The Essential Haiku Library


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?!


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.


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

Re-Reading Doesn’t Count??


After watching ABC Family’s Harry Potter Weekend earlier this summer, I decided to re-read every Harry Potter book. Normally, this would be an easy goal, but because I’m wrapped up in Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge it’s not that simple.

I challenged myself to read 35 books in 2015 and it stands to reason that any book I read should count towards that total. It shouldn’t matter if I’ve never read the book or if I’m choosing to re-read a book I read five years ago. However, Goodreads is currently unable to assign more than one date to a finished book. That means, once I read a book it only counts one time towards my “Read Shelf.” That also means a previously read book will not apply towards the reading challenge.

On the surface, the one time read date sounds reasonable. Most people read a book once and they’re done, right? Wrong! Most readers I know have favorite books they love to revisit. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read Jane Eyre, the entire Twilight series, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and so many others. Yet, every time I re-read them, I can’t log the additional read in Goodreads. Not cool! Especially since each new read brings new insight and therefore new perspectives for a review and discussion.

When it comes to the Harry Potter situation, I rated all six books as a means to build my account and foster recommendations when I first signed up on goodreads four years ago. In doing so, I made it impossible to count any Harry Potter re-reads on this year’s goals.

To solve this problem, I had to do the unthinkable – I deleted every Harry Potter book off my shelves and hoped it would wipe my reading history for each volume. It worked for all of them except HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone. While this solves the problem, I’m mad I had to do it in the first place! I’m still reading Harry Potter in tandem with other books, but at least they will now count towards my challenge total.

Despite finding a solution for the Harry Potter Situation, the fact remains that I’ve re-read more than few books this year and those efforts will remain under the radar. I love Goodreads, but the lack of a re-read feature definitely needs to be fixed!

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Where do you stand on the re-read issue?

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c.b.w. 2015

Love-Hate Challenge: Part II


My Love List of books, (see Love-Hate Challenge: Part I), was easy to make because I love so many books. The Not A Fan List however, is much more difficult. While I read a wide range of books, I also know myself well enough to avoid books I know aren’t for me (like computer coding or anything where a dog dies). That means there aren’t too many books that end up on the yuck pile!

I had to work pretty hard at this list and I honestly mean no disrespect to those who do like the books on my list. This is all just my humble opinion.

Not A Fan Book List

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

I’ve ranted about this book before, (See Favorite Thing Friday: Last Books). Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Roth is an incredible writer – I loved Divergent and Insurgent – but Allegiant made me so angry. I can’t remember the last time an ending killed the entire series for me. As a reader, I felt betrayed and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

2. Harlequin Romance

I want to clarify that I’m not totally against romance. I actually read a lot of romance novels, just not Harlequin. Why? They are all the same! If you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. I like a little originality in my mindless escape reading!

3. Books where chapters shift between different points of view or series that start in one point of view and switch to a different point of view in the last book

My post, One YA Reader’s Desperate Plea outlines a rather lengthy rant on this particular point. I really, really hate it when writers shift the point of view in a series. And I won’t even pick up a book if the point of view shifts constantly from chapter to chapter. Grrrr . . . it just bothers me!

4. Books I haven’t finished: The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeirer and The Idiot by Fyodor Dosteovtsky

I’ve read almost 200 books over the last few years. These are the only two with a bookmark still stuck in the middle. The Illumination wasn’t half bad, but I got bored and couldn’t bring myself to finish it. I still intend on finishing The Idiot, but I have also realized that I am not a huge fan of Dosteovtsky. He’s a little too depressing for my taste.

5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I was forced to read this book in high school and that might be part of the reason why I do not like it. Even though I’ve always loved to read, I’ve also always hated being told what to read and then subsequently forced to read it on someone else’s set schedule. Aside from that, I could not relate to the characters and I found the story quite disturbing. It’s just not my thing.

6. Series that go too long

There are a number of series that fall into this category, but the only one I fell into and then out of was the Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore. I read I Am Number Four, The Power of Six, and The Rise of Nine thinking it would just be a trilogy. The story however just keeps dragging on. The sixth book comes out later this year . . . This series should have ended a long time ago!

7. Most Works of Emily Dickinson

It took me two years to read Dickinson’s complete works. I have a lot of respect for Dickinson’s talent, but I don’t really like her poetry (with exception to her works regarding nature).

8. Most Works of Charles Dickens

With exception to A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities, I am not a fan of Charles Dickens. I made attempts to read all of his works (which is how I came upon the two exceptions), but could never get past the first 100 pages. I think he’s a talented writer and I understand why he is so adored, but I think it’s the Dosteovtsky issue all over again for me. Dickens is quite grim!

9. Books by Dan Brown before the Da Vinci Code

After I read the Da Vinci Code, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on all of Dan Brown’s previous books. After attempting to read the first 100 pages of each, I realized there was a reason why he didn’t hit it big until the Da Vinci Code. His previous thrillers weren’t that thrilling.

10. The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff (later redeemed by Rosoff’s What I Was).

The Bride’s Farewell was a thin book but it took me forever to read because it was such a slow moving story – almost glacial. I’d only get through a couple of pages before I started to nod off in total boredom. To this day, I’m not sure what the point of it was supposed to be. However, I liked the writer’s overall style, so I gave her another shot with What I Was, (which was incredible).


I picked these nominees because I think they’ll all approach this challenge with an interesting perspective. I’m hoping they’ll create lists that are unique to their personalities and writing genres.

The rules of the Love-Hate Challenge are simple:

  • Make a list of 10 things you love
  • Make a list of 10 things you hate
  • Nominate 10 bloggers

Rita Ackerman

Suzanne Brent

TBN Ranch

The Everyday Epic

Heart to Harp

Windy Words

Metaphors & Smiles

Random Acts of Writing [+art]

Michele Venne

YA Chit Chat


The Haiku Debate


As more and more haikus are scribbled into my journal, it’s entirely clear to me that my interest in the form has turned into nothing less than an obsession. Naturally, I set out to learn as much I could, which means I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the subject of haikus and collections of haikus.

Between backtracking to the classics and getting a sense of the modern aesthetic, my understanding of the form has changed significantly. All my life I’d been taught that haiku is essentially a rigid form: three lines with 17 syllables arranged in a 5-7-5 layout.  Imagine my surprise when I realized that this is almost completely wrong!

It’s true Japanese haiku is poetry consisting of 17 beats (technically not syllables), but that beat count applies to the Japanese language which naturally falls into that rhythm. The idea of a syllable count came about when haiku migrated to the English language and it was seen as a excellent way to teach children how to count syllables.

Even more surprising is that the concept of three lines is quite the myth. Most Japanese haiku is written in a single line, which is usually vertical. Once again, the idea of three lines in the 5-7-5 layout evolved from the translation into English. While a misnomer, the format stuck until English language poets began to experiment and break out of the three line division.

At it’s core, haiku is about capturing a single moment or experience. Nature usually serves as the backdrop, but modern poets are even pushing that traditional boundary, by mixing humanity with natural elements. Modern haiku ignores syllable counts and focuses instead on clean, crisp language that hones in a small detail. The resulting poem is often far less than 17 syllables with no set line count.

Polar opposite visions of haiku naturally lead to a debate. On one side, there’s the 17 syllable, 5-7-5, 3 line format and on the other there’s the modernist approach with few restrictions other than maintaining the essence of haiku. As a poet enthralled with the idea of haiku, I find myself stuck in the middle.

The so-called traditional 5-7-5 layout has been around for a long time.  Even though the connection between this format and the original Japanese haiku is shaky at best, it’s a form that everyone knows. It’s part of the poetic psyche and allows just about anyone to be a poet, (how cool is that?).

On this side of the argument, I feel my childhood holding tight to what I’ve been taught. I like the rigidity of the 5-7-5 layout. The finite quality of it forces me to work within certain parameters and choose my words carefully, but it also pushes my creativity to go to places I never would have considered.

Most modern haiku poets have dismissed the 5-7-5 layout as passé, given it’s disconnect to the traditional Japanese form. They certainly have a point as the whole idea of 17 syllables is an invention rather than a hardcore sentiment of tradition. Hence, there’s no point in counting syllables if they are kept to a minimum.

As for line counts, modern haikus are all over the place. Some poets prefer single lines, while others will employ three. There’s no steadfast rule, so words and/or subject matter dictate how lines are constructed. For modernists, line divisions can have meaning that goes beyond form.

I like the fact that modern haiku is sparse and poignant. Like the “traditional” 5-7-5, the challenge of operating with limited syllable and line counts pushes me to be particular about my words and focus on small details. However, the complete lack of a set syllable and line count creates a sense of uncertainty that can be a little daunting. In many ways, it’s that daunting element that reminds me to keep an open mind and embrace the freedom.

The verdict: There’s something beautiful about both. I find myself dabbling in the rigid form of the 5-7-5 haiku, while also wandering into the new waters of modern haiku. Despite the fact that the majority of modern haiku writers discredit the 5-7-5 form, I believe it still has a place on the poetic stage…

Birch bark peels; white curls
summer breeze, fluttering leaves
silver branches sway

Yet, one the same page I’ll happily write two lines with 4 syllables each …

Wind scattered leaves
life’s broken pieces

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Recommended Reading:

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c.b.w. 2014

2014 Goals: November Status Report


Overall November was a very successful month in terms of writing goals. Besides getting some solid work done on The Muse, my poetic muscle got a workout as well!

1) Pitch The Muse.

As announced last week, final edits on The Muse are now complete, (see The Finish Line). This, of course, means I’m ready for another round of sending out queries. Hopefully, a shiny new manuscript and a new query letter will incite some interest for my project.

2) Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage

While plugging a plot hole in the epilogue for The Muse, I got a better sense of where I want to start with Lineage. In addition, I got an idea for a stunning plot twist. Can’t wait to start piecing together the logistics for what I consider a game changing event.

I also added a couple of new songs to the Lineage playlist:

  • Cecilia and the Satellite by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
  • Bleeding Out by Imagine Dragons

3) Submit writing.

This space has been filled with a lot of poetry this month thanks to the 2014 November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge over on Poetic Asides(via Writer’s Digest). I completed the challenge of writing a poem a day, while also achieving my goal of writing 30 Haikus in 30 Days, (I ended up with 45 haikus).

The next phase of the challenge involves submitting a chapbook collection of 20 poems written during the challenge. Over the  next few weeks, I’ll be deciding which haikus to include and figuring out the sequence of how they’ll appear in my chapbook draft.

The entire experience has been nothing short of amazing. Between exploring the haiku form and finding my voice within haiku, I sit in awe of how much I found hiding within 17 syllables.

4) Continue to build author platform.

Social media continues to be a positive experience. My favorite hangout is still over at Facebook. Interaction and traffic continues to rise and I am genuinely having fun.

Facebook likes went from 378 to 384

Twitter followers went from 548 to 550

Thanks so much to everyone for clicking those follow and like buttons! Your support is greatly appreciated.

5) Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence.

The invisible goal:

6) Be flexible.

My exploration of haiku took me down many unexpected paths. The form isn’t as rigid as I thought.* We’ve all been taught to write in three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable count, but english language haiku has evolved into a much more liberal format. I’m anxious to experiment with the modern concept of haiku and see where it takes me.

* A little reading brought me to this realization:

  • The Classic Tradition of Haiku ed. Faubion Bowers
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Basho
  • The Haiku Anthology ed. by Cor van den Heuvel

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c.b.w. 2014