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On Haiku

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  62 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Who doesn’t love haiku? It is not only America’s most popular cultural import from Japan but also our most popular poetic form: instantly recognizable, more mobile than a sonnet, loved for its simplicity and compression, as well as its ease of composition. Haiku is an ancient literary form seemingly made for the Twittersphere—Jack Kerouac and Langston Hughes wrote them, Ez ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by New Directions
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Tim Nowotny
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever had a really good tourist guide on a vacation?
This book feels very much so. The author takes you on a ride, keeps the mood light and throws at you facts and figures that are entertaining and informative. And after having had a good time you notice that you learned something that must have been dear to the author (despite him having said differently on the first page).

I enjoyed this book very much! It gave a very multi layered overview of the context of Haiku and the many, many form
John Barrington
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
America has latched onto haiku for its brevity and easily teachable form. Here, Sato does the necessary work of re-contextualizing haiku for an American readership, offering an expansive history with frequent diversions into poetic analysis.

Sato tracks haiku from its beginnings as an opening renga verse to its present day singularity, up through gendai haiku and the avant-garde. Sato sustains a winking, affable critical voice (while he is a critic, he is also a well-known translator of haiku, a
Alex Fyffe
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
This is an essential text for anyone seriously interested in the writing and reading of haiku. Sato's essays provide insight not only into Basho and the early haiku (hokku) writers, but also detailed looks into the history of women haiku poets, wartime poets--both those jailed for anti-war sentiment and those with pro-war sentiment--, modern and avant-garde haiku poets, and more.

Included in the history and biographical sketches are also line-by-line explications of some renga (linked verse writi
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Haiku has always been one of my favorite poetic forms because of it's understated complexity, concision, and ability to zoom in on small moments or objects. This book taught me a lot about the history of haiku and how the West changed it and how it evolved. I never knew, for instance, that it was originally monolinear, instead of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. I also never knew the strict requirements of traditional haiku, such as the seasonal requirement. All requirements considered, haiku pac ...more
Rick Jackofsky
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: haiku-tanka-etc
A nice collection of essays containing many interesting insights into Japanese history and culture that will help English speaking readers interpret classic as well as modern Japanese haiku. This book once again shows that translating haiku, from Japanese to English, is a slippery slope. The translator often comes very close to becoming a co-author of a new poem.

While I've written plenty of one line haiku, I’m not sure I agree with Sato’s proclivity to translate all haiku using only one line. I
Ben Frost
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
It turns out that what we all learned when introduced to haiku in creative writing in elementary school was just the faintest sliver of the very tip of an iceberg. In fact, upon a second look, that piece of iceberg is really a white plastic bag and the real iceberg is about 7,597 metres to the left.
Micah Horton hallett
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
An incredible, chaotic and meandering ramble through the world, characters and history of Haiku. Eminently enjoyable, Hiroaki Sato goes far beyond Basho and is moderately evenhanded in his treatment of avant Garde and traditional Haiku- except for the single line versus three line translation models:

Gone from translation lines like the straight edge of blades bee in his bonnet
Richard Tice
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book's title really should be On Haikai and Haiku. Though rambling in its composition, put together from miscellaneous articles and presentations, Sato's work has a chronological framework of Japanese haikai and haiku history. This has a wealth of interesting information and abundant examples of hokku, haikai [linked verse], haiku, and tanka, written in Sato's engaging style. Some highlights: a complete (and explicated) kasen by Basho and friends, composed on a scenic boat trip, abundant sel ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: art
(I must start with the disclaimer that I am a beginner at studying haiku. Also, a score above 3 stars indicates to myself a book I would enjoy re-reading. ) This book is for scholars of haiku and I do not wish to try and work through it again, hence the 3 stars.

The first ~ 50 pages of this book are intolerable. It’s like asking a genius hacker to explain an everyday computer question, and instead of getting a clarifying answer, being given a smart-aleck sarcastic monologue of obscure terminolog
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of those books that makes you want to read more, and provides plenty of leads on what to read next. Fascinating.

Some of the essays have a meandering, aimless quality. You feel like you're tracing discarded lengths of Christmas ribbons, ending abruptly but filling the mind. However the essays might meander, the content is superb, and I highly recommend On Haiku.
Sean Anderson
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exhaustive and meandering, this is the best book I’ve read on the subject as well as a great collection of poems. If you’re serious about understanding or even writing your own Haiku, this is where to start.
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, poetry
This could have been a giant chore to read, but it wasn't because Sato's voice is so present -- knowledgeable, poetic, clever, and really kinda bitchy sometimes. If he does lectures, I imagine attending one would be entertaining and informative.

I liked that the essays referred back to each other because that really helped me better retain this information overload -- really I have never seriously looked at or thought about haiku before, and so many unheard-of names became confusing. I think in
Lost Owl
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, haiku
Lots of information not readily available elsewhere.
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Hiroaki Sato (佐藤 紘彰) born 1942, is a Japanese poet and prolific translator who writes frequently for The Japan Times. He has been called (by Gary Snyder) "perhaps the finest translator of contemporary Japanese poetry into American English." ...more

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