku rely on images (usually natural and often seasonal) and the juxtaposition of such images — devoid of analysis, commentary, or judgement — Senryu poetry explores human nature. In other words, while humans appear rarely in traditional haiku (and, when they do, it’s as a part of nature;) Senryu are always about humans and they do present commentary — often intended to be humorous.]

two dodge bird poop
the missed credits himself,
the struck curses birds

when floors must be swept,
some needn’t be told, some must,
and some told they can’t

having virtual parties,
while I read

Blake said,
“The cut worm forgives the plow.”
What of the plowman?

boredom exempt:
creatures who use their teeth, feet,
or their brains

the hungry snake
doesn’t begrudge the winning