Poetry lovers should rejoice over the publication of this book, which traces the history and development of Japanese haiku and the poetic traditions from which it was born. As you might imagine, The Art of Haiku is filled with exquisite haiku, featuring a thorough examination of the life and work of several masters of the form, including Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki. The author, Stephen Addiss, often adds a commentary to a series of poems, highlighting the themes and historical context, a format first used by the legendary twentieth-century British commentator R. H. Blyth, one of the first Westerners to introduce English language readers to the haiku as a serious literary form.
Haiku has become quite popular outside of Japan, but reading this book reveals a craft and sensibility unique to the Japanese masters. Haiku can evoke a season, the bittersweet nature of life and death, all within a mere few strokes of a brush.
Such precision and range is shown in the following two classic haiku:
the womb is only
a brief shelter
in this world
even butterflies keep busy
making a living
Many haiku poets were also fine calligraphers and painters, and Addiss also offers beautiful reproductions of their graphic art. The Art of Haiku is a work of art itself, beautifully produced and worthy of its contents. I give it my highest recommendation.