My Haiku Notebooks

All my haiku notebooks from 1985 to 2023.

Previously unpublished. First written in August of 2022.


For decades I’ve been writing all my haiku and other short poems (and occasional personal notes or ideas) mostly in 3x5-inch spiral-bound notebooks. This size easily fits in my pocket, and many of these notebooks have been badly worn from living in my pocket for more than a year. I usually work out poems in my head before putting them to paper, so the poems don’t often have versions and seldom even many revisions. I usually mark the date and location of each poem, and in this way my haiku notebooks serve as a sort of diary of where I was—if I happened to be writing haiku at those locations. I continue this practice even today, after more than thirty-five years. In my first notebook, the first creative entry is dated 12 June 1985, but without a location, though I believe it was Riverside, California:


             Expect nothing,

             Hope for everything—

             And know the difference

             Between the two.


Also included in this notebook are set lists for occasional concerts I went to (Marillion, Don McLean, Amy Grant, Al Stewart), packing lists and mileage notes for trips, a hand-written directional map, favourite songs, doggerel, aphorisms, and (mostly) a mix of longer poems and spates of haiku.

     The first two notebooks are larger in size but then I switched to a 3x5-inch size (or close to it), and I used these smaller notebooks almost exclusively for haiku or occasional personal notes or ideas (and wrote longer poetry on individual sheets of paper or, in later years, in separate larger notebooks for longer poetry or wrote them directly into the computer). Each of these smaller notebook’s pages has space for about four or sometimes five haiku, and the notebooks typically run 100 to 150 pages (some have been longer), so about 360 to 600 haiku per notebook, sometimes more. Only after filling a notebook, which typically takes a year or more, do I go through the notebook and choose the poems I think work best. I then write each selected poem (occasionally revised) on a 4x6-inch index card, and I use these cards to track all my submissions to poetry journals or contests (see “The Practical Poet: Tracking Your Haiku Submission” and “Tracking Your Poetry Submissions”). If a poem is published, I put its card with many others in alphabetized card boxes, where I can look them up easily if I know the poem’s first line—a useful necessity when one is asked for prior publication credits for a reprint request. This publication process all begins with notebooks.

     How I got to this habit didn’t begin smoothly. Through my youth and college years, though I wrote poetry regularly, I seem to have used individual sheets of paper, or whatever was handy, in a haphazard and random way, and most of these drafts now seem to be lost. At that time, I was writing mostly longer poems, though I started writing haiku in 1976 (see a set of my “Godawful Early Haiku” from 1983 and 1984, and “Godawful Early Haiku, Part Deux” covering 1985 and a bit later). Unless I’m missing or can’t find any earlier notebook, it seems that the first one I still have began with a poem jotted down on 12 June 1985, as mentioned, and went until 1 July 1992, with one additional poem dated 11 March 1993 (most of this notebook is blank). This 6x9-inch notebook included poems and observations of various lengths, mostly longer than haiku, but with many haiku included. It was interrupted by two other notebooks that focused on haiku. One is dated from 3 to 11 December 1987, all of the poems about a trip to Yosemite National Park (most of the notebook is blank), resulting in a self-published “book” titled Yosemite, the other dated 6 July 1990 to 10 November 1991. This last notebook began my tradition of using pocket-size notebooks for my haiku, and I’ve systematically written down nearly all of my haiku since July of 1990 in this and subsequent notebooks, except for some that appear only in the first 6x9-inch notebook along with many longer poems. Oddly, many of my poems for early rengay and renku were never written down in these notebooks but on separate sheets of paper, and consequently are not recorded on index cards, even though published. Since around 2015 or so, though, I’ve been more conscientious in recording all my published linked verse poems on index cards, and I’ve been retroactively creating index cards for earlier linked verse when I see that they’re missing (many still to catch up with, though).

     Here’s a chronological listing of all my poetry notebooks (chiefly haiku), with the dating of poems for each notebook. For better or worse, I also include each notebooks first poem, most of which are unpublished. Not all of these are haiku, but those that are demonstrate a progression in my knowledge and experience with haiku, especially after the first couple of notebooks. In maybe half a dozen notebooks I also recorded poems on the inside back cover, adding an extra page of poems. Except for journals 3 and 10, which had slightly more decorative covers, each journal is entirely utilitarian. All covers are cardboard, except where noted.


12 June 1985 to 1 July 1992, plus one additional poem dated 11 March 1993 (6x9 inches, spiral-bound at the top, tan-coloured “Steno Note Book”; 160 pages, only 47 pages used, so about 71 percent blank; I seem to have used this notebook to record poems while driving, since it omits essentially all poems I know I wrote while living in Riverside and Foster City, California during the time of this notebook, and all the locations listed are from driving trips—I believe I had kept this notebook in my cars glove compartment)

Prairie Bird

Grass waves no hollow

Goodbye; knowing God, I, now

Growing slowly, fly.

20 June 1985 (no location recorded)


3 to 11 December 1987 (used only for poems about a trip to Yosemite) (3.5x7-inch paper in a small 4.5x7.25-inch plastic-covered six-hole binder; 86 pages, only 12 pages used, so about 86 percent blank)

tail lights


in the rearview mirror

8:30 p.m., 3 December 1987, Bakersfield, California


6 July 1990 to 10 November 1991 (3.5x4.25 inches, 64 pages, spiral-bound on the side, with a photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the front cover, purchased while in London for a summer of graduate school in 1987; starting this notebook was a liberating revelation for me, as it marked the beginning of a system to conscientiously keep track of my haiku compositions, which in turn empowered more systematic submissions, publication, and better record-keeping, as I transferred selected poems from notebooks to index cards; see “The Practical Poet: Tracking Your Haiku Submission”; see sample interior pages below)

spring wind—

     a cherry blossom

          circles the well

6 July 1990, Foster City, California


15 November 1991 to 27 April 1992 (3x5 inches, 118 pages, spiral bound on the side, light blue cover; all subsequent notebooks are this size, except as noted, mostly with plain single-colour covers; a note in this notebook says it contains “about 334 haiku”)

the babys smile

she catches

a falling leaf

15 November 1991,

Foster City, California


4 May 1992 to 17 April 1993 (3x5 inches, 160 pages, spiral bound on the side, red cover)

high school reunion—

the valedictorian’s

straight teeth

4 May 1992, Foster City, California

In “one by one renku with anne mckay


22 April 1993 to 26 January 1994 (3x5 inches, 118 pages, spiral bound on the side, dark blue cover)

the fat frog

on the biggest lily pad


22 April 1993, Foster City, California


1 February 1994 to 25 January 1995 (3x5 inches, 116 pages, spiral bound on the side, red cover)

rhythm of the rain

on the leaves—

a sparrows call

1 February 1994, Foster City, California


25 January 1995 to 15 June 1996 (3x5 inches, 118 pages, spiral bound on the side, green cover)

so briefly I knew her—

I turn the pen in my hands

wondering if I will write

when I am old

about her and our dream

25 January 1995, Foster City, California


24 June 1996 to 29 September 1997 (3x5 inches, 120 pages, spiral bound on the side, light blue cover)

penthouse restaurant—

as the obese woman eats

her cake tips over

24 June 1996, Foster City, California

(I believe I wrote this poem for a purpose, perhaps a contest, that required the 5-7-5 form)


29 September 1997 to 26 December 1999 (3x5 inches, 150 pages, spiral bound on the side, multiple colours on a decorative cover)

Content with silence

you say nothing

     of your family—

raised on love and porridge.

Cocktail in hand

you say nothing

     of your career

—now, on retirement.

You say the curious

     will find what they need

(raising your glass)

and mountains weigh less

     than prairie.

29 September 1997,

Mount Vernon, Washington


30 December 1999 to 27 May 2001 (3x5 inches, 120 pages, spiral bound on the side, dark blue cover; a note in this notebook says that it covers “about 515 days” and that “at 4 ‘haiku’ avg. per day for 120 pages = 480 haiku = 0.932 haiku per day”)

Y2K midnight

the grandfather clock

doesn’t miss a beat

30 December 1999,

White Rock, British Columbia


30 May 2001 to 9 November 2002 (3x5 inches, 200 pages, spiral bound on the side, with purple plastic front cover; after all previous journals covering California, the last three pages of this journal represent my move to the Seattle area)

hands at four corners—

the slow drift of the blanket

down to fresh white sheets

30 May 2001, San Mateo, California

(written for the 2001 Tokutomi haiku contest that required 5-7-5 syllables and the subject of “blanket”)


10 November 2002 to 19 July 2003 (3x5 inches, 68 pages used, spiral bound on the side, red cover; this journal was accidentally left in my pants pocket and run through the washing machine, though I was able to tear the pages from the spiral binding and dry them out individually; fortunately, the ink I used did not run in the water, so I am still able to read all the poems; see sample interior pages below)

flower show—

a crocheted doily

under each pot

10 November 2002,

Redmond, Washington       +       +


27 July 2003 to 5 November 2005 (3x5 inches, 120 pages, spiral bound on the side, red cover; for some reason in this notebook I ignored the lines and crammed in poems more tightly than necessary, so instead of about four poems to a page, this notebook has about six or seven for most of its pages)

barren highlands—

a Scottish longhorn

shakes off snow

27 July 2003, Sammamish, Washington


8 November 2005 to 11 April 2008 (3x5 inches, 120 pages, spiral bound on the side, black cover; again, I continued to ignore the preprinted lines, so this notebook contains more haiku per page than most earlier or later notebooks)

after the service,

carrying home

his grandmother’s brogue

8 November 2005,

Redmond, Washington

(written for Jerry Kilbride, who died in San Francisco on 3 November 2005)


11 April 2008 to 23 May 2009 (3x5 inches, 120 pages, spiral bound on the side, dark blue cover; still ignoring the lines, so each page has about six haiku)

the last of winter—

my son makes a truck

with my childhood Lego

11 April 2008,

White Rock, British Columbia


24 May 2009 to 7 June 2010 (3x5 inches, 140 pages, spiral bound on the side, plastic purple cover; I started following the lines again in this notebook, so each page usually has five haiku)

the spring equinox—

I wake up naturally

without my alarm

24 May 2009, Sammamish, Washington


9 June 2010 to 18 July 2011 (3x4.5 inches, 160 pages, side-stitched, red and white cover)

Daddy, when I was a baby, I got food through my belly button.

9 June 2010, Issaquah, Washington

(this is a 17-syllable “American Sentence,” Allen Ginsberg’s form, representing a quotation from my daughter, Sarah, who was four years old)


23 July 2011 to 14 September 2012 (3x5 inches, 150 pages, spiral bound on the side, plastic yellow cover)

overcast morning—

the stillness

of the roadside deer

23 July 2011, Sammamish, Washington


22 September 2012 to 20 February 2014 (3x5 inches, 148 pages, spiral bound on the side, plastic light blue cover)

Sarah says honeymoons are when you take a day off and play tennis. [“And I think there's dancing.”]

22 September 2012,

Sammamish, Washington

(another American Sentence, quoting my daughter, age six)


20 February 2014 to 11 August 2015 (3x5 inches, 150 pages, spiral bound on the side, plastic green cover)

no news—

the putting green

whitens with snow

20 February 2014,

Redmond Washington

(first verse in my “Green Flash” solo rengay)


11 August 2015 to 6 July 2017 (3x5 inches, 148 pages, spiral bound on the side, plastic red cover; this notebook is now missing its cardboard back cover; for many other notebooks, the cardboard back cover has come loose but has not been lost)

noisy downspout—

the alluvial fan

of small autumn leaves

11 August 2015, Redmond, Washington


27 July 2017 to 13 October 2018 (3x5 inches, 100 pages, spiral bound on the side, purple cover; see sample interior pages below)

after the popsicle    the popsicle stick

27 July 2017, Kirkland, Washington

(alluding to Ruth Yarrow's “after the garden party     the garden”)       +


17 October 2018 to 1 June 2021 (3x5 inches, 162 pages, side-stitched, black “hardback” cover that has since fallen apart)

school shooting—

snow at both ends

of the seesaw

17 October 2018,

Sammamish, Washington       +


2 June 2021 to 28 May 2023 (3.5x5 inches, 100 pages, spiral bound on the side, plastic light blue cover; this notebook has plastic covers at both the front and back, as I’d grown tired of the cardboard back covers of previous notebooks falling off from heavy use; this notebook is also slightly larger in size)

campfire circle—

midway through the ghost story

his extra-long inhale

2 June 2021, Sammamish, Washington


29 May 2023 to the present (3.5x5 inches, 100 pages, spiral bound on the side, plastic red cover; in the spring of 2023 I bought a set of ten of these notebooks, so at the rate I used the previous notebook, #25, these ten, starting with #26, should last me twenty years)

The first 24 notebooks amount to 2929 pages. If we add about six pages where I wrote poems on the unnumbered inside back covers, that’s 2,935 pages over about 36 years, or an average of 81.5 pages per year. At four haiku per page (though I also wrote tanka and other notes and poems), that’s a possible average of 326.1 poems per year. At five haiku per page, that would be 407 poems per year. I might call journals 1 and 2 “irregular” writing, not yet habitual. If I count just journals 3 to 24, covering 1990 to 2021, thus about 31 years, where the journals are more strictly focused on haiku, the total number of pages is 2,870; add those six extra pages and the total is 2876. That’s an average of 92.8 pages per year. At four poems per page, that’s 371.1 poems per year. At five haiku per page, that’s 463.9 poems per year. Not counting journal 25 or many hundreds of poems not written in these journals, an estimated total number of poems might be 11,740 (at four haiku per page) or 14,675 (at five haiku per page). These are very loose estimates, but I’d be comfortable with saying that I’ve written at least 10,000 haiku as of 2022. And while some of the notebook pages contain longer poems or occasionally personal notes, some notebooks had six or seven haiku per page, so it’s safe to say, I think, that’ I’ve written an average of at least one poem per day since 1990, not counting many hundreds of longer poems not recorded in these notebooks. Also, these notebooks have mostly not included hundreds of poems written for renku and rengay. So, I think I can conclude that I’ve written a lot, even when weeks go by when I’ve hardly written at all.

     How many more notebooks will I fill? To some degree writing is a percentage game, and I’ve found that if I keep at it, a percentage of what I produce will be decent work. But I’ve also found that if I am less prolific the percentage of good work decreases too, not just the raw number. In other words, by writing more, it seems that I tend to write better, too. More important is to always have the writing mindset, and by having a pen and notebook handy, always in my pocket (though pandemic years changed that), I never have an excuse to not write. Many people write on their smartphones, which is useful, but I still prefer writing by hand in a paper notebook. Here’s to many more notebooks in the years ahead.

Sample pages form notebook #3, from 1991 (FC is Foster City, California, where I lived at the time). A pencil checkmark means that I’ve transferred that poem to an index card to track it for possible publication.

Sample pages form notebook #13, from 2003, after this particular notebook had been through the washing machine.

Sample pages form notebook #23, from 2017.

After writing my haiku in notebooks, sometime later I go through each notebook to transfer the best poems to index cards. I track my submissions and acceptances using these index cards. The cards shown here represent haiku and senryu I published from October 2021 to October 2022 (or sometimes republished, as shown in the top card). Every year around September or October, I assemble poems for a new trifold or two. I selected a few dozen of these poems for my “Light” and “Dark” pair of trifolds in 2022. For the year of published poems shown here, I was working mostly from my notebooks of 2013 to 2015 (and still had the years since then to catch up with).

For many years when I lived in California, Paul O. Williams was my closest haiku neighbour. Here’s a picture of all his pocket notebooks, vastly more than I’ve ever produced (he also used many larger notebooks). I believe he filled all of these, written before he died in June of 2009, but I don’t know if the contents are exclusively haiku.