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Haiku: This Other World Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1st edition (September 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559704454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559704458
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author of 20th-century classics Native Son and Black Boy, Wright, while exiled in France, wrote over 4000 haiku in the 18 months before his death in 1960. Based on a manuscript at Yale's Beineke library, this volume reproduces Wright's own selection of 817 of these short, imagistic poems, most previously unpublished. In snapshots and brushstrokes, they largely adhere to the seasonal and descriptive conventions of the form, ranging from tranquil to winsome to bitter and plaintive. Wright can play rewardingly with consonance: "A soft wing at dawn/ Lifts one dry leaf and lays it/ Upon another." He can also, simply, observe: "Only where sunlight/ Spots the tablecloth with gold/ Do the flies cluster." Wright's tableaux encompass fields and forests, country villages and "wet tenements." A few seem specifically African American: "The green cockleburs/ Caught in the thick wooly hair/ Of the black boy's head." Some of the most effective follow an inverted?or parody?haiku form called senryu, cultivating incongruities, and ending up grotesque or funny: "While mounting a cow,/ A bull ejaculates sperm/ On apple blossoms." Clear themes and recurring images?exile, futility, illness, recovery, scarecrows, farm animals, rain and snow?compensate for the lack of overarching sequence. Copious notes elucidate single poems; a 61-page afterword explains the haiku tradition in Japanese and English, and ties Wright's earlier prose and verse to the Japanese form. The preface, by Wright's only daughter, gives ample biographical context to the many poems of mourning and grief. If not quite a major literary event, these poems nonetheless testify to the fruitful East-West confluences of the period, and to the respite they offered one of our all-time great writers.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Historian John Henrik Clarke once described Wright as "writing with a sledgehammer," and the powerful early works Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945) bear that out. But in the last creations of his life, he wrote as if with a gentle quill pen. During his final illness in France in 1960, Wright happened upon an English translation of Japanese haiku. Fascinated by the form, he began writing in it himself, producing over 4000 poems. Before his death, he selected 810 for publication, and now nearly 40 years later they are newly in print. Wright adheres strictly to the formal structure (three lines, five-seven-five syllables per line) and to the notion that the season of the year must be stated or implied. The poems are simple, Zenlike treasures: "As my delegate,/ The spring wind has its fingers/ In a young girl's hair." "For seven seconds/ The steam from the train whistle/ Blew out the spring moon." The collection has a melancholy air, perhaps a reflection of Wright's failing health and expatriate status. Highly recommended.?Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 18 customer reviews
It's brilliant and profound, surprisingly intimate and wonderfully personal.
Richard Wright was one of America's most powerful writers with strong and passionate images.
Christopher Menkin
I recently attended a haiku seminar where the book was recommended by the facilitator.
Trilogy Poetry Review

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By matthewslaughter on January 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
While it might be unfair to compare the haiku Richard Wright wrote in the last years of his life with those written by masters such as Basho or Issa, it is a stunning surprise to read such beautiful entries like 686 ("A darting sparrow / Startles a skinny scarecrow / Back to watchfulness.") from the writer of such brutal stories like "Big Boy Leaves Home" and "Down by the Riverside" (from "Uncle Tom's Children") and novels like "Native Son," "The Outsider" and "Savage Holiday." These haiku were written in exile (in France) while Wright's finances were dwindling, while he was becoming increasingly paranoid about governmental surveillance of his actions and while he was in what many critics consider to be a literary decline. These haiku provided tremendous therapeutical comfort to him in his last years. While some of these haiku harken back to the more violent moments in his oeuvre (like #486: "Two flies locked in love / Were hit by a newspaper / And died together."), most of them are ruminations on nature or social relations. It is ashamed that these haiku are probably viewed as a novelty because they were produced by a writer, in his years of artistic decline, who specialized in the precise detailing of the oppression of "Twelve Million Black Voices" in the United States, and these haiku seem, for the most part, to be largely devoid of cunning observations in the arena that was considered to be his area of expertise. Instead, these haiku should be (re-)considered because of their beauty (amidst the chaos of Wright's prematurely shortened life) and their contribution to Wright's overall literary output.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on December 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A distinguished African-American writer goes to France and adopts a traditional Japanese literary genre as his own. That, in a sentence, is the story behind "Haiku: This Other World," a collection of 817 haiku by Richard Wright. But this book is more than just an extraordinary cross-cultural tour-de-force; it is the incandescent testament of a truly visionary artist.
The haiku genre sounds like a simple poetic format: three lines, the first and third containing five syllables, the second containing seven. Wright used this format to create poetic gems of great power and variety. Many of his haiku employ an anthropomorphizing technique in which various phenomena are endowed with awareness and emotion: " The sudden thunder / Startles the magnolias / To a deeper white" (#228).
His language is often startling in its raw earthiness, and often the haiku are touched with humor or gentle tragedy: "Two flies locked in love / Were hit by a newspaper / And died together" (#486). Wright often uses memorable poetic imagery, and many of his poems invite the reader to partake of a sort of altered state of consciousness: "Standing in the field / I hear the whispering of / Snowflake to snowflake" (#489).
The tone of the book is often melancholy. This collection reminded me of the work of two other great American poets: Emily Dickinson and Stephen Crane. Like those two, Wright is a sort of secular prophet whose visions of the world point to deeper, and often unsettling, truths. This book is an artistic triumph, and its posthumous publication is an enduring tribute to this great writer.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By mcHaiku on March 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Julia Wright lauded her father's "tender, unassuming and gentle lines" of haiku. I think she felt the writing of these poems gave Richard Wright balance (in the last two years of his life) while fighting illness and suffering the death of his mother. Miss Wright has written beautiful, perceptive and loving words in her Introduction to the collection of haiku; I also am grateful to (Mrs.) Ellen Wright for the cover photograph (clik to hardcover edition):

"Native Son, seeing
from Mississippi clear to
Paris in spring-time.

Black Boy, self-aware,
your portrait holds me, stirring
these sad reveries." (mcH)

It is my feeling that the "counting of syllables" CAN be an exercise for healing. I promise, you will be delving into this book countless times. Haiku & senryu . . . each brings delight because inevitably the reader's imagination will be triggered by just one word, or phrase, or aroused feelings. Some believe the 'Haiku moment' comes from using words that "do not depend on metaphors & symbols." The INTENT is to EXPRESS the 'AH-NESS.'

However it happens, read through this legacy from Richard Wright and you will experience sheer pleasure.

"The low of a cow
Answers a train's long whistle
In the summer dusk."

817 haiku were chosen for publication by Wright from the 4000 he wrote during his illness while exiled in France. I may not follow the 'correct' study method but readers who also write haiku will recognize certain stages of progression, and repetition of certain subjects. Wright wrote often about sparrows, crows, snow, loneliness, magnolias, death, scarecrows, the moon.
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