A painfully funny, satirical romp through the inside politics of the haiku universe in the guise of a detective story set at a haiku convention. My wife (an innocent in the haiku wars) and I once made a pact: In bed at night, we would stop reading aloud from our books to each other to cut down on the interruptions of our own reading. Haiku Wars ended that conjugal cease-fire: I read her page after page until we laughed until we cried. I can think of no higher recommendation. A brilliant tour de force.
—Mike Dillon's judge's comment after awarding Haiku Wars the Haiku Society of America's Mildred Kanterman Memorial Book Award (Special Award for Fiction); Frogpond 34.2 (Spring/Summer 2011): 122.
Note: The rest of these reviews and readers' comments were written about the earlier version of Haiku Wars, self-published by the author in 2006. The book as it now appears in the Red Moon Press edition of 2009 is an expanded and improved edition.
Is it or isn't it? Maybe and maybe not. David Lanoue ... has written a fictional novel entitled Haiku Wars. Well, sort of fictional. An American professor in Louisiana with the help of a reincarnated bodhisattva dwelling in the body of a pet ferret, put together a haiku conference for the National Haiku Society. The haiku leaders that assemble resemble, in many ways, luminaries who populate similar conferences in real life. There are two Japanese men, both heads of world haiku associations, with a long-standing feud: a scholar named Kusuban; the other, a stocky man with a rabid personality named Akibi Muya. Also attending are R.W. Wright, the tart-tongued proctologist and editor of Contemporary Haiku; the eccentric, spontaneous Brad Eggleston, the grand old gentleman of American Haiku; and the publisher of roman candle, Sam Samford, the current president of the National Haiku Association. Ring any bells?
The book is a hoot to read and nearly impossible to put down. It's interspersed with haiku and senryu, some written by Issa, and others penned by Lanoue. The storyline is nicely developed, the dialogue second to none, and I was kept guessing throughout my reading of the book as to who is who or if there is a who.
This is not a treatise on haiku nor is it a translation or a book that will increase your knowledge of the genre. But it is a lot of fun to read and gives one a glimpse into the politics existent today in the world haiku community.
—Robert D. Wilson, Simply Haiku (Spring 2006 4.1)
David Lanoue knows something about the affairs of community and the heart. His latest novel, Haiku Wars, takes the reader into the life of "Poet," our hero. Poet must first learn to understand and trust the story's narrator, a bodhisattva ferret named Oscar. Oscar realizes that Poet is, '...searching for the thing (he) needed most but was too much a mess to find for himself.' Of course, this is the fix for a broken heart.about the book Also by David G. Lanoue...
Additionally, Poet must negotiate the dangers and difficulties of organizing and hosting a sometimes contentious gathering of haiku poets. The mystery of a missing haiku manuscript unfolds as we delve into the lives of our haiku enthusiasts.
Remarkably, we may find one or more of ourselves in Lanoue's characters and upon reflection get a hearty laugh at our own foibles.
I hope David Lanoue had as much fun writing as I did reading Haiku Wars.
Part of the fun of reading David Lanoue's Haiku Wars is guessing who in the real-life haiku community might be portrayed in the novel, even though, of course, in this "work of fiction ... any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is coincidental." The identities of some of the characters are fairly easy to figure out (e.g., Jack Campeon, Bradford Eggleston, Reginald W. Wright). Other identities aren't so easy to guess (e.g., River, Joao Cristoval, Izumi Tanaka), especially for a reader who's not very active in the haiku community and has not attended haiku conferences.
The main enjoyment, however, focuses on the story. Haiku Wars is a genre-challenging comic novel that mixes a detective story plot with a wry and whimsical haibun-like narrative. Its fast-forward pace is advanced with flashbacks to scenes with Mido, Kuro, Shiro, and Cup-of-Tea, characters from Haiku Guy, Laughing Buddha, and Dewdrop World, the other novels in this series. At its heart, Haiku Wars is about a spiritual journey, just as Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums, which helped introduce haiku to modern Western readers, and Desolation Angels, are spiritual narratives. I enjoyed following Poet, the hero, through the eyes of Oscar, the ferret narrator, as Poet reaches an inner understanding. I look forward to the Haiku Wars sequel.
—Richard S. Straw
There's a lot to love about Haiku Wars, but my favorite thing about David G. Lanoue's third haiku novel is the fact that it's narrated by a ferret. "Oscar," a telepathic bodhisattva who resents being mistaken for a weasel, exhibits all the qualities I look for in the teller of a tale: he's clever, inquisitive, flexible, compassionate, and an expert at "soaking up all sorts of gossipy tidbits." Best of all, he's a self-professed "ferret of impeccable literary taste," a quality that serves him well as he accompanies his human sidekick, "Poet," on a series of haiku-peppered adventures. Not only does Oscar help his beer-bellied buddy kick-start his love life, negotiate various political and personal skirmishes in the haiku world, and solve the riddle of a missing manuscript ... he attains a visceral understanding of a profound metaphysical truth along the way. That's my kind of ferret!
I can't wait to share how much I liked your book. It was something I haven't felt for ages—to live with the characters, to be greedy for every page. It may sound a bit foolish or corny, but that's what happened, literally. As a reader I couldn't be more happy and satisfied.
The story is so original, and I kept chuckling as I read it. I love Oscar as a narrator—I love his pride, despite his small, furry appearance in this lifetime that can get him mistaken for a rat ... I also love the lesson that Oscar learns, and how it's played out in the internecine war going on at the haiku conference in New Orleans ... It was a good idea to use the conference as a sort of playground or battleground for demonstrating the squabbles among proponents of the various schools/theories of haiku. It's sad to see the conference-goers get caught up and bitter about these details, since haiku should be an art form that—as Joao says—allows you to say more than can be said, a way to let silence talk. But on the other hand, this fussing also makes you realize how important this art is to these people. They don't want to see it corrupted or heading in the wrong direction.
Kobayashi Issa Archive