The Art of Reading and Writing Haiku:
A Reader Response Approach

by Randy Brooks

Randy Brooks. The Art of Reading and Writing Haiku: A Reader Response Approach

ISBN 978-1-929820-17-7 • 2019
224 pages paperback • $30.00 US

Brooks Books is pleased to celebrate the publication of The Art of Reading and Writing Haiku: A Reader Response Approach. This book features the creative work of Millikin students from my Global Haiku Traditions course—both original haiku and reading responses to haiku. In a way, it is an anthology that shares the creative engagement of my students in every haiku class I have taught. Over the last 20 years I have been gathering and saving some of the best haiku and reading responses for this collection.

The book is organized into chapters that correspond to the progression of the course. The book begins with readings of contemporary haiku from Mayfly magazine and the successful young Millikin alumni haiku poet, Aubrie Cox. Then I introduce the process of kukai, in which students read anonymous haiku by each other and discuss favorites. Early in the semester we read and discuss the selected haiku of several outstanding contemporary English-language authors including Peggy Lyles, Wally Swist and George Swede. We also read selected haiku by contemporary Japanese author, Masajo Suzuki. The fifth chapter introduces readers to haiku poetics and the matching contest process. There are two chapters on student responses to the variety of voices evident in contemporary haiku anthologies, including the Millikin University Haiku Anthology. Chapters 9 and 10 explore Japanese haiku aesthetics and the literary contributions of Matsuo Basho. The book ends with a chapter on collaborative linked verse by my students, final student collections, and reflections about the value of learning the art of reading and writing haiku.

In this new book, The Art of Reading and Writing Haiku: A Reader Response Approach, I share my students’ journey into the haiku community. I invite you to rejoin this journey as a reader of original haiku and reader responses to favorite haiku. I hope the reader responses help spark your own reading and felt imagination of each haiku as you regain your “haiku eyes”. Enjoy the many gifts and blessings the art of reading and writing haiku have to offer you. ~ Randy Brooks

ISBN 978-1-929820-17-7

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Book Review of The Art of Reading and Writing Haiku: A Reader Response Approach

Haiku Canada Review

The book on the art of reading haiku includes many examples and imparts the results of classes at Millikin University in Illinois. For years Randy Brooks has been teaching appreciation for short forms and immersion in haiku culture, using an approach to learning by performance. After a decade of the class, the students' best work were anthologized (Millikin University Haiku Anthology). Then as a further putting of poetry into the world, the follow-up is this book which responds to much of English and in-English translation of haiku.

It was fascinating for participants to see that the room the poem made for one reader could be a different room for different students. And for us as readers of readers. It is a kind of deprogramming to read how to enter poems rather than how to red-line correct poems. What works for you? Forget the rest. There’s not time. I find a sign of a good poetry collection is that it impels me to write as well, and The Art of Reading and Writing Haiku by Randy Brooks did that. Many new poems were spurred into existence by reflecting on the poems and the reflections. What more can you ask.

~ Pearl Pirie
June 6, 2022

Haiku Canada Review - visit the web site to see the complete review

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If you know a wonderful teacher of creative writing or poetry or haiku, please send an email request for that teacher to receive a free PDF edition of this book.

game of street whiffle ball—
waiting for
the car to pass

Emily Chudzik, Spring 2017

I chose this haiku has my favorite for kukai 7. I really liked this one because it brought me back to my childhood. I lived in a cul-de-sac, so my friends and I would always play in the middle of the street because it wasn't too busy. Every once in a while, you would hear someone yell “car” and we would all immediate clear the street by picking up the bases and the bats. I liked this one because of the memories it brought back to me. Chase Smith, Spring 2017

I really like this haiku because I felt like it captured that moment perfectly. As I read the poem, I was able to put myself on the side of the street waiting on the car to pass so we could continue playing the game. Most haiku that I have read have done a great job of painting a picture of the scene and what is going on, but I felt as though this particular haiku actually put me in the street. I felt the annoyance and anticipation as the car drove through the middle of our field. Caitlyn Latshaw, Spring 2017

cold feet 
I steal the blanket 

Lexy Bieber, Spring 2015

I enjoyed this haiku because it makes me think about every cold winter day that I am stuck inside. My entire family has to fight over the blankets because not all of them are long enough for each person. I myself am six foot five and there are only one or two blankets that we own that cover my entire body. From the haiku, I get an image of me sitting on the couch with my blanket that I have to keep constantly pulling down to keep my feet warm because I have just come back inside from shoveling the drive way. Alex Cardascio, Spring 2015

I imagine a wedding. A young bride tossing and turning on her wedding night to realize she has cold feet. I saw the blanket less as a blanket she’s covering up with but her life. She steals her freedom back, she’s backing out. I also really like the way this one reads as well. I like the one word in the third line. I can’t really explain it, but it’s a very subtle end. I think you’re expecting a different line almost, “I steal the blanket . . . back” is how I read it. Even though I know it goes together I read it with a longer pause than between the first two lines and I think it makes it sound really unique. Francesca Rios, Spring 2015

distant galaxies
all the things
I could have been

Aubrie Cox, Tea’s Aftertaste, p. 19

When reading the first line of this haiku, I began to envision the milky way, with millions and millions of stars, planets, and projectiles scattered throughout its belt. I was viewing this image from a third person perspective, as if I were floating throughout outer space. I saw purple and orange light wave scattered throughout the belt, as well as a few explosions. As I read on, the phrase “all the things that could have been” instantly shifted my perspective as if I were within the molecular level. I myself was existing as an atom of some sort. I was no longer in outer space, but amidst millions of other small particles and atoms buzzing around and about. I was now observing these small components that every “thing” in the universe is made up of. Then I envisioned the atoms coming together to form images of different things. At first, a human was formed from millions of matter particles. Then it diminished, and the atoms began to form an image of my father’s veterinary clinic back home. And so, this continued, and I realized that I was imagining all of the things that I technically could have existed as if I were an arrangement of different atoms than I currently am. Logan Bader, Fall 2018

I have to look up when I read this haiku and be so very thankful for all the ways things have turned out for me. I truly have been blessed. Things could have turned out so differently than they did, but through grace and many prayers from amazing grandparents and parents, things are amazing. This haiku also reminds me that things are so much bigger than me. I strongly believe that without those prayers and guidance that things would be a lot different, and not in a good way. Michelle Holsapple, July 2016

traffic jam
my small son asks
who made God

Peggy Lyles, To Hear the Rain, p. 57

After reading this haiku, I imagined a look of terror and panic on the father's face as his son asked, "who made God." A look that said, "how do I answer this? Do I tell him the truth or make something up?" A sense of awkwardness fills the car as the father decides what to do. The son, clueless as to the depth of his question, curiously awaits his father's answer. Time stands still, made worse by the traffic that stands still as well. The father, as much as he wants to, cannot avoid the son’s question. He takes a deep breath and begins to answer his son. Benjamin Maynard, Fall 2017

This haiku at first seems to scream for the reader to make a religious connection. One of the first things I notice when looking at this piece is “God”, which is the only capital word in the haiku. This reminds me, as a Christian and having grown up in a Catholic elementary school, that God is the most important thing in my life. When I read this, it brought all the values I carry with me throughout the day to the surface. I often find myself worrying about things out of my control. I keep myself very busy and have often found myself in a traffic jam rushing to another place, genuinely annoyed that I am not where I need to be. Granted I am not a mother, but this haiku makes me stop and think about those times I am stuck in traffic and sort of inspires me to want to stop and think about my life, my faith, and my values more often. This is unrelated; however, being an Elementary Education major, I cannot help but smile at the image of a small child asking this frank question, as they usually speak what is on their mind. Their fresh slate and open communication and genuine wonder makes me want to go back to that age. It makes me want to be curious again. Alyssa Becker, Fall 2016

old war medals
the boy asks grandpa
what they mean

Blaine Buente, Spring 2014

braided pigtails
she chatters away
in grandpa’s hat

Lexi DeSollar, Spring 2014

When I read these two haiku again, I almost felt like two different authors had somehow written about the same grandfather. The two haiku connected so well and become part of one story to me. I imagined that the “old war medals” haiku happened first. Grandpa has gotten pretty old, but he still has enough strength to go upstairs and explain to his grandson, who is about 7 or 8, what all of the medals on his uniform mean. I imagine that maybe the boy’s sister who is a couple years younger may have asked grandpa if one day she can have his hat from his uniform. Years later, you see her grown up a bit more around the age that her brother was when grandpa explained the meaning of the medals, maybe a tad older. Grandpa died a few years ago, but she stills keeps him in her memory and in her heart by wearing his military hat, which he left in her possession as he had promised. Jackie Dumitrescu, Spring 2014

valentine’s dance
I only go
for the cupcakes

Brianne Marsel, Spring 2002      

Again, this is one of my favorites in the kukai. I love the hopeful opening against the dismal end. I enjoy how the girl goes merely for the food—I can almost see her stuffing her face in despair at the dance, as the boy she likes dances with another girl. I just love the sassy and sarcastic, yet not utterly depressing, tone of the poem. Instead of giving just an idea of why the dance is sad (like “I go dateless”), the poem provides a concrete image of why the person IS going. I think it's incredibly clever. Meg Schleppenbach, Spring 2002

first funeral
hand-me-down suit
two sizes too big

Jennifer Godwin, Spring 2009

This haiku brings a sad moment and a funny vision of a child in a suit that is way too big. Many people don’t understand death and funerals when they are younger. I didn’t really know the man that died at my first funeral. I remember feeling weird because everyone was sad, and looking at this man that was unmoving, but looked like a person. I think that a first funeral is a scary and memorable experience. I like how this haiku has a little comedic vision inside this other scary experience. Lizzy Kelly, Spring 2009