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BOOK REVIEW: HAIKU: Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids by Patricia Donegan
Reviewed by Robert Wilson

In her latest book, HAIKU: Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids, Donegan, the coauthor of Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master, teaches children how to appreciate and write (create) haiku, haibun, haiga, and renga.

Says Donegan in the book’s preface, “As kids, you already have ‘haiku eye’---a way to see the world openly and freshly. Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), the most famous haiku poet, said that to write haiku you need to have the eyes and heart of a child. This book’s purpose is to show you the way to write haiku, to teach you to take your ‘haiku eyes’ and put what you see and feel down on paper. It is an introduction to haiku, a unique part of the culture and arts of Japan.”

Haiku is a hands on book, full of examples, and easy to comprehend. Donegan speaks to children and adults alike without resorting to teacher speak. Says the author, “Haiku is simply noticing, noting, and recording moments that are happening round us all the time--moments that make us wake up and see and appreciate the world around us more.”

“Capturing these little haiku moments in words is what makes a haiku, and that creation depends on how open our eyes are to the world around us.”

After an explanation of what haiku is, Donegan lays out a step by step process for writing a haiku. A process that is easy to follow. Teachers, take note. If you are teaching your students to compose haiku, use the activities and examples in this book.

The activities in this book highlight the seven keys to creating haiku, and help readers to get started, think up memorable images, and write the three short lines that make up a great haiku.

The author covers all bases, telling children how to construct an effective haiku, how to capture the surprise, and the magic of everyday life. Everything a student needs to create haiku is in this book, including a seasonal dictionary, glossary, and checklist of topics.


An excerpt:

“ . . . the best way is not to use seventeen syllables, but instead just three lines. To make the three lines of the English haiku balanced, it is good to try to make the second line longer than the other lines. Make the haiku short, one breath long . . . Pay attention to the ‘ah’ moment in nature, say your haiku out loud to make sure it is one breath long, and pay attention to the sound of your words. Your haiku should sound smooth and natural and have rhythm like your own way of talking. Practice listening while reading your haiku aloud . . . train your ears, as well as your eyes, for haiku.”


Interspersed throughout the book are examples of haiku penned by ancient masters and notable living poets.

After the readers learn how to write a haiku, they learn how to compose haiga, haibun, and renga. Donegan even teaches them how to make a simple book with pen, scissors, and paper.

I highly recommend this book to anyone teaching haiku to young people. It is also a valuable resource for someone new to writing haiku, be they a young person or an adult.

a strong wind blew
the roof right off my house
that night I counted stars

---Aree La-ongthong, Age 11, Thailand


Patricia Donegan, Haiku: Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids, 2003, Hardbound, Tuttle Publishing, Boston, Tokyo, Singapore, ISBN: 0804835012. Ordering: Tuttle Publishing.


Patricia Donegan is author of Heralding the Milk Light, Without Warning (forward by Allen Ginsberg) and Hot Haiku. In 1986-87 she studied with haiku master Yamaguchi Seishi. She completed a Fulbright grant in Japan and co-authored Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master with Ishibashi Yoshie. Patricia is a member of the Haiku Society of America and the Association for International Renku. She currently teaches creative writing at Keio University in Tokyo, and is a contributing editor for Kyoto Journal.

Excerpts from Chiyo-ni are found here: Simply Haiku, May-June 2004. The book introduces readers to the haiku, art, and life of Japan’s most famous female haiku poet.