The Essential Haiku Library

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Poetry books tend to occupy a small space in most bookshops unless your local bookshop is one of those awesome little nooks that carries everything. Haiku books occupy an even smaller space, if at all. This is quite the problem for an avid reader, writer, and all out fan of haiku.

Where do you find these?!

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When I first got into haiku as a daily practice a year ago, I was desperate for haiku reading material – especially contemporary haiku. Much to my dismay, my local bookshop carried only one anthology. I bought it and devoured it within a week. Now what? As a newbie, I didn’t know what to look for or what authors/editors to search.

I did the usual amazon search and found a couple things here and there, but they were ridiculously expensive as they were often self-published, single print or special editions of journals. So, I tried Half Price Books where I lucked out with two more anthologies. From there, I was able to put together some names of celebrated haiku poets and editors, which allowed me to do more advanced searches in online sources.

Needless to say, building my haiku library has been an arduous task! A trip to Powell’s in Portland, Oregon helped, but it has not been easy to find publications of an art form that has become one of my passions.

All that book stalking paid off with a nice little collection of haiku anthologies, histories, and philosophies.

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Now that I’ve done all the grunt work, I thought I’d share what I consider to be the quintessential books that should be part of any haiku library. Knowing the titles and authors/editors make finding them infinitely easier. I’ve linked them to sources to make it even easier!

The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Basho

The Haiku Anthology – Ed. By Cor van den Huevel

Haiku in English: The First One Hundred Years – Ed. by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns

The Essential Haiku – Ed. by Robert Hass

Haiku Moment – Ed. by Bruce Ross

Haiku 21 – Ed. By Lee Gurga and Scott Metz

Haiku Vol. 1-4 by R.H. Blyth – I do not own these volumes, but they are considered required reading by most haiku enthusiasts. They are difficult to track down and can be a bit pricey.

My collection includes more than this list and there are, of course, many more volumes out there. These are, however, the ones that left the most meaningful impression on my muse. I learned the most from them about the tradition and evolution of haiku, while also experiencing the powerful nature of haiku through some incredibly talented poets.

I am always looking for new anthologies, so if you know any good titles, please share them in the comments!

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c.b.w. 2015

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