The Quest for Hard Haiku

January 2007

The Quest for Hard Haiku


Hard haiku is one of the projects pursued at WHCvanguard. It is an area where difficult subjects such as war, atrocities, death, tragedy or natural disasters are treated in haiku.

These are normally outside the traditional haiku which treats such topics, if at all, in an indirect, gentle or euphemistic manner. The apparent inability of haiku to deal with these themes has contributed to the criticism of haiku as inadequate or even inferior which makes it undeserving to be called a genre of serious literature.

Though this criticism is not quite accurate, it has a point. So, at WHCvanguard possibility of writing good haiku poems dealing with hard themes is sought. In this column, we will try to show some examples of that pursuit.

Efforts are also made to see if more traditional school of haiku thought can deal with hard themes. At the same time, some samples of WHCsenryu are also included here to see if that genre can cope with the hard subjects.

[[ SAMPLE ONE ]] : Project ‘Four Years On: 9/11′

The project started on 11th of September 2005 under the title “Four Years On: 9/11”.

In the last issue of WHR, we dealt with the ’60 Years On’ porject after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and WWII in general as part of the hard haiku feature.

9/11 is also a painful subject, especially because it is a much more recent event. As in the case of ’60 Years On’, WHC members wrote haiku according to each of the five different fora of the World Haiku Club separately: WHCworkshop, WHChaikuneoclassical, WHCshintaihaiku, WHCvanguard and WHCsenryu.

Four years had at least given us some time to reflect on this difficult subject. Many new things have happened since, not least Madrid and London. It has changed our life and is still changing, which means that it is one of the most significant parts of the contemporary phenomenon. So, the 9/11 subject should be taken broadly. The poems were presented as creative works of literature and art, and will also be for the purposes of studying haiku.

9/11 is a heavily political and religious subject. It was thus in many ways a tricky project but one which was more than worth a try. It also would test the haiku literature in terms of its scope and possibility.

* * *


lost souls
wailing from the Twin Towers
to far places

Susumu Takiguchi, UK


ground zero —
a sparrow hopping
beside the black pit


to the black pit —
a dog in safety shoes
searching for life


ground zero —
blackened sweat drips from mask
of a life-saver

Origa (Olga Hooper), US


twin towers
repeating their absence
day after day

Bill Kenney
New York, US


Remembering 9/11 (a haibun)

his birthday
blowing out candles —
images of burning towers

One of my dearest friend’s birthdays is today — 9/11. He has been alone for
a long time having lost his mother as a child and his grandmother as a young
adult. His father never was around either. He’s with us this year.

video war games
replaced by news reports
more bombings

He always wanted to be in the military, and tried, but because of health
issues wasn’t accepted. He says that he believed when the towers fell that we,
the civilized world, needed to hunt down and kill those responsible.

he watches draped coffins
and mangled bodies

Now he says “how can I celebrate my birth in the middle of all this death?.”

tears in my eyes
lighting candles on his cake —
wish for world peace

author’s note * I don’t know if it is the same world wide but the tradition
is to make a wish when blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Sort of
wish magick, I guess.

Brenda Roberts, US


Twin Towers
petals in still water
fill my eyes

Michael Rehling, US


still water . . .
but only for a

robert wilson, US


WTC station
a little boy asks again
what is WTC?

Israel López Balan
Mexico City


it seems that more leaves
should have fallen by today
the day the towers fell

b’oki, US

through four septembers
filled with dust and memories
two columns of light

b’oki, US


four years on,
still none the wiser…

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


tower of Babel*
reduced to…
tower of silence

*babel: A confusion of many voices or languages, tumult. Also Babel

*Babel: In the Bible, an ancient city now thought to be Babylon –
Tower of Babel- A tower built in Babel and intended to reach heaven.
Gen. 11:1-9

Webster’s Student Dictionary
of the English Language
International Encyclopedic Edition



tower of Babel
reduced to. . .
a place of silence


tower of Babel
changeth to. . .
a place for silence



911, in memorium
his son’s voice lifting
to meet the moon

Carol Raisfeld


four years on
governor declares freedom

Bill Kenney

[There will be no freedom museum included in whatever finally rises on
the site of the WTC, because Governor Pataki says it’s “too


four years on…
broken words recall
his father’s smile

four years on…
a gull’s cry crosses
the gap

Flight 93 —
the gleam of forty
wind chimes

(The memorial for Flight 93 will include a tower
with 40 white aluminum wind chimes)

Laryalee Fraser, Canada


four years on…
too close
to sort out



jet-fueled furnace
or leaping from 95
grim fall dilemma

~Vaughn Seward



autumn wind —
blowing again vainly where
the towers stood

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


the moon waning…
life’s but a morning dew,
without violence

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


[A Cornishman who became an American]

a hidden hero –
having saved his own firm’s 2000,
perished to rescue others

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


cold north wind
only stiffens travellers’ heart…
cold logic of violence

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


Four Years On: 9/11

tales and paintings
used to tell of the Hell,
we create it

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


From: ash of moth
Subject: Four Years On: 9/11

cloudless sky–
its lack of airplanes
reminds me of the 12th

aom (tim)


divide and rule —
the war against terror takes
the opposite policy

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


terror. big, little. it happens as often as people shit. we dont do much to thwart it, just hover in the next yard hoping the shrapnel lands no further than withiin the tv screen.

solar halo–
another gallon
into the tank

partriot act–
beer saturates
his proclamation

bleached yellow ribbons–
a canvaser’s shadow
on the doorstep

street crime–
gossips first
at the scene

the card slaps glass
to the tv’s recap

sept 11th 2005–
righteousness thins
with the newscaster’s hair

more customers
again this year

candied apples–
the event’s red white and blue
in the sheen

bomb blast–
holding budwiesers
the television is cursed

aom (tim)


red river —
Don Quixote tilts
at Islam



to politicians
disasters are always

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


all congress boggled
acts fail on crucial issues…
there’s been some delay



murky national security…
undermining the very principles
it purports to protect

Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, England


of the union meeting–
twin towers

the great silence
of moderates

twin towers–
Lawence on a sand dune
gazing west

post nine eleven–
the gun control debate



three in the morning
a thousand screams
somethings wrong


turn on the tv


four years on
governor declares freedom

Bill Kenney

This entry was posted in Haiku, Senryu, Vol 5-2 January 2007 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Quest for Hard Haiku

  1. Pingback: Treasures – What is Hard Haiku? – World Haiku Review

  2. haikutec says:

    So many of us from other countries knew someone who knew someone who did something brave and sadly died.

    ground zero into the new friend’s story

    Alan Summers
    Publication credits:
    Masks 4 (Roadrunner 12.3 – December 2012)

    Anthology credits:
    in fear of dancing: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2013
    Haiku 2014 ed. Scott Metz & Lee Gurga (Modern Haiku Press, 2014)

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