Here’s a few of the poetry books I read during lockdown. Some took longer to arrive than others, but I liked the wait, the feeling of anticipation when something new is on its way. The Penguin Book of Haiku was one I felt I should have read a while ago. Here’s a lovely haiku from it, by Socho:
in the riverbreeze
a cluster of willowtrees
And then there’s the wild imperfection of Kerouac, and a haiku that sums up those days during lockdown where I waited for the books to arrive, and felt fully imersed in both my reading and my writing:
Big books packaged
from Japan –
I tend to nibble on oat cakes, not Ritz crackers, but I identified with the sense that really all you need are some good poems and a few snacks to keep you going.
It’s hard to pick a single poem from any of the collections I read, especially from Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, which is a gem. I’ll quote this one by Max Verhart for now:
out of the haze
the dog brings back
the wrong stick
Isn’t it wonderful? Precise, evocative, profound.
There’s some brilliant nature poems in Matthew Paul’s The Lammas Lands. Again, one poem doesn’t do it justice, but here goes:
mooch along the sandbar –
a godwit’s breast
It’s the way those images collide and expand in your head that makes me read and reread this poem.
Lastly, I read Maitreyabandhu’s pamphlet, A Cezanne Haibun, from which I’ve taken the following extract:
The first bat
the evening together
with a cotton thread –
This feels really loose and open and confident. The whole pamphlet’s a treat.
In tandem with all these haiku, I was also working on the second draft of my novel, so I’ve included a shot of my prose reading below.
It’s a fairly varied pick of books, some bought in charity shops before lockdown that I’d never got round to reading, others that were on my radar, such as Benjamin Myers The Gallows Pole. I want to do a final draft of my novel over the summer, so it seemed important to ‘keep my hand in’, as it were, reading prose.
However, I’m finding haiku more rewarding at the moment, both in terms of reading and writing, so I’m not going to overload my summer reading pile with novels, especially as I have one of my own to contend with (I’ve told myself that this will be the third and final draft, no matter what).
Thank you to Dave Bonta for his haiku recommendations. I’m still interested to know what other people consider essential haiku reading, so let me know.
Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (ed. Kacian, J., Rowland, P & Burns, A., Norton, 2016, f.pub 2013)
Jack Kerouac’s Book of Haikus, ed. Regina Weinreich, is published by Penguin (f. pub. 2003)
Maitreyabandhu’s A Cezanne Haibun is published by Smith/Doorstop, 2019
Matthew Paul’s The Lammas Lands is published by Snapshot Press, 2015
The Penguin Book of Haiku, trans. and ed. by Adam L. Kern, 2018