On the first page of Becoming a Haiku Poet, author Michael Dylan Welch states, “While too much information can also impede the poetic impulse, with haiku, as with other genres of poetry, it’s worthwhile to move beyond superficialities.” This book does that.
In this slim volume, Welch covers many topics including the use of objective imagery, implication and suggestion, as well as defining some Japanese terms (kire, kigo). All of this helps introduce the reader to a deeper and clearer understanding of haiku. Welch tackles the sometimes contentious issue of syllable-counting, and he is definitive—haiku is a genre of poetry, not a form.
There is a useful resources list at the back of the book, as well as suggestions for next steps, and a “Haiku Checklist” for those just starting out on the path of the haiku poet. Importantly, Welch encourages reading as well as writing.
The excellent examples of haiku included in the book—both his own and by other well-known poets—are left to be examined by the reader without any specific exposition. Welch sets the reader on the path in this way—allowing them to begin exploring and understanding haiku on their own terms, and from their own perspective.
His conclusion, however, is more of a rant—he is stridently critical of “pseudo-haiku” and “the popular misperception of haiku merely as a 5-7-5 poem.” It might have been better to emphasize to new writers the importance of trust—to trust that their readers will make the leap necessary to understand their haiku, and also to trust that by continuing to read and write they will become better haiku poets over time.
This is a guide for beginners, but it may seem that Welch sometimes forgets it. For example, he encourages people, as a next step, to teach haiku, or to form a local haiku group. This is a stretch, but it is possible, and I should know—I’ve done it!
“As simple and profound as haiku itself. As I read through this book, I kept thinking, ‘This should be in classrooms.’ Clearly, Welch loves this unique poetry form, and wants to share that love and passion with others. If you ever wanted to try your hand at haiku, I would highly recommend this book. I’ve been writing for several years, but Welch inspired me to dig a little deeper. A purchase well made.”
—Sheri Bonner, on Amazon