about the haiku novel

A haiku novel mingles haiku and prose so that the one-breath poems reflect on, crystallize and punctuate the action—as Jack 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.

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-filled narrative that, in my view, is a haiku novel.