Millikin University Haiku Writer Profile

William J. Higginson

William J. Higginson & Penny Harter
at Millikin University

  Holding the water,
    held by it—
        the dark mud.
by William J. Higginson
The Haiku Anthology 77

Biographical Background

William J. Higginson is an expert on renku and haiku. His life began in New York City but he later moved to New Jersey where he spent most of his childhood years growing up. As a teenager, Higginson attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for two years and then later joined the U.S. Air Force. In the Air Force he was assigned to a yearlong Japanese language graduate school at Yale University, which he completed with honors. There, haiku intrigued him. Higginson also completed his undergraduate studies, earning a bachelor’s degree with honors in English at Southern Connecticut State College in 1969.

Today he leads his life as an extremely talented poet, translator, writer, speaker, teacher of writing, administrator, literary press and Internet author and editor, and editor and publisher of Haiku Magazine. He dedicates his life to Japanese traditions and inspires many others who follow in his footsteps.

This profile of haiku writer, William J. Higginson, was researched, written and created by Lauren Omohundro.

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Reader Response Notes

Studying the haiku I was able to obtain by William J. Higginson I feel confident in assuming his life experiences are portrayed through his writing. In his most famous book, "The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku, he says, "Being small, haiku lend themselves especially to sharing small, intimate things. By recognizing the intimate things that touch us we come to know and appreciate our world and ourselves more. By sharing these things with others we let them into our lives in a very special, personal way." Higginson seems to form a strong connection with everyday moments, while expressing the good and bad aspects of life. I have noticed, ever since I have been reading his haiku that they almost take on a story-like progression by covering a variety of important areas and experiences. One of my favorites is as follows:

I look up
from writing
to daylight.

I feel that this haiku says a lot about who and what he is. It expresses the dedication that he has to his work. When he looks up from doing his writing he realizes that the sun has come up and it is no longer nighttime. He does not realize this because he has been working very intensely. Higginson is expressing his diligence and dedication through this haiku. It is necessary to take a closer look into his haiku because he sees the art of haiku as being very sacred, selecting each word carefully and precisely, heightening the critical meaning.

In one of his quotes he said, "The primary purpose of reading and writing haiku is sharing moments of our lives that have moved us, pieces of experience and perception that we offer or receive as gifts. At the deepest level, this is the one great purpose of all art, and especially of literature."

William J. Higginson is a master of the haiku tradition. His works have inspired many people and affect people deeply and unexpectedly. He writings go beyond just the normal and force his readers to look beyond the surface. The dedication and diligence that he has displayed through his many excellent works proves him to be one the best haiku artists.

—Lauren Omohundro

Author's Awards

William J. Higginson has received a number of grants, awards, and other recognitions including:

Member, Selection Committee for the Masaoka Shiki Prizes, Ehime Prefecture Cultural Council, Japan (2000).

Merit Book Award, Haiku Society of America, for publication of Red Fuji: Selected Haiku of Yatsuka Ishihara (1998).

Translation Grant, Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry (1994).

Inducted into the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame (1989).

Member, Governor's Task Force on Literacy in the Arts, a New Jersey Educational Commission (1987-1989).

Merit Book Award, Haiku Society of America, for publication of The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (1986).

Writing Fellowship in Poetry, New Jersey State Council on the Arts (1977).

Merit Book Award, Haiku Society of America, for critical writing and publication of Itadakimasu: Essays on Haiku and Senryu in English (1974, one of the first Merit Book Awards).

Prize for Best Haiku of the Meeting, Haiku Society of America (May 1969).



Author's Bibliography (Representative Publications by William J. Higginson)

1. Books and Chapbooks (11 of ~20 titles)

Red Fuji: Selected Haiku of Yatsuka Ishihara, co-editor and co-translator with Tadashi Kondô. Santa Fe: From Here Press, 1997.

Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1996. Anthology of 1,000 poems from 50 countries, with commentary.

The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1996. Literary history; comparative literature.

Met on the Road: A Transcontinental Haiku Journal. Foster City, CA: Press Here, 1993. With Penny Harter.

Wind in the Long Grass: A Collection of Haiku, editor and translator. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991/Silver Burdett-Ginn, 1993. International anthology for children.

Ten Years' Collected Haiku, Volume I. Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1987.

The Healing and Other Poems. Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1986.

The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku, with Penny Harter. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985/Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1989.

Paterson Pieces: Poems 1969-1979. Fanwood, NJ: Old Plate Press, 1981. Longer poems, plus two haiku sequences and two haibun.

Death Is & Approaches to the Edge. Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1981. Longer poems and personal essays.

Between Two Rivers: Ten North Jersey Poets, co-editor with Penny Harter. Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1980. Anthology.

2. In Anthologies and Reference Works (11 of ~70 works)

"Japanese-Style Linked Poetry" (how-to article co-authored with Penny Harter) in Annie Finch and Katherine Varnes, editors, An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001.

"Matsuo Bashô" (biographical article, with samples of haiku, renku, and haibun) in Ron Padgett, editor, World Poets., New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2000, Volume 1, 55-68.

"Dimineata de toamna /Autumn Morning" (linked-verse poem co-authored with Ion Codrescu, Penny Harter, Tadashi Kondo, and others) in Ion Codrescu, Oaspete strain / A Foreign Guest. Constantsa, Romania: Ex Ponto, 1999, 134-137. (Bilingual, Romanian/English.)

"In the Mountains" (translations of eight haiku by Issa) in Lorraine Lener Ciancio, editor, Chokecherries 1998: A S.O.M.O.S. Anthology. Taos, New Mexico: S.O.M.O.S., 1999, 27.

"Returning Cranes" (twelve-stanza renku with Japanese translation), with Elizabeth Searle Lamb and Penny Harter in Shinkû Fukuda, editor, Niji no kake-bashi / A Bridge of Rainbow. Hatano, Niigata, Japan: Milky Renku Club, 1999, 3, 32.

"The Dowser at Eighty-Five" (poem) in Sandra Martz and Shirley Coe, editors, Generation to Generation. Watsonville, CA: Papier-Maché, 1998, 105-6.

"Introduction to William Carlos Williams’s Paterson" in Gary Lenhert, editor. The Teachers & Writers Guide to William Carlos Williams. New York: Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1998.

"The Sea Beyond the Breakers" (poem) in Rich Youmans and Frank Finale, editors, Under a Gull’s Wing: Poems and Photographs of the Jersey Shore. Harvey Cedars, NJ: Down the Shore Publishing, 1996, 79-82.

Glossary and end matter in Makoto Ôoka, editor, A Poet’s Anthology: A Range of Japanese Poetry. Translated by Janine Beichman. Santa Fe, NM: Katydid Books, 1994, 175-198.

"Sylvia Woodbridge Beach" in Gayle Samuels and Caroline Jacobus, editors, Out of the Garden: Lives of New Jersey Women. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1990.

"At a Diner Near Chama, New Mexico" (poem) in Jeanie C. Williams and Victor di Suvero, editors. ¡Saludos! Poemas de Nuevo Mexico/Poems of New Mexico. Santa Fe: Pennywhistle Press, 1995.

3. In Periodicals and On the Internet (15 of ~300 appearances)

(For Non-U.S. publications location is shown with date.)

"thump and screech" (haiku). Heron's Nest Award in The Heron’s Nest, 2:7 (online and print editions, July 2000), <>.

"Selected Tanka Bibliography with Notes" (expansion of the bibliography published with my article "Tanka: With Feeling", in Gerald England, editor, The Art of Haiku 2000. Cheshire, UK: New Hope International, 2000), <>. January 24, 2000.

"The concerns of a half-century career" (review of The Gary Snyder Reader by Gary Snyder, Washington: Counterpoint, 1999). The Santa Fe New Mexican, November 7, 1999, F-2.

"Link and Shift: A practical guide to renku composition" (how-to) co-authored with Tadashi Kondo, in The Journal of the Faculty of Economics, 24:2 (Seikei University, Tokyo, February 1994), reprinted in translation as "Legatura si schimbarea: ghid practic pentru compunerea poemului renku", translated by Mihaela Codrescu, in Albatros/Albatross, combined issue whole numbers V and VI (Constantsa, Romania, Spring 1996-Winter 1997), 124-136.

"riding together" (haiku). EPIC News, Summer 1997 (Matsuyama, Japan), 5; appeared concurrently with Japanese translation in Epikku Nyûsu, #28 (Matsuyama, Japan, Summer 1997), 7.

"The Four Seasons in Santa Fe" (essay with 8 haiku, with a Japanese translation by Hashimoto Kayoko). Suimei, 70:4 (Urawa, Japan, Apr. 1997), 36-41.

"Haiku Compass (U.S.A.)" (WJH selection of 13 haiku by U.S. poets, including "the withered iris" by WJH; presented with Dutch translations). Vuursteen: tijdschrift voor haiku, senryû en tanka 15:3 (Best, Netherlands, Autumn 1995), 114-115.

"Japanese Haiku Masters to Meet with HSA in Chicago, October 1995" (report). Haiku Southwest, 2:2&3:1 (Winter-Spring 1994-1995), 4-5.

"Kasen Renku: The Full Moon" co-coordinator with Penny Harter—winner, 1993 HSA Renku Competition. Frogpond, 17:1 (Spring 1994), 15-18.

"A Sense of the Language" (criticism). Blithe Spirit, 3:3 (Northumberland, UK, July 1993), 10-11.

"On Bashô's Revisions of the Hokku at Ryûshakuji" (criticism). Modern Haiku, 23:3 (Fall 1992), 66-68.

Haiku no kokusaika o kangaeru: naze kaigai de haiku e no kyômi ga takamatta no ka ["Considering the Internationalization of Haiku: Why Has Interest in Haiku Risen Overseas?"] (symposium with Penny Harter, Kin’ichi Sawaki, Tadashi Kondô, and WJH). Bôsei, 20:10 (Tokyo, Tôkai University, Oct. 1989), 58-67.

"Bashô Kikô" ["Bashô Travel Diary"] (Japanese translation by Tadashi Kondô of travel diary by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter of visit to Bashô-related sites in Kyoto, Ueno, and Otsu, Japan). Haiku Kenkyû, 56:10 (Tokyo, Oct. 1989), 176-179.

"MathStar" (review of computer program). Profiles 2:8 (Apr. 1985), 62-63, 66-67.

"Afro-American Haiku" (literary history). Frogpond 5:2 (1982), 5-11. Reprinted as "African-American Haiku" in A Haiku Path: The Haiku Society of America 1968-1988. New York: Haiku Society of America, 1994, 205-209.



Additional Web Links and Resources

Higginson's Web Site

THE "WEBOLUTION" OF HAIKU. Higginson's keynote address at the Global haiku Festival at Millikin University.

New Mexico Writer's Contact Directory—Higginson

Humor in Basho's Haiku—Higginson article at Haijinx


haiku conferences haiku courses at Millikin Modern Haiku magazine
speakers & readings haiku competitions at MU student renga
student haiku projects published haiku by students links to haiku web sites
student research on haiku haiku by Millikin students directory of haiku magazines


2001, Dr. Randy Brooks• Millikin University
last updated 8/16/01 • about this web site