Book of the Week: High Kukus

broughtoncoverJames Broughton offered this oddity in 1968 (The Jargon Society), at just the time when The Haiku Society of America was being formed. The disparity of understanding between the Haiku Community and Popular Culture is apparent in these poems, which read more like Tom Swifties, and rely on a kind of stereotype of “out there” culture for their effect. A useful historical placemarker.

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published 2009 or earlier you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details.

Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by Jim Kacian, following a concept first explored by Tom Clausen, and are used with permission.

I like where I'm sitting, said the Toad, What else is a toadstool for?
You may have had some hard knocks, said the Pebble, but I've been kicked around all my life.
Once in a while, said the Whale, one has to come up for air.
When you take a load off your mind, said the Hat to the Head, where do you put it?
When I gave up trying to understand, said the Camel's Eye to the Needle, then I began to get the point.

Bookstories 18: Mike Dillon’s the road behind

libraryofbabelEvery book tells its story, but what of the other story, the story behind the book? Bookstories offers an opportunity to tell that story. If you have a story about a book or poem you would like to share, contact us and we’ll help you make it happen. Thanks for letting us know the rest of the story!


In 2001, after 15 or so years of having my haiku published in various magazines, I wrote Jim Kacian at Red Moon Press inquiring if he would be open to seeing a manuscript from me. The reply came in the affirmative: the road behind was published in June 2003.

Along the way, I had experienced no epiphany in terms of publishing a book. The book was the fruit of a slow, accumulative process, in which I was learning (I am still learning) how to write haiku. If “Ripeness is all,” then the time was ripe. Using the progress of the seasons as a backdrop, I winnowed a couple hundred published haiku down to 71. For good measure, I added two short, Chinese-style “regular” poems and a haibun.

When I slipped the manuscript into the 9″x12″ manila envelope addressed to Red Moon Press, it felt a little like a lock clicking shut, sweetly. I remember thinking: I don’t know how good it is, but it counts for something.

The production process provided another one of those just-right sensations. The first cover that Jim sent was fine—a bucolic farm scene illustrated in thick, woodblock-style lines that evoked a panel from some 19th Century Book of Hours. I would have used it in other circumstances, but it didn’t seem to fit the contents, of which my percipient sister later noted was tinged with “existential loneliness.”

I asked him to consider something a little more abstract.

The second iteration hit the sweet spot: an illustration by abstract expressionist Barnett Newman, master of the vertical line running down a canvas, whose work carries spiritual undertones.

In the proposed cover, a faint line, thick as a narrow path or road, ran down the middle of an olive-gray color field. I found the new cover a remarkable intuitive leap. The line was barely discernible, like a faint whisper. Some might miss the line altogether; others, with right attention, would see and grasp it.

The whole process reminded me there are those in the publishing world with their tambourines to the window, catching our ripples upon the ether, who are in the service of something other than the pursuit of riches and who act on their judgments.

A kind of small miracle in itself.

—Mike Dillon

The Renku Sessions: Junicho verse #8


I’m Sandra Simpson, and I will serve as your guide as we compose a 12-verse junicho (june-ee-cho, as in choke).

Love verses are perhaps the trickiest to get right in a renku and according to John Carley, Basho didn’t much care for writing them but I think you all did pretty well – there were certainly some good verses submitted, everything from the sweetly romantic to the phwoar!

Please do read through the information on the requirements for the next verse as I change it for each posting. I mentioned for the last verse that I wanted an indoors setting yet many submitters set their verses outside. At its heart renku is a form that values variety and change as its creation moves forward, something that is important to remember. A sequence of verses that mimic each other in tone, construction, rhythm and setting don’t make for a good renku.

If you’re having trouble steering clear of topics that have gone before, I suggest you print the poem so far, putting it at your elbow as you write. We have all made the mistake of re-using something that has gone before, so don’t beat yourself up, just try again. If we were all sitting in the same room, these “errors” would be laughed off and we’d all have another cup of sake!

Chosen for verse #7 is:

on re-entry
the cosmonaut inhales
the scent of her body

– Patrick Sweeney

The link is, broadly, “things that go up in an arc and come down from the heavens” – rainbow and cosmonaut’s space craft; a “scent link” or vibe of (sexual) fireworks and rainbow; and maybe even men in funny costumes (leprechauns/cosmonauts)!

I have added “on” at the start of the verse to eliminate the pause/cut that occurred at the end of line 1 with “re-entry” as a single line.

This is a brilliant verse with its “naughty” double entendre, very ha, but at the same time purely a love verse. Whether our cosmonaut is with his lover or has purchased a woman the moment he steps back on Earth, is left to our imagination. I also like the fact that Patrick has chosen to make our male a Russian (or, at least, part of the Russian space team). “cosmonaut” adds an intriguing note to our poem.

And thank you, Patrick too, for making this a sensual verse, our first using the sense of smell. We’ve had touch and sound earlier so were ready for another sense to be used. Will someone be able to bring taste to the table before we finish?

I don’t perceive any issue with “flight”, as the previous two verses that use “something that flies” (ducks/paper planes) the objects weren’t actually flying and nor was there any indication that they would be. This is the sort of thing that could be discussed ad infinitum, and often is, but my mentor John Carley always recommended avoiding forensic parsing in favour of the poetry!

Other verses in the running were:

her smoldering glance
as Bacall teaches Bogart
how to whistle

– Paul MacNeil

he bends and dips her deep
to the floor

– Liz Ann Winkler

from the palette of oils
his brush
touching her body

– Judt Shrode

I send flowers hoping
that her daddy
will not see them

– joel

slow dancing
closer than the law

– Michael Henry Lee

What comes next – verse #8 is:

  • A 2-line verse that is not cut.
  • A winter love verse – this is our only winter verse. Summer and winter are seen as “minor” seasons in renku and so in a junicho receive less weight than spring and autumn, the “major” seasons, which have two verses each. Summer has two verses in our junicho only because it was the season of the hokku and therefore also the wakiku.
  • A verse that links to verse 7 but shifts away from verse 6 – in tone, setting, construction, etc. I would strongly suggest that this is an indoor verse as we’ve spent a lot of time outside and verse 7 is indeterminate, although most likely to be inside (but I guess you never know with cosmonauts!).
  • A verse that has energy – we are almost at the end of the ha or “party” phase of jo-ha-kyu, only one more to go before we change the mood. Don’t just make your words sparkle, but go for a striking idea too.
  • A verse that opens outwards (is open-ended) leaving room for the writer who will follow.

How we play:

Please enter your candidate verses in the Comments section below. All verse positions in this junicho will be degachi, that is competitive, and the final poem will comprise stanzas written by 12 different poets.

Please submit only 3 candidate verses for each position. I will allow a week between each verse selection so you have plenty of time to consider your submissions before making them.

For information about junicho and renku, please refer to the Introduction post. And, remember, have fun with your writing.

An inspiring quote:

What is so great about the many [renku] rules is that as a writer progresses, there is always something new to learn, another technique to try out or idea to experience. It is beginning to seem that 20 years is no time at all and one needs a long life to try out everything - Jane Reichhold

Our poem so far:

cooling off –
our feet in the river
with the ducks

– Lorin Ford

the distant melody
of an ice-cream truck

– Maria Tomczak

paper planes
by the window
ready for his bag

– Sanjuktaa Asopa

welcome to Gaza
from Banksy and friends

– Betty Shropshire

somewhere a missing key
among sprouts
of green grass

– Maureen Virchau

and a pot of daffodils
at the end of the rainbow

– Marion Clarke

on re-entry
the cosmonaut inhales
the scent of her body

– Patrick Sweeney

Survey Says . . . Troutswirl, the THF Blog

Every September the Board of Directors and Associates of The Haiku Foundation are sent a survey. Their responses help to guide our growth and direction. We’d like to broaden our input, and so we’ll be asking you to respond to a series of questions, one per week, over the next half-year. Your replies will be weighed in our assessment of our performance.

Today’s question: Troutswirl, The Haiku Foundation Blog

The blog serves many functions for The Haiku Foundation. In addition to functioning as the major news portal for the Foundation, it also hosts regular features such as the Book of the Week program and Haiku Maven. A link to each blog post is automatically sent to three other channels: THF Facebook page, THF Twitter stream, and an email list for those who register to be notified each time we post to the blog. You can find the Blog on the website.

Please assess how well The Haiku Foundation is delivering on this topic. Indicate your assessment of our performance to date by choosing one of the options:






Please feel free to add additional comments. Thank you in advance for your consideration, and for helping us make The Haiku Foundation a better resource.