The best haiku books

1 authors have picked their favorite books about haiku and why they recommend each book.

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Zombie Haiku

By Ryan Mecum,

Book cover of Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry For Your ... Brains

You’d probably be forgiven if when you think of poetry you think of love, natural beauty, or at worst, melancholic sadness. But with just 17 syllables, the author manages to bring all the grit, gore, and mayhem of the zombie apocalypse into pleasant verse. Haiku is a popular, easily approachable form of poetry (i.e. not pretentious), which makes this book a fun, light read despite its blood-spattered pages.


Who am I?

Having completed military survival courses as well as stints in an improv comedy troupe, James Schannep knows the best zombie stories are those presented with a wry grin while staring down the end of the world. The product of an overactive imagination, the genre-hopping Click Your Poison series puts you in the driver’s seat against zombies, pirates, international spies, a detective whodunit, superheroes (and villains), exploration through a haunted house, and more! 


I wrote...

Infected (Click Your Poison)

By James Schannep,

Book cover of Infected (Click Your Poison)

What is my book about?

3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question... Will you survive the zombie apocalypse? Here's how it works: You, Dear Reader, are the main character of this story. Live, die, and rise again based solely on the merit of your own choices.

"Infected. Is. So. Good." -- A girl just like you. "Holy $#*% this is awesome!" -- A guy more or less like you.

The Malady of Death

By Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray (translator),

Book cover of The Malady of Death

I suspect that I was led to take The Malady of Death from my shelf by a subconscious directive. I admit that I am afraid of this book, its relentless probing, afraid I will never understand it however much I struggle. Confounded by it twenty-five years ago, I put it aside until my consciousness could mature. (Ha!) The fault must be mine, since her style, language, and structure are as limpid as Ernaux’s or Davis’s, although Duras’s prose carries a poetical charge deliberately absent in the other two writers. I begin to think that the trouble lies in my sex, that as a man, an Other to women, I can’t possibly know what Duras’s narrator is being made to gradually reveal not with the leer of a striptease artist but with the solemnity of a priestess presiding over ancient feminine mysteries.

Would feminists accuse me of being obtuse and,…


Who am I?

I have written stage and radio plays, poetry, short story collections, and, beginning in 2013, novels that comprise The American Novels series, published by Bellevue Literary Press. Unlike historical fiction, these works reimagine the American past to account for faults that persist to the present day: the wish to dominate and annex, the will to succeed in every department of life regardless of cost, and the stain of injustice and intolerance. In order to escape the gravity of an authorial self, I address present dangers and follies through the lens of our nineteenth-century literature and in a narrative voice quite different from my own.


I wrote...

American Follies

By Norman Lock,

Book cover of American Follies

What is my book about?

Narrator Ellen Finch recalls, from the vantage of twenty years after the madness of 1884, her months spent as a stenographer-typist for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the most powerful voices in America’s Woman Suffrage Movement, as well as her friendship with the diminutive Margaret Hardesty, one of P. T. Barnum’s “eccentrics.” In a delirium resulting from a postpartum infection, Ellen imagines that she, Margaret, and the two suffragists travel aboard Barnum’s train from New York City to Memphis to rescue her infant son, whom the Klan abducted and intends to sacrifice as the product of free love and miscegenation – or so it appears in the complex delusion in which the novel unfolds. In its review, The Washington Post called American Follies “provocative, funny, and sobering.” (Published in 2020 by Bellevue Literary Press.) 

If Not for the Cat

By Jack Prelutsky, Ted Rand (illustrator),

Book cover of If Not for the Cat

After writing 14 children’s books about art appreciation, I decided to try my hand at children’s poetry. When I read this collection of haiku by Jack Prelutsky, it was a revelation. Each poem is a first-person description of an animal, full of rich, unexpected language. By writing in first-person, Prelutsky broke one of haiku’s cardinal rules. But it worked—and inspired me to write my own collection in the first person as well. Here’s one of my favorites poems in his book:

Raucously we caw.
Your straw men do not fool us.
We burgle your corn.


Who am I?

Many people are intimidated by poetry. For a big part of my life, I was too. So much of the poetry I had been exposed to was either indecipherable or irrelevant to me. Then I discovered some poems that I loved—accessible poems about subjects I related to. I started collecting poetry books, by both adult and children’s poets. Eventually, I was inspired to write poetry of my own. Today, I’m a poetry advocate, recommending my favorites to anyone who shows interest. The satisfaction I get from poetry boils down to this: When I read a good poem, I think to myself, “Wow, I didn’t know words could do that.”


I wrote...

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

By Bob Raczka,

Book cover of Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

What is my book about?

I don’t remember when I saw my first concrete poetry (also known as shape poetry), but I was hooked from the get-go. I remember reading all the concrete poems I could find, and realized there was room to push the boundaries of this form. So in this book, not only does every poem have a shape, but every title as well. For example, in my poem "Dominoes", the letters of the title are shown on the page falling into each other liked stacked dominoes, while the lines of the poem itself are shown the same way, stacked vertically and falling into each other.

Wet Cement was a long time in the making, so when it received five starred reviews, I was thrilled.

Imperial Bedrooms

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Book cover of Imperial Bedrooms

With Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis channels many of his career-long obsessions into a nihilistic work of Hollywood noir, written in a minimalist prose style that evokes both Raymond Chandler’s staccato brutalism and Joan Didion’s haunting lyricism. Imperial Bedrooms takes a razor to Hollywood’s beautiful surfaces while drawing the reader deeper and deeper into protagonist Clay’s misanthropic paranoia. The writing is masterful, existential horror frozen into sentences so spare and focused they often resemble haiku. It features what might be my favorite closing line in fiction: “The fades, the dissolves, the rewritten scenes, all the things you wipe away—I now want to explain all these things to her but I know I never will, the most important one being: I never liked anyone and I’m afraid of people.”


Who am I?

Mike Thorn is the author of Shelter for the Damned, Darkest Hours, and Peel Back and See. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, and The NoSleep Podcast. His books have earned praise from Jamie Blanks (director of Urban Legend and Valentine), Jeffrey Reddick (creator of Final Destination), and Daniel Goldhaber (director of Cam). His essays and articles have been published in American Twilight: The Cinema of Tobe Hooper (University of Texas Press), Beyond Empowertainment: Exploring Feminist Horror (Seventh Row), The Film Stage, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick.


I wrote...

Shelter for the Damned

By Mike Thorn,

Book cover of Shelter for the Damned

What is my book about?

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced. But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

Briefs

By John Edgar Wideman,

Book cover of Briefs

John Edgar Wideman is the first African-American writer I can clearly point to who took microfiction seriously enough to write an entire collection. His stories are filtered through the lens of Blackness, but that is not the major reason why I like this book. Wideman does things with language that force me to completely step back and rethink things. I find myself reading his words aloud, simply because they feel as though they transcend the page. If it were not for Wideman, I would not feel as comfortable revealing the authenticity of my experience in my work.


Who am I?

I am the author of ten collections of microfiction and poetry. I came to microfiction after having written several novels and short story collections. I just felt that I was saying more than I wanted to say. Microfiction has allowed me to completely distill my stories to the essence of what makes them tick. Of the 26 books I have written, the microfiction collections are my favorites because every word and idea is carefully measured. I am presently working on my next collection of microfiction and have no immediate plans to return to writing at longer lengths. Oddly, writing small has freed me up so I can experiment with various genres, structures, and ideas. I honestly feel microfiction has made me a much better writer.

I wrote...

The Library of Afro Curiosities: 100-Word Stories

By Ran Walker,

Book cover of The Library of Afro Curiosities: 100-Word Stories

What is my book about?

A young boy wrestles with what it means to have long hair. A woman finds herself accepting a relationship she knows is not good for her. A generation of successful graduates places greater value on materialism than love. Aliens and more aliens. Mystery. Intrigue. Love (and love lost). And, yes, Blackness. All in one hundred 100-word stories.

In Ran Walker's latest collection of 100-word stories, he leaves few stones unturned as he pushes the limits of the form in engaging, surprising, and even humorous ways. Welcome to The Library of Afro Curiosities.

Book of Haikus

By Jack Kerouac,

Book cover of Book of Haikus

While Jack Kerouac can arguably be synonymous with the Beat generation, the poems in this collection reveal a lesser-known and seldom seen but poignant side of Kerouac’s legacy. He distills his surroundings into short vignettes, reminiscent of the Beat style and motif, but incorporates a significant amount of nature imagery. They’re beautiful glimpses of the world through the eyes of one of America’s most influential authors.


Who am I?

My name is Bri Bruce, writing as B. L. Bruce, and am an award-winning poet and Pushcart prize nominee from California. Over the last decade and a half, my work has appeared in dozens of literary publications. I am the author of four books and Editor-in-Chief of nature-centric magazine Humana Obscura. I was raised with a wildlife biologist/avid gardener for a mother and a forestry major/backpacker/fisherman as a father. Both my parents instilled in me at a young age a love of nature. A lifetime spent outdoors inspires my work—so much so that I’ve been called a “poetic naturalist” and the “heiress of Mary Oliver.”


I wrote...

The Weight of Snow: New & Selected Poems

By B.L. Bruce,

Book cover of The Weight of Snow: New & Selected Poems

What is my book about?

In The Weight of Snow, author B. L. Bruce explores the many plights of the human species, from the mysteries of the heart and the inescapability of death to the depths of human emotion. Told from the perspective of a poetic naturalist, Bruce shares her appreciation of the wild, illuminating the profound in the mundane while chronicling the natural world as both an observer and as an irrefutable part of it. Her poems focus strongly on image and locality, conjuring the imaginations of readers and celebrating the beauty in the follies of the human condition and its capacity to grip the soul.

Self-Awareness Practice Instructions

By Anonymous Awareness, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sankara, Annamalai Swami, Muruganar, Sadhu Om

Book cover of Self-Awareness Practice Instructions

If Japanese Zen is best expressed through haiku, Bhagwan Shri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings are the Vedantic equivalent. Simple, direct, straightforward – just the bare minimum a person needs to practice to awaken. This little book distills his teachings and takes the practitioner into a process designed to, as D.T. Suzuki might say it, “grasp the ungraspable nature of the ungraspable.”


Who am I?

These books attempt to describe the indescribable, pointing to the unknowable, only the living of which makes living living. What they have in common is that they invite us to practice along with the author, not giving any answers, but inviting us to look. I fell in love with Awareness Practice in my youth and through the decades that love has only deepened. I continue to love this journey of exploration and I hope the books that I have written contribute to that same experience for others. There is nothing more magical than having a direct experience of encountering who we really are, beyond ego’s dualistic world of opposites.


I wrote...

There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate

By Cheri Huber,

Book cover of There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate

What is my book about?

If you have been successful with what you have been taught about how life works, and if you have been satisfied with what society has given you, please don’t read this book. It would be a waste of your money to buy it and a waste of your time to read it.

HOWEVER, if you have spent a good deal of time, energy and money trying to improve yourself, wondering what is wrong with you and trying to change yourself in order to make your life work, this is the book for you. We will attempt to explain that you have been unable to fix yourself because there is nothing wrong with you, but there is quite a bit wrong with what you have been taught to believe about yourself and your life. Most people live and die completely trapped in self-hate and never know it. So much more is possible. This book reveals how self-hate works and how to let it go.

Basho and His Interpreters

By Makoto Ueda,

Book cover of Basho and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary

Matsuo Bashō is considered the most influential figure in the history of hokku (or haiku) poems and this book brings them to life with excellent English translations and commentary. I particularly enjoy Bashō because he was a traveller. He didn’t just sit and write poems in comfy surroundings. He hit the road and wrote about his experiences, be they good or bad. In many ways, they are the humorous, spontaneous, gritty writings of a fatigued experiencer of life. One of my favourites - “My summer robe, there are still some lice, I have not caught”. Ueda’s book is brilliant and allows English speakers to glimpse Bashō’s true thoughts as he rambled about the countryside in 17th century Japan.


Who am I?

I have a passion for Japan and the Japanese stretching back over four decades. I’ve done a lot of wandering around my wife Yuriko’s home-country – walked the 3200km length of it; hiked across it from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific, climbing all 21 of its 3000m peaks; broken the record for climbing its 100 Famous Mountains; walked around the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage; and journeyed around the Saigoku 33 Temples of Kannon Pilgrimmage – and written books on all these adventures. I’ve co-written Lonely Planet’s “Japan” and “Hiking in Japan” guidebooks since the late 1990s, covering everywhere from Hokkaido to Okinawa.


I wrote...

Tales of a Summer Henro

By Craig McLachlan,

Book cover of Tales of a Summer Henro

What is my book about?

Henro, or pilgrims, have been walking around the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage for 1200 years. They follow in the footsteps of the great Buddhist saint Kōbō Daishi, who achieved enlightenment on Shikoku, as they try to do the same. It’s a long journey, 1400km in all, with its 88 little goals – make that 89 – for the pilgrim traditionally walks back to Temple 1 to complete a circle. A circle is like the search for enlightenment, never-ending. While these days, most henro travel by car or bus, there are still walking henro out there making the effort.

I was a walking henro in the sweltering summer of 1995, and Tales of a Summer Henro is the story of my pilgrimage. Every journey will be different, but I tried to adhere to the advice of Kōbō Daishi – “do not just walk in the footsteps of the men of old, seek what they sought”.

Andy Goldsworthy

By Andy Goldsworthy,

Book cover of Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature

Goldsworthy is the grandfather of impermanent nature art, creating one-of-a-kind ephemeral sculptures out of snow and ice, stone and twigs, leaf and bark. This book carries the quiet intensity of his art that lives at the edge of decay and change. The book wove me into a world of understanding the impermanence in nature through the lens of art being created on the precipice of change. He sculpts spiraling ice crystals just at the time in the morning when the temperature would permit and builds stone structures at the edge of the water, just before the tide would come in and carry it away. Enchanting art, magical photography, a genius in our midst.


Who am I?

I came to discover the healing power of art, nature, and ritual while I was grieving the loss of my father a decade ago. I would go to the park and make impermanent and symmetrical art from found twigs, flowers, pine cones, berries, and leaves as a way to ground, heal my broken heart, and make sense of a chaotic time. Since then, I‘ve made over a thousand nature altars, written a book about it (Morning Altars), and have taught tens of thousands of people around the world to make meaning in their lives through a creative collaboration with the natural world. It still amazes me that something so simple and impermanent can bring such wonder and resilience.


I wrote...

Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration, and Change

By Day Schildkret,

Book cover of Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration, and Change

What is my book about?

Embrace the power of ritual with simple practices that slow us down to honor and mark the real moments in our lives—from the loss of a parent to the birth of a child, from grieving a pet to celebrating coming out of the closet.

Day Schildkret, artist and author behind the international Morning Altars movement, believes that what we need is ritual. Rituals are the rhythms and traditions that give us a sense of stability in the face of uncertainty by reminding us that there’s always something we can do, say or make that conjures awe, contentment, and gratitude. They give us a way to acknowledge through our actions that, as life changes, we too must change.

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