I'm a translator of Japanese haiku, a teacher of English and world literature, a writer of haiku and "haiku novels."
I earned my B.A. at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska (1976), then went on to complete the M.A. & Ph.D. in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1977, 1981). My dissertation topic was musical symbolism in 14th-century English, French and Spanish poetry. Since 1981, I've been teaching English at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where I am the RosaMary Professor of English.
In 1982 I discovered haiku. I began studying Japanese and visited Japan in 1987 and '88, working on a book of translations of the poet Issa. To further this project, in summer of 1989 I participated in a three-week National Endowment for the Humanities workshop on Literary Translation, held at the University of California-Santa Cruz. The book appeared in 1991: Issa: Cup-of-Tea Poems (Asian Humanities Press).
Over the years, I've published haiku and haiku criticism in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Bottle Rockets, Mayfly, Moonset, Ginyu (Tokyo), Jointure (Paris), Poesia (Milan), Literaturen Vestnik (Bulgaria), FreeXpresSion (Australia), Presence (England) ... and other places. Here's a random sampling.
In May of 2000, with the help of my son Bryan and Bart Everson of Xavier University, I launched my website, The Haiku of Kobayashi Issa, the most comprehensive English-language Issa site on the Web.
In 2003 I had the privilege of editing The Haiku Society of America's Members' Anthology. My critical book on Issa and Buddhism, Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa, came out in 2004.
Svetla Hristova's Bulgarian translation of Haiku Guy appeared in May, 2007, published by Iztok-Zapad Press. On May 23, I gave a talk on Issa and participated in a book signing in Sofia. During the same trip, on June 19, I presented a paper on "The Spiritual Poetry of Kobayashi Issa" in Milan.
In October 2007, I gave a lecture on Issa and Pure Land Buddhism at the Higashi Honganji temple in Tokyo. Later that month, I visited Belgrade to celebrate the publication of Saša Vazic's Serbian translation of Haiku Guy.
In June 2008 I gave a talk on "America's First Haiku Masters: Kerouac and Wright," at a conference on "World Haiku: A Challenge to the 21st Century," held at Southwest University in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. A few days later, in Sofia, I participated in a bilingual reading and book signing of the Bulgarian translation of Laughing Buddha—at the Helikon Bookstore.
I celebrated the publication of the French translation of Haiku Guy with readings and book signings in Brest and Rennes (Bretagne, France), in December 2008.
In May 2009 Keiji Minato and I gave bilingual readings of Haiku Guy in English and Japanese in Kyoto and Tokyo. I also was interviewed by Sumi Zushi on NHK radio's "World Interactive" program, broadcast on June 7.
August 7, 2009 I led a workshop on "Reading the New Haiku" at the Haiku North America conference in Ottawa, Canada.
September 20, 2009 I gave a reading to launch my third "haiku novel," Haiku Wars, at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans.
May 2010 marked the tenth year anniversary of the Haiku of Kobayashi Issa website. Haiku poets in New Orleans and Issa's readers from around the world joined in an online celebration.
June 7, 2010 Svetla Hristova and I gave a bilingual reading at the Helikon Bookstore in Sofia to launch the Bulgarian version of Haiku Wars.
October 17, 2010 I uploaded my ten thousandth translation of Issa to my Haiku of Kobayashi Issa website. In the same month, as part of Hanoi's thousand year celebration, the Vietnam Education Publishing House brought out Hoa Lu thi tap, a book of poetry by Hoang Quang Thuan with English translations by Thai Ba Tan and me.
On May 28, 2011 the German translation of Haiku Guy was launched at the meeting of the German Haiku Society in Oldenburg. Then, a week later (June 4) I was in Madrid, signing copies of the Spanish version of the same book at the Feria de Libros. Two weeks later (June 17), in Sofia, I helped to launch the Bulgarian translation of my haiku-spiced memoir, Nowever—with a bilingual reading at the Helikon bookstore, assisted by my translator, Svetla Hristova.
November 27, 2011 I was honored to give the keynote speech at the Haiku International Association meeting in Tokyo on "Issa's Frogs and Toads: Mirrors of Humanity."
April 22, 2012 at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans I participated in a reading of haiku along with fellow members of the New Orleans Haiku Society—Bob, Carolyn, Nicholas, Johnette, Juliet, Allison and Karel. After our group reading, I launched my new haiku novel, Frog Poet, with a reading and book signing.
Later that year, April 16 and 21, I returned to Bulgaria to launch the Bulgarian version of Frog Poet in the cities of Blagoevgrad and Sofia, once again assisted by my lovely translator, Svetla Hristova.
E-books: in 2012 my four "haiku novels" became available for Kindle and Nook. I also self-published my favorite 1,210 of Issa's poems in Issa's Best: A Translator's Selection of Master Haiku—also for Kindle And Nook.
Issa's Best also became available in paperback in 2012; order here: Issa's Best ($9.99).
In January 2013 I was elected President of the Haiku Society of America.
The German translation of Laughing Buddha came out in June, 2013.
On May 10, 2014 I received the Norman C. Francis Award for Scholarship at Xavier University of Louisiana. While they gave me my medal during commencement, this short film played on the jumbotron.
Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A Buddhist Poet's Perspective came out in fall of 2014 as a paperback and e-book. Read all about it.
January 2013-December 2015 I served for three terms as president of the Haiku Society of America.
In summer 2016 my first stand-alone collection of haiku (71 in all) came out, On a Sign Pointing Two Ways, published by Rompesilencios Ediciones in Cartago, Colombia. Spanish translation and introduction by Carlos Alberto Castrillón; edited by Victoria Eugenia Gómez M. Unfortunately, it is not on sale outside of Colombia (at this time).
In January 2017 I published the companion book to Issa and the Meaning of Animals: Issa and Being Human: Haiku Portraits of Early Modern Japan.