In Memory of William J. Higginson, 1938–2008

The following poems by poet, scholar, and translator William J. Higginson are a selection of thousands of contributions that appeared in numerous books and journals over forty years. Bill was one of the charter members of the Haiku Society of America (formed in 1968). He was also honorary curator of the American Haiku Archives (2003–2004) and received many other awards during his lifetime. His chief books were The Haiku Handbook (1985), still the seminal book for anyone wishing to learn haiku poetry in English, and the companion books Haiku Seasons and Haiku World (both 1996), the definitive books in English on the concept of season words in haiku, a subject that was very important to Bill. He will be remembered not only for these and other books and his many essays and reviews in haiku periodicals over many decades, but also for his personal leadership and mentoring in the worldwide haiku community. Underlying all his many accomplishments in service of haiku and in service of others were his own poems. I offer these selections in the spirit of recognizing the multifaceted talents of my inspirational haiku friend and personal mentor, Bill Higginson. See also “This Perfect Rose: The Lasting Legacy of William J. Higginson” and the “Honoring William J. Higginson” section of “The Democracy of Haiku,” my introduction to Fire in the Treetops: Celebrating Twenty-Five Years of Haiku North America, which is dedicated to Bill.


A wet night

     garbage cans all full

     but the far one                                    1969



The clock

    chimes chimes and stops

        but the river . . .                                1969



Holding the water

   held by it—

      the dark mud.                                     1970




atop the rock

the rising tide                                            1971



evening star

almost within

the moon’s half curve                            1971



this spring rain

the thief too

curses his job                                             1972



grey dawn

ice on the seats

of the rowboat                                         1982



the tick, tick

of snow on the reeds . . .

sparrow tracks                                          1989



New Year’s Eve . . .

thieves have left my car open

in the falling snow                                   1994



commercial break—

the cat and I

head for the kitchen                               1999



the fence post

hangs upright in the washout—

mid-summer heat                                   1999



going over a bump

the car ahead

going over a bump                                  1999



the old cat

hesitates on the doorsill—

a falling leaf                                                2001



summer storm . . .

a shopping cart rolls past

the end of the lot                                    2002



winter twilight

only a few old bakers

in the potato bin                                      2004



crescent moon

would I look at the clouds

without it?                                                  2004



Books and Writing



I look up

from writing

to daylight.                                                 1970



writing again

the tea water

boiled dry                                                    1986



reading renku—

every stanza links with

the midwinter cricket                             1991



thankful for

the books just received . . .

snow piling up                                           1997



musty smell

forgotten . . . deep

into the text                                               1997



spring rain

rereading my own book

I fall asleep                                                 2005







Christmas concert

I sit in the seat of my

hospitalized friend                                  1993



misty rain—

dry pavement under

the ambulance                                          2004



fireworks crashing

and fireflies so silent . . .

tomorrow the biopsy                             2005



one maple leaf . . .

end over end on the sand

without a trace                                         2004