Milkweed: Selected Haiku & Senryu

Alexis Rotella

Milkweed: Selected Haiku & Senryu
of Alexis Rotella

ISBN 978-1929820-30-5 • 2024
156 pages clothbound • $30.00 US

publication date: March 15, 2024

Brooks Books is pleased to publish Milkweed: Selected Haiku & Senryu of Alexis Rotella in our series of clothbound editions by American exemplars of this literary art.

As a selected collection, this book includes many of the very best haiku and senryu written over the lifetime of the author. Our selection process began by reviewing select haiku from the author and reviewing the works included in Charles Trumbull’s well-known haiku database. A big THANK YOU to Charlie for assisting with his database records. We then also considered work that has received significant recognition through awards and anthology publication.

While this collection features some of the best of her haiku and senryu, it should be noted that Alexis has been a significant writer of tanka, kyoka, and haibun—works which were beyond the scope of this collection. She also is an accomplished artist who has created some of the best haiga in English.

It has been a pleasure to revisit and work with Rotella’s haiku and senryu in the development of this book. We first became acquainted with her writing as editors of High/Coo Quarterly more than forty years ago. She was a frequent contributor, and we enjoyed publishing a mini-chapbook by her in 1983 titled Tuning the Lily. In my haiku courses at Millikin University, students enjoy her sense of humor and the confident woman’s perspective evident in her poems.

~ Randy & Shirley Brooks, Editors
   Taylorville, Illinois
   March 15, 2024

~ ~ ~

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From the Author's Preface:

In the mid-seventies, while working on my undergraduate thesis on Zen Buddhism at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, I discovered haiku and from the moment I started digesting them, I was smitten. It seems everything I had been looking for was contained in those tiny capsules of energy—word photographs that looked so easy to write. When I started to submit poems to journals, I received rejection slips (when we relied on snail mail) one after the other. I didn’t think I’d ever get an acceptance until one day Randy Brooks surprised me and accepted this senryu for High/Coo Quarterly:

Husband home
from work
haiku for dinner again

That senryu launched my haiku path and for the last 45 years, haiku has been a constant form of expression (along with other Japanese poetry forms in English). No matter what life throws my way, haiku is there to capture the feelings, the images which I share with people all over the planet.

I am a persimmon lover as evidenced in my death poem:

Remember me
as a poet
who loved persimmons

The name of this book, MILKWEED, I believe captures the fact that even though I did not give birth to biological children, my creativity took flight from the mother plant seeding haiku wherever I am or wherever I go. My hope is that my offerings have inspired and will inspire others to devote their creative life to this tiny poetic form which brings
joy and solace to people the world over.

~ Alexis Rotella
   November 19, 2023

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Samples from MILKWEED:

Late August
I bring him the garden
in my skirt


Moving with
the clock tower's shadow
flower lady

At the top
of the Ferris wheel
lilac scent


Chamber music
this, too,
shall pass


More Samples from MILKWEED:

wishing I were free
to fall


Family attic
finding this fossil




Haiku is based on one essential image and then something said about that image. It sounds simple enough; but, to tell a story or incident, with three lines, which has image and meaning is a challenge for the most seasoned poet. Haiku is Alexis Rotella’s camera. The poet writes of incidents from everyday life—a car wash, a graveyard, Central Park— all things ordinary and familiar to us, but each holding a new and indelible meaning. Haiku captures something never seen or felt before and makes it permanent on the page: Bread shop cat / whiskers threading / pearls of milk. Each haiku in Milkweed is a perfect little tale by a poet who is in love with the world. The Buddha said, “May we be awake one moment before we die” and Alexis Rotella is awake and watching, then makes reality into distilled moments. Milkweed is a perfect title for Alexis Rotella—a plant that nourishes all who touch it.

~ Grace Cavalieri,
Maryland Poet Laureate


Alexis Rotella—poet, artist, healer, teacher, editor, mentor, and creator—has been writing intimate, transcendent, incisive and brilliant poems since the late 1970's. In Milkweed you will find inimitable poems that work and invite you to understand a generous communion with both the poet and the source experience of her poems. For all the reasons we each turn to poetry Alexis has poems that speak to solace, truth, insight, and experiential connection—as good as it gets, tuning the reader to an inner belief and belonging to the world.

~ Tom Clausen,
Editor of Mann Library’s Daily Haiku

In the history of Japanese short form poetry in English, Alexis Rotella is a towering figure. Her timeless work is as relevant today as the day it was first published, as is evidenced in this collection. One defining aspect of fine art and literature is that it is intensely personal to the artist yet resonates universally with the viewer and reader. Alexis Rotella accomplishes this masterfully in Milkweed by leading us poem by poem into a world that is not ours yet is full of moments to which we can all relate.

~ Bryan Rickert,
President of Haiku Society of America

Print edition errata:

page 148 -"iegel" should be "Siegel"

page 24 - "Lightning" should be "Lightening"

the hay bale
cricket song