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Were I Poet Laureate

out the window


Were I poet laureate, I'd make it official news: haiku is the most universal global poetic form of the 21st century.  It's also democratic ... empowering ... & fun enuf! 

It's not without precedent. When Robert Hass assumed incumbency as Poet Laureate, he chose to publish The Essential Haiku ... and Poet Laureate Emeritus Billy Collins's haiku are well-known in  haiku circles.

So if I were poet laureate of HaikuLand, I'd plant prayerflags on the beach head of awareness haiku has made thus far in popular consciousness, a mere toe hold, and consolidate  and expand. 

For instance, what is haiku ?

(We'd be billionaires if we had a nickel everytime someone thought anything in 5-7-5 syllables = a haiku.)

Frankly, I think we once knew the answer, but the question may be tomorrow's koan.

  • Haiku can be traditional, as in yukei tekei; and it can be modern, as in gendai.
  • And it can be multimedia, with haiga;  collaborative, in renga.

As poet laureate, my #1 priority: teaching kids haiku well. They're so much closer, already -- & they're our future. It could teach them so much more than counting syllable (silly bells) — in fact, offering a whole Swiss Army knife of multiple skill sets, such as

  • critical thinking — by learning to READ haiku
  • creative writing — by learning to COMPOSE haiku *
  • mindfulness — by learning to EXPERIENCE haiku ( for "mindfulness" ok to substitute "emotional intelligence" )
  • empiricism — by learning to OBSERVE without judgment from the direct evidence of the senses
  • letting the heart dance — an under-emphasized essential to life

* writing could include senryu, for empathy; haibun, for journalling — plus also be coupled with ink brush / photography / photoshop for haiga ...

I'd also include literary translation for kids — as is already being fostered at Center for Art In Translation's Poetry Inside Out .  This could include not only haiku from Japan and other nations — but with kids learning to translate haiku by themselves and their classmates.

Why not try something different for a change?


aoba wakaba
hi no hikari

Ah, how glorious !
green leaves, young leaves
glittering in the sunlight

— Basho

[ translation by Robert Aitken Roshi ]


By the way (& you heard it here first at Redroom) — starting next year,

as part of National Poetry Month -- April 17 will be National Haiku Day. 

Save the date.


" givenness of the timeless" — Aldous Huxley




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Agreed!  Haiku is a great

Agreed!  Haiku is a great poetry form.  While I am not poet laureate of the small city in which I live (my husband Rob was), I keep encouraging young folk (and their teachers and the current poet laureate) about haiku.  While not everyone can write great haiku, I think everyone can learn to write haiku and with that become alive to poetry and the power of words! ~nan

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The Heart of Haiku

The Heart of Haiku  by Jane Hirshfield is a wonderful jouney with Basho.

If given instruction on how to write one first graders can produce lovely haiku.  Have you tried  HaiBun