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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2000
Although Henderson's book is out-of-print (originally published in 1958), and his translations are stylistically out-of-date (i.e., rhymed English haiku), this is an essential, pocket-sized anthology. Henderson intersperses his chronological presentation of haiku, in both transliterized Japanese (romaji) with English translation, by major historical masters with analysis throughout. I am on my second paperback -- the first fell apart from constant use!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2002
I have rarely encountered better translations of Haiku. Henderson brought the extended meanings of the words across. Double and triple entendres, startling juxtapositions, contextual clues, everything. These are not mere literal translations--they work on multiple levels to extend the meaning of the poetry, to reflect the possible readings by literate Japanese readers.
Poetic translation is an art that requires deep understanding of two languages, poetic heritages, and metaphorical/imagistic libraries. Henderson's translations are unique in their quality.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2006
As Henderson points out in his introduction, most translators are traitors. Though this is so in many cases, the pieces that he selected work well and push the envelope of what good translation of poetry of all kinds should be, regardless of the original language.

This is an excellent pocket anthology for any lover of Haiku and other short form poetry to carry with them always.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2011
I've owned a copy of An Introduction to Haiku for more than 50 years. One of the best books on poetry in any language I've ever seen.

Henderson presents each haiku with a transliteration (romanization, romaji), word-for-word translation, coherent translation, and extensive commentary on the poem and the poet. He gets you into such essential matters as the specialized Japanese grammar of haiku, particularly the use of zero verbs (kireji).

This book is essential for anyone who fancies writing haiku in English or any other European language, as well as for students of prosody (the mechanics of verse).

I would like to see An Introduction to Haiku reset and reprinted with the original texts in Japanese kanji, in addition to the romanization - with today's online language resources it's practical to present the poems in their original form. Having some of them done by a Japanese calligrapher would be still better!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Haiku, well done, is an enchanting poetic form. This book, put together by Harold Henderson, provides a nice introduction for those who want a deeper understanding of this art form. Best of all is the array of poems presented here--from Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki, and others.

Haiku itself is deceptively simple--3 lines: 5 syllables in the first, seven in the second, five in the third, for seventeen in total. But it is much more than that. And that is what makes the first part of this book so useful. The Preface and Introduction provide a literate consideration to the nature--and difficulty of drafting--haiku. Even more challenging is translating Japanese haiku into English, according to Anderson (who does the actual translation in this volume). He notes, for instance, an Italian adage, "traduttore, traditore," which--he claims--means that a translator is probably a traitor. To change 17 syllables of Japanese haiku to a meaningful and still poetic English format is devilish difficult. He says (Page vii): "My intention has been to write English verse which will be faithful to the spirit of the originals, and will at the same time approximate literal translation. . . ." Chapters I and II provide a brief but helpful sense of the nature of haiku itself, from its origins to its nature to its evolution.

And then the book moves into the poets themselves, selecting four masters of haiku, plus selected other practitioners of the art. In the process the poets are discussed, their individual attributes summarized, and--best of all from my view--selections of their work presented. Since Basho has been my favorite over time, I'll simply present some of the haiku that seem special to me.

"On the Road to Nara"
Oh, these spring days!
A nameless little mountain,
Wrapped in morning hazel.

"Leaving the House of a Friend"

Out comes the bee
From deep among the peony pistils--
Oh, so reluctantly!


"Hawk-eyes too will fail,
Now that the darkness comes"--
So chirp the quail.

So, a delightful work providing background to haiku and some wonderful examples of the masters and their craft.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2010
An Introduction to Haiku is a solid way into the practically untranslatable world of Haiku. It is terse while still being thorough. By including both a transliteration and a literal translation of the Japanese, the reader is able to appreciate not only the feel of the language but also the problems that arise in its translation into English.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2012
This 1958 publication is an anthology of poems and poets from Basho to Shiki -- the poets who helped establish haiku in Japan. Harold G. Henderson has an award named after him that is presented to a poet by the Haiku Society of America. His early translations, like many translators of the time sought to find rhyme ... however, many of the poems translated by Henderson that appear in this book are concerned more with expressing the feeling of the poem rather that creating rhyme. I found this book especially insightful because Henderson includes his translations of the poems (at the bottom of each page). Henderson also creates a story about haiku -- its history, development and then introduces the early poets and the poetry that they wrote. This book is an oldie but a goodie because haiku, like all poetry is timeless. I have added it to my personal library.
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on November 17, 2013
This book surely ought to be a classic, Unless one is an expert at haiku, this book is essential to understanding it. Mr. Henderson, in an avuncular style essentially takes you by the hand and carefully explains the haiku masters, thus helping one to create a somewhat intimate feeling about them. He does this especially well with Issa as it will be very well understood why the Japanese love him. Mr. Henderson also does an excellent job of translating the haiku from Japanese to Englishn. On select haiku he gives its sound in Japanese, creating a certain feeling about the poem. If one has any thoughts about haiku, get this book.
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on November 5, 2013
I have had this book since I was a teenager. Everytime I read it I wonder why this form of writing was not studied in my (American) high school classes and college classes. In my mind this would be perfect for a teen as a gift or to anyone who is interested in poetry.
One problem is that there are no certain translations of these poems and so you must realize they are open to interpretation by you and any other.
This has been my only book on haiku so I don't have any other to compare it to.
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on September 1, 2013
Explicates several of my favorites, Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki, among them, but the translation could be better. But go with it, a nice intro into this exquisite Japanese poetry.
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