I have just finished putting together and making available another collection of my haiku. It is called Shorter Haiku Journeys and is now available at Amazon. In a few weeks it should be available through Ingram Distribution, and thus through your local bookstore.
This is my third collection of published haiku. Looking at the three I can see how my own approach has evolved. My first collection is ‘pine and pond’, and appears in Poems of Place, along with some other collections of non-haiku poetry. ‘pine and pond’ was written in the early 80’s. At the time I was writing in the short count, free verse line that is the approach advocated by most haiku organizations in the U.S. (with the significant exception of Yuki Teiki). I still enjoy reading this collection. I like its crispness and the focus on a single location through the seasons gives it a rootedness which I think is a feature of the collection which still appeals. This collection, incidentally, was self-published as a chapbook in the early 80’s and was the occasion for my friendship with Jane Reichhold. Somehow Jane got hold of a copy and we discovered that we lived fairly near each other. She wrote to me (no email at that time) and I visited shortly thereafter. Jane has been a nourishing presence in my poetry ever since.
The second published collection is White Roses. When I reread this collection I feel the strong influence of Richard Wright. Many of the haiku are single-sentence type. I wrote almost all of the haiku in this collection while I was living in the town of Sonoma; and many of the haiku are location specific. The topics covered are more wide-ranging than what I would write about in the period when I wrote ‘pine and pond’. In looking at it, though, I sense a certain unevenness in the output; some of the individual haiku I still like, but others feel somewhat derivative to me. Not that they directly mimic another author’s haiku, but in tone and approach they are definitely under the shadow of other authors (besides Wright, the other prominent influence would be James Hackett).
With Shorter Haiku Journeys I feel there is a stronger individual voice and I have become less dependent on the approach of other authors. I think there is a greater sense of confidence, particularly in the usage of poetic devices such as metaphor, simile, rhyme, etc. I have completely gotten over the idea that these devices do not belong in haiku. I notice also that the lineation is freer than in White Roses. I think this is because I am more confident about the ‘haiku recipe’ and with this confidence comes a greater ease at changing the specifics of the ingredients. The topics touched on are even more wide ranging than in White Roses and include, for example, political, religious, and social observations, along with the standard topic of the seasons.
Shorter Haiku Journeys consists of fourteen haiku sequences. The longest has 29 haiku, the shortest has only 2. I call them Shorter Journeys because the sequences are shorter than those found in White Roses, where the number of haiku in a sequence is about 100. Each haiku for Shorter Haiku Journeys was written on its own and can function as a stand-alone haiku. But for publication purposes I have gathered them together in thematic sequences. I think of haiku sequences as word collages. My experience with renga has definitely influenced how I place the haiku in a sequence; I often had renga linking strategies in mind when putting the haiku sequences together.
Putting together Shorter Haiku Journeys was fun. And it gave me an occasion to look back on my own haiku output. It’s good to see how I have changed over the years. I suspect there will be more changes in the future.
Shorter Haiku JourneysBy Jim Wilson