If I had to write a description of the haiku novel for Wikipedia, I would say this...
Haiku novel is a literary composition that combines prose fiction and haiku. A descendent of traditional Japanese haibun, haiku novels differ from haibun in one important way. While the prose sections in traditional haibun resemble journal writing, the prose in a haiku novel comprises a structured work of fiction. Both haibun and haiku novel might relate the author's life experiences, but a haibun appears as a collection of episodic journal entries, whereas a haiku novel is shaped as a work of fiction.
A forerunner to the haiku novel is the first section of Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels, a book (published 1965) in which he recounts his experience of spending sixty-three days in the summer of 1956, alone on fire watch on Desolation Peak in North Cascades National Park. In this part of the book, Kerouac punctuates his prose with haiku. Kerouac does not, however, continue this throughout the work.
In 2001 the Haiku Society of America in their annual Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Award awarded an "Honorable Mention for Haiku Novel" to my book Haiku Guy (Red Moon Press 2000). This award is the first official recognition of the term that I know of. Since Kerouac's time, several writers have created works that, whether they would call them such or not, fit the definition of a haiku novel. For example, David Patneaude's wonderful young adult story about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Thin Wood Walls (2008), is a haiku-punctuated narrative that, in my view, is a haiku novel.
I wanted to add the above to Wikipedia, but then I saw in their instructions that it's a no-no to write anything about yourself!
In my series of five haiku novels (Haiku Guy, Laughing Buddha, Haiku Wars, Frog Poet, and Dewdrop World), I mingle haiku and prose so that my one-breath poems reflect on, crystallize and punctuate the action—as Kerouac did in the first part of Desolation Angels. This method blends old and new, East and West: Japanese haibun (the diary-like, haiku-peppered prose favored by Bashô and Issa) and the novel. Like the haibun of Old Japan, the haiku novel is artlessly artful: not polished or contrived, not taking itself too seriously. It's natural, spontaneous, and fun—a mélange of humor, philosophy, action, reflection, and, of course, haiku.
The haiku novel requires of its readers two ways of reading, two minds. The Western mind flows forward, following the linear progression of prose, of story. But every now and then a haiku appears on the page like a boulder in a stream, and the Eastern mind kicks in, slows down, meditates ... appreciates.
chewing their gum
See what I mean? Did you slow down, switch minds?
In my own haiku novels I include the historical Issa ("Cup-of-Tea") as a character, along with a fictitious crew of disciples: Mido, the Poet in Green; Kuro, the Poet in Black; Shiro, the Poet in White; and Buck-Teeth, who wears no particular color. I let each story tell itself, sprinkling in haiku here and there, and hope for the best.
Since writers write the kind of books they would like to read, I'd love to see more haiku novels published. So if you're a story-teller with one foot in the world of haiku, why not give it a try? Let's start a literary movement!home