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Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World Paperback – August, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Higginson's interest in haiku began at Yale, and resulted in his writing award-winning poems in the genre and editing Haiku Magazine in the 1960s and 1970s. He is a past president of the Haiku Society of America and a member of the Selection Committee for the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Awards sponsored by Ehime Prefecture

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

[The opening pages of the first section of Chapter 5, "The Haiku Seasons."]

From Seasons to Saijiki

All traditional Japanese poetry has historically been deeply involved with nature. Natural cycles, such as the seasons and the course of love relationships, have long been major subject matter for composition, the primary source of figurative language, and a large part of the basis for organizing poetry collections. According to principles of Japanese poetry well-recognized by the fifteenth century, certain words and phrases embody ideas that go beyond their literal meanings. For example, using the word "blossom" (hana), without the name of a specific blossom, means the blossoms of ornamental cherry trees. For any other blossom one must specify: "peach blossoms" (momo no hana), and so on. Further, the word "cherry" (sakura) always means "cherry blossoms"--unless one specifies "fruit of the cherry" (sakura no mi). This last is the reverse of the usual English practice, where the word "cherry" normally means the fruit and to specify the blossoms one says "cherry blossoms." But in Japanese poetry the principle goes deeper.

For the Japanese many natural phenomena and human activities and the words and phrases traditionally used to name them immediately bring to mind the seasons in which they typically occur--or become most noticed--along with a whole range of temporally-related images. The effect on the Japanese reader is somewhat like that for a New Englander who reads the phrase "the frost is on the pumpkin": One not only sees the whiteness covering the orange surface of the pumpkin, but also smells the scent of cut-over fields and woodsmoke, feels the nip of frost in the air, and perhaps thinks of a drink of hot apple cider. A friend, when asked what the phrase meant to her, came up with similar images, and without being prompted associated the phrase with Thanksgiving, in late November.

Every culture has phrases, often used in literature, which bring to mind whole complexes of associated images and feelings. Ezra Pound called the use of such phrases "logopoeia," which stimulates "the associations (intellectual or emotional) that have remained in the receiver's consciousness in relation to the actual words or word groups employed" (ABC of Reading). In Japanese traditional literature those "words or word groups" associated with the seasons have been particularly appreciated, and even catalogued. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press; Revised edition (August 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933330651
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933330655
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,082,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is a wonderful follow-on to Higginson's first book on the subject - "The Haiku Handbook". In it, he goes into much more detail and depth on the historical background of haiku. But one gets the feeling that this is really window dressing for the main topic - the significance and overwhelming importance of seasonal reference in traditional haiku.
It has been suggested that the difference between Western haiku and "real" haiku is the former's reluctance to make use of seasonal references. In this book, Higginson explains how the references can be used to convey a vast amount of sub-textual emotion and information by the use of key words and phrases. In short, he shows how it is possible for non-Japanese to use their own cultural and natural pointers, to be able to craft haiku that potentially has as much resonance as those of the Japanese masters.
Needless to say, if you are against the idea/convention/concept of "kigo", this book is not for you. However, if you want to really understand the way that haiku works, if you want to be able to comprehend all the nuances that go in to haiku, you need to at least read this book. It is fascinating and enlightening. Just as good haiku should be.
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Format: Paperback
The subtitle for this book is "poetry of the natural world" and that is exactly what Professor Higginson addresses in a wonderful resource for haiku poets interested in exploring kigo (season words and phrases) and the possibilities of renku (collaborative linked verse). Like others, I came to "The Haiku Seasons" after years of referring to "The Haiku Handbook". It has proven to be an excellent sequel.
I particularly like Higginson's explanations of renku portions as well as the richness in scholarship and attention to historic detail. A keeper!
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Format: Paperback
Haiku, like all else, ebbs and flows and completely flips. One of the hotly debated issues is whether or not the "kigo" or season-word still has a legitimate standing in modern haiku. The existence of "saijiki" or season-word lists and the attempts to create saijiki applicable to regions beyond Japan would seem to indicate that the season-word will stay around for quite awhile.
The sheer volume of truly transcendent haiku with kigo will not just evaporate and many haijin still utilise the kigo in haiku as well as in renga/renku experiments for which awareness of season is essential.
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William Higginson is THE authority on how to write good haiku. My husband said this book was his Haiku Bible. Higginson translated the most famour poem of Master Basho. He gave my husband permission to use it on Basho Ki (website dedicated to Master Basho. Cliff Roberts has been doing this website for 15 years this year.

old pond
frog leaps in
water sound (Basho translated by HIgginson)
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