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Volume 33.1
Winter Spring

book review

The Haiku Box
by Lonnie Hill DuPont


reviewed by Robert Spiess

The Haiku Box by Lonnie Hill DuPont; Tuttle; 2001, $24.95.

This is a boxed kit containing a blank book, 50 one-word “tiles” (not ceramic) and a draw-string bag for them, and a 70-page “how to write haiku” book titled Footprints in the Snow.

The book’s introduction mentions how writing haiku can be a spiritual journey and gives several examples of Japanese haiku in translation and English-language haiku. The writing of haiku in 5/7/5 syllables is stressed: “ . . . especially if you’re looking for spiritual practice. Spiritual journeys require disciplines . . .”

Chapter One: “What Makes a Haiku?” quotes haiku by Basho, Buson and Issa, including this by Wallace Stevens: “Among twenty snowy mountains/The only moving thing/Was the eye of the blackbird.” which the author attributes to Buson! The “17 rule” is again mentioned, and the second rule is given as “. . . the poet must establish an intimate relationship between the poet and nature, even though the poem isn’t necessarily about nature.”

Chapter Two: “Haiku and Nature” again mentions 5/7/5 and that the haiku is untitled and unrhymed. The second rule about nature in haiku (given above) is stressed—there must be a presence of nature in haiku.”

Three: “The Discipline of Haiku.” Yes, 5/7/5 again! Fortunately the author does mention that “Haiku work best when written in the present tense.” and that “Often, not many verbs are needed . . . “, but nothing about adjectives and adverbs as generally having the same restriction. Also, mention is made that each line generally be a Where or What or Who. And the author does indicate that the rules of haiku need not always be followed when one has mastered haiku.

Four: “Finding the Haiku Moment.” “The haiku takes that one specific experience and tells us about it in seventeen syllables, using nature to help express it or illuminate it.” Although the author does not specifically use the phrase “juxtaposition of seemingly disparate entities” she alludes to it: “Feel absolutely free, then, to build details that seem unrelated . . .”.

Five: “Haiku and Zen.” “Haiku is like Zen because of its simplicity and clarity. Zen fosters a clear mind and a direct unclouded perception of the world.”

Six: “Getting Started.” 5/7/5 again, along with finding the haiku moment and its emotion (“feeling” perhaps would have been a somewhat better term) and the use of nature, and how to use the blank book.

Seven: “Exercises.” Various ways to inspire the writing of haiku, including use of the tiles, each of which has a single word on it, as: silent, chirp, crimson, willow, drink, clouds, hair, ringing, river, wind.

The kit appears to be reasonably useful for a haiku neophyte, although the stress on 5/7/5 syllables can lead easily to padding haiku with unnecessary words, especially adjectives.




©2002 Modern Haiku • PO Box 68 • Lincoln, IL 62656