One of my new year resolutions is to read poems or haikus every day. So I thought I would share the top 5 haiku books I’ve found with you as well. Even if you don’t want to or don’t have the time to read haikus every day, you can enjoy them whenever you want. I always think it is nice to have a book of poems or haikus at home so that whenever you feel like it, you can randomly open a page and start reading. They are also great conversation pieces as well!
Top 5 haiku books
1- On Love and Barley: The Haiku of Basho
Basho, one of the greatest of Japanese poets and the master of haiku, was also a Buddhist monk and a life-long traveller. His poems combine ‘karumi’, or lightness of touch, with the Zen ideal of oneness with creation. Each poem evokes the natural world – the cherry blossom, the leaping frog, the summer moon or the winter snow – suggesting the smallness of human life in comparison to the vastness and drama of nature. Basho himself enjoyed solitude and a life free from possessions, and his haiku are the work of an observant eye and a meditative mind, uncluttered by materialism and alive to the beauty of the world around him.
2- The Penguin Book of Haiku
Now a global poetry, the haiku was originally a Japanese verse form that flourished from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Although renowned for its brevity, usually running over three lines in seventeen syllables, and by its use of natural imagery to make Zen-like observations about reality, in fact the haiku is much more: it can be erotic, funny, crude and mischievous. Presenting over a thousand exemplars in vivid and engaging translations, this anthology offers an illuminating introduction to this widely celebrated, if misunderstood, art form.
Adam L. Kern’s new translations are accompanied here by the original Japanese and short commentaries on the poems, as well as an introduction and illustrations from the period.
3- The Haiku Handbook -25th Anniversary Edition
The Haiku Handbook is the first book to give readers everything they need to begin appreciating, writing, or teaching haiku. In this groundbreaking and now-classic volume, the authors present haiku poets writing in English, Spanish, French, German, and five other languages on an equal footing with Japanese poets. Not only are the four great Japanese masters of the haiku represented (Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki) but also major Western authors not commonly known to have written poetry in this form, including Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac and Richard Wright.
4- Haiku: Japanese Art and Poetry
The graceful, evocative haiku books featured here were composed by the renowned Japanese haiku masters of the past four hundred years, including Matsuo Bash, Taniguchi Buson, and Kobayashi Issa. The deceptively simple poems rendered in English with Japanese calligraphies and transliterations are paired with exquisite eighteenth- or nineteenth-century paintings and ukiyo-e prints and twentieth-century shin hanga woodcuts from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Canada. Haiku: Japanese Art and Poetry presents thirty-five pairs of poems and images, organized seasonally. The Introduction details the origin and development of haiku, the lives of the most famous poets, and the obstacles faced when translating the concise yet complex lines.
5- The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology
A highly distilled form of Japanese poetry, haiku consist of 17 syllables, usually divided among three lines. This unique collection spans over 400 years (1488–1902) of haiku history by the greatest masters: Basho, Issa, Shiki and many more, in translations by top-flight scholars in the field. Editor Faubion Bowers provides a Foreword and many informative notes to the poems.
Since you are here, you may be interested in this as well: Japanese Literature – A Literary Journey