JuxtaOne and JuxtaTwo

First published in the “Briefly Reviewed” section of Frogpond 40:1, Winter 2017, pages 109–110.
The second paragraph was omitted from
Frogpond for space reasons. +

JuxtaOne, edited by Peter McDonald (2015, The Haiku Foundation, Winchester, Virginia). 268 pages, ISBN 978-0-9826951-2-8. $50.00 on Amazon.

JuxtaTwo, edited by Peter McDonald (2016, The Haiku Foundation, Winchester, Virginia). 292 pages, ISBN 978-0-9826951-3-5. Both, 6×9 inches, perfectbound. $50.00 on Amazon.

I’m a contributor to both of these volumes—annual assemblages of essays and criticism on haiku poetics in an academic vein—but I hope I can still comment objectively. The full content of these two journals is available on the Haiku Foundation website, and more recently these two journals have been made available in print form. The price point will strike some as shockingly high (although perhaps not for academic books), but this is because both journals are printed in colour throughout. This places the haiga that intersperse the essays in their best light, but I’m not sure if the haiga should be included. If haiga are included, why not have sections of haiku, too, and sequences and haibun? The haiga provide visual and aesthetic relief to the walls of text, but dropping them would give the journal a more academic focus, or at least printing them in black and white would substantially reduce the cost of these publications, and make them more likely to be purchased and read. Still, these journals are beautifully produced and a pleasure to hold in the hand. The essays provide an array of critical perspectives on haiku that can prod and change the sometimes narrow views haiku poets themselves may have of this poetry, especially where they includes commentary from writers whose work does not appear in the usual haiku journals. This shows the haiku community to be branching out, which is a superb development. This note is insufficient to discuss the content of these journals in depth (they deserve a fuller review), but they are highly recommended, whether in print or online, for those wishing to deepen their study of haiku and its aesthetics.

Because of the price, perhaps only libraries or fellow academics are likely to buy these volumes, important though they are for haiku scholarship. One other observation is that the first volume reprints several essays that are readily available elsewhere. Reprints might make sense if the content is important but available only in obscure places, which isn’t the case with the reprints included here. I would recommend not reprinting any essays, with only rare exceptions, especially when we might easily read them elsewhere. This would also provide more room for new essays.