Review of Writing Haiku: A Beginner’s Guide to Composing Japanese Poetry by Bruce Ross

Writing Haiku: A Beginner’s Guide to Composing Japanese Poetry

Bruce Ross

March 15, 2022

Tuttle Publishing


A world of dew
And within every dewdrop
A world of struggle

The iconic three-line haiku form is increasingly popular today as people embrace its simplicity and grace–and its connections to the Japanese ethos of mindfulness and minimalism. Say more with fewer words.

This practical guide by poet and teacher Bruce Ross shows you how to capture a fleeting moment, like painting a picture with words, and how to give voice to your innermost thoughts, feelings, and observations. You don’t have to be a practiced poet or writer to write your own haiku, and this book shows you how.

In this book, aspiring poets will find:

  • Accessible, easy-to-replicate examples and writing prompts
  • A foreword that looks at the state of haiku today as the form continues to expand worldwide
  • An introduction to related Japanese haiku forms such as tanka, haiga, renga, haibun, and senryu
  • A listing of international journals and online resources

Do you want to tell a story? Give haibun a try. Maybe you want to express a fleeting feeling? A tanka is the perfect vehicle. Are you more visual than verbal? Then a haiga, or illustrated haiku, is the ideal match. Finally, a renga is perfect as a group project or to create with friends, passing a poem around, adding line after line, and seeing what your group effort amounts to.

Ross walks readers through the history and form of haiku, before laying out what sets each Japanese poetic form apart. Then it’s time to turn to your notebook and start drafting some verse of your own!

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I love the word “serendipity” and have been using it a lot lately because it seems like it’s been happening a lot. A while ago, I decided that I would like to write more haiku and haibuns, and, as fortune would have it, I stumbled upon the ARC of Bruce Ross’ Writing Haiku: A Beginner’s Guide to Composing Japanese Poetry and requested it to review.

Writing Haiku: A Beginner’s Guide to Composing Japanese Poetry not only covers haiku but several other forms as well a few I knew nothing about including: senyru, haiga, tanka, haibun, renga, and ginko, which is a walk in which participants write down their observations of nature.

All of the different types are explained in great deal with their historical components as well as their modern components; their place in Japanese writing as well as American. All had multiple examples and interpretations of those examples. And, if there were traditions, those were explained as well.

I found this to be an exciting guide that had me attempting to write my own senyru after reading about it and then longing to do a haiga, which is a simple drawing accompanied by a haiku. When I say simple, I mean simple for the practitioner, not necessarily (or at all, really) for me. There were a few graphics included to show the artform.

I think Writing Haiku: A Beginner’s Guide to Composing Japanese Poetry would be an excellent resource for anyone just starting out in writing the different forms of Japanese poetry as well as those who have advanced knowledge.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Five Butterflies

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