A Year’s Speculations on Haiku

First published in Woodnotes #26, Autumn 1995, page 50.

A Year’s Speculations on Haiku by Robert Spiess. Modern Haiku, 1995, 68 pages, paperback, 5½ by 8½ inches. $8.00 postpaid from Modern Haiku, P.O. Box 1752, Madison, Wisconsin 53701 [address no longer correct]. A “speculation,” as defined in the preface to this welcome new book, is an “act of exploration and contemplation.” In that spirit, Modern Haiku editor Robert Spiess offers us a year’s worth of pithy, refreshing, and resonant explorations and contemplations on the art of haiku, one for each day of the year. My eye wishes that each date could have been typeset in greater contrast with the text that follows it (perhaps in bold, or in a different size or typestyle), but that is a small quibble. Printed in pleasing blue ink on fine quality paper, these speculations include the best from Robert’s out-of-print 1988 book, New and Selected Speculations on Haiku, along with some from subsequent issues of Modern Haiku, plus a few unpublished speculations. Though most entries are but a few lines long, they range from six words (July 28) to an entire page (July 2). Each one is worthy of the haiku poet’s attention (for it can be good to be both intuitive and intellectual about haiku). As a sample, consider this speculation chosen from my birthday: “In many genuine haiku now-moments the elements are not causally connected and therefore are not time-conditioned. They appear to have their origin in a time-free dimension, and can be fully experienced only through a mode of our being that is other than ordinary intellective consciousness.” Read this recommended book for a year so you can begin to absorb the author’s long experience and eclectic perspective on haiku. You will find much to explore and contemplate indeed.