Erotic Haiku

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coquette: Sensual haiku
Jeffrey Winke

My writing of Haiku has fallen off of late.

But I want to get back to writing more. And to get myself warmed up, I’m reviewing three splendid collections.

Eroticism and haiku are a perfect fit. Just as the haiku is the art of indirection, so too erotica. Whereas the explicit is an imaginative endpoint, the best haiku are a suggestive starting point for the imagination.  Suggestiveness is all – allusion, inference, and association.  And when haiku fail because they were made too explicit, eroticism fails for the same reason: eroticism becomes pornographic.

her seven button
blouse…
three undone

❧ Jeffrey Winke

What does the reader imagine? Does he or she imagine that the poet is unbuttoning his lover’s blouse?

Or maybe he sits at a café and can’t help notice a woman’s blouse – three of her buttons, not just unbuttoned, but undone. Where has she been, with whom, and doing what? – he might ask himself. Winke’s haiku invites the imagination, suggests the erotic.

Winke’s slim book, like his haiku, bespeaks care and experience. The backmatter informs us that he co-edited the first small press North American Haiku anthology, the Third Coast Haiku Anthology. He’s also published a separate book of haiku called What’s Not There: Selected Haiku of Jeffrey Winke (I picked up the last used copy at Amazon). If you can’t find his book, visit Byte Studios – the presentation of his haiku, some of which are from coquette, are pretty cool and you can also contact Winke directly.

Don’t buy coquette expecting hours of reading. There are two to three haiku per page but each haiku, if you give it a little time, can suggest a world of eroticism. Just read one and savor it. As to the pages themselves, the layout is spare but thoughtful.

The shadowy images that accompany the haiku quietly comment but remain as subtly suggestive as the poems themselves. All in all, this little collection is caviar for the general. Buy it if you like haiku. Buy it if you like eroticism. But don’t if you are looking for something more explicit.

Venus in view
Brynne McAdoo

Venus in View was not what I was expecting, but I like it and I’m glad I picked up.

Rather than a collection of erotic haiku, you will find six haibun. One of Japan’s greatest works of literature is a haibun – Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road to the North. In a nutshell, haibun is the genre in which prose passages combine with haiku. Basho’s Journey to the North is a narrative account of his journey through northern Japan, interspersed with haiku, and Brynne McAdoo’s haibun are short erotic narratives interspersed with erotic haiku – Electric Fence, Breastless, Anosmia Affair, Haiku Rendezvous, Halloween Haibun, Nor’easter Coming.

Brynne MacAdoo, by the way, is the author’s pseudonym. She lives two lives, the author tells us. “By day she is a high school teacher, and in her shadow life, she writes erotic haiku under this pseudonym.” How did she think up the name? Brynne means “strong woman” while the “surname is borrowed from her grandmother, a renegade 1935 beauty queen.

McAdoo’s haibun are, by turns, humorous, wistful, salacious and thoughtful. Eroticism isn’t the goal, but the backdrop against which her small stories and poems appear.   The protagonist in each  narrative is a woman, and the men in each story frequently leave something to be desired – women who choose to read McAdoo’s book can expect to have their been there, done that moments, recognizing some of the men who have passed through the lives – or maybe even stayed too long.

personal ad date:
my purse ready with condom
and mace

But what might have been altogether too one-sided in the hands of a lesser poet, is made gracious by the poet’s own self-deprecating sense of humor. If her feet are stepped on, it’s because she picked the wrong dancer. Indeed, some of the haiku are really more senryu-like, a form as old as the haiku but which revels in human foible and are often humorous (if darkly in the hands of their original Japanese masters).

Compare Jeffrey Winke’s haiku, the blouse with it’s three undone buttons, to Brynne McAdoo’s wry riposte:

first & last date –
back from the ladies room
my blouse buttoned higher

If you’re collector, like me, this little book is worthy. Add it to your collection of erotic poetry. If you’re a woman in need of commiseration, look no further.

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen him. I even moved, not leaving a forwarding number.

you don’t know
where I live but still
i leave the porch light on

Our phone conversation is short, nothing much exchanged except when and where we will meet, a secret spot: a cheesy cabin restaurant with an artificial fireplace. It is another place neither of us has been to and will never go again. I make sure I wear a black, fringed sweater he’s never seen, a new shade of lipstick, Scarlet O’Hara Red.”

Erotic Haiku
Compiled and Edited with Translations into Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

Sato’s book, rather than being by a single author, is a collection of erotic haiku. Some of the names, like Charles Trumbull & Lee Gurga, will be recognizable  to followers of American haiku. The haiku, being by a variety of authors, also vary in tone. Some are more suggestive than the others and some are explicitly unembarrassed, though Sato has been careful to choose haiku that nevertheless uphold the form’s suggestiveness.

The book is also filled with line-drawn illustrations of the most simplistic sort -  deliberately amateurish. I love them. They compliment the haiku without turning them into Haiga – which would detract from the creators’ original intent – haiku that speak for themselves. Some of the drawings are out and out explicit and on a different blog I might be tempted to reproduce one or two. As it is, the image at right will give you their flavor.

old lovers
only her left nipple
becomes erect
—        Lee Gurga

Sato, a resident of New York, translator and essayist, writes for the Japan Times and was president of the Haiku Society of America from 1979 to 1981. In the backmatter of the book, he discusses the Senryu-like qualities of erotic haiku.

What? Erotic haiku? You mean erotic senryu, no? Haiku sing of seasonal transitions, senryu of human foibles, such as erotic stirrings, don’t they? ¶ Yes, that is the usual distinction made. But when you think of the history of Japanese verse — the tanka splitting into the upper and lower hemistiches, thereby creating the renga, which, in turn, spawned the hokku, then the haiku—you realize that there was difficulty from the outset in making a distinction between haiku and senryu by subject matter. “Love,” an important subject in tanka, was not only inherited by renga, but renga masters such as Minamoto no Sozei (died 1455) and Nishiyama Soin (1605-1682) have left “Love Hyakuin,” in which each of the one-hundred units dealt with “love.”

Then, after reminding readers that eroticism can find historical precedent in classical Japanese literature, he makes the curious argument that English haiku, unlike Japanese haiku, is free (read: has no rules). He writes: “So, to define haiku in English, you must say ‘it is that which the person who wrote it calls haiku.’ No, I’m not joking.” Sato may insist that he’s not joking but, fortunately for the rest of us (and according to those who were involved in the project), he seems to have had a very clear grip on what constituted haiku when collecting them for his anthology. Even if he’s not joking, I don’t take him seriously.

In his choices, he did a gorgeous job.

mouth  open skyward
on her tongue raindrops
of my love
—             Jukka Saario

Of the three books, this book will be the most difficult to find. It appears to be out of print and Amazon’s resellers are trying to retire on its resale value. Be patient. If you wait long enough, as I did, a reasonably priced copy may show up. Wait, buy it, and you won’t regret it. My own feeling is that the book is a gem of poetic eroticism, the best collection of erotica haiku available, but I don’t recommend paying more than $30 dollars for it unless you’re the type who just has to have it for your erotic collection. Wait, and you won’t feel as though you’ve paid too much for too little. (The book was originally priced at $9.95.)

spring equinox
with the lilacs she comes out
as bisexual

❧ Brynne McAdoo

Erotic Haiku & Senryu Online

There are also bloggers and online poets who are trying their hand at erotic haiku and senryu. The sites, obviously, aren’t for the under aged or the prudish. For the rest, you may enjoy what you find.

Remittance Girl, among the most talented of erotic writers on the Internet, has tried her hand at haiku.

Haiku: Sleeping in the Shadow

The Erotic Writer is a relatively new blog.

Senryū: Edge of the World, Metamorph, Vignettes

Cernuus is also a relatively new blog whose Senryu you might enjoy:

Senryu

And here are some erotic haiku by Steve Mount

Erotic Haiku by Steve Mount

And here is a collection of erotic haiku at AHAPoetry.

Erotic Haiku

Lastly, you can find my own erotic haiku at right: Categories/Haiku/Erotic.

Enjoy. And if you can recommend other sites or books please do so. I and other readers will thank you.

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20 responses

  1. Pingback: Wakefield Poole’s Bijou – Entering the erotic world | Cult Following

    • Ha.

      Very nice.

      So here’s one, which I didn’t think I had the syllabic count, but now realize does. It doesn’t quite make sense to send it now, but here it is.

      Yoga “Haiku”

      Mula Bandha – genital
      smile, I’d walk a mile
      to be in your yoga class.

  2. Pingback: Guldkorn III « stänk och flikar

    • Hi Tiffany. I checked out your site and I like it very much. I’m adding it to my “Sites I Just Like” list. I couldn’t find where you posted the poem but, in either case, you’re welcome to do so.

  3. Hey, I like this, lol, neat, I may have to try it, thanks for such great post and inspiration, you have so much here saved to favs, look at my blog roll, we have a poetry scholl online, take a look, and if interested I can set you up a class, great site you have, thank you much appreciated, WS

  4. Pingback: Erotic Poetry, Love & Passion • A review of Poets & Anthologies « PoemShape

  5. Will you be reviewing Wilmott’s Erotic Haiku Anthology? It’s Out of Print, so you’ll have to use the library, but it’s still worth investigating.
    How about Cold Rain by Gabriel Rosenstock?
    There’s also Hummingbird Tattoo that Ellery Littleton recently published.

    I’ll let you know if I can think of any more.

    • There’s also Manu Bazzano’s anthology “Haiku for Lovers” that’s easy to find a cheap, used copy of. That’s another solid antho.

    • I found Wilmott’s Anthology at a relatively inexpensive price. I also found Bazzano’s Anthology. I’ll try picking both of those up and reviewing. The collection by Rosenstock is called “Cold Moon” not “Cold Rain”, unless he published another one I don’t know about. (I also found that inexpensively.) The used booksellers at Amazon are indulging in their usual moronic pricing: $500 for Wilmott’s Anthology. I couldn’t find anything by Littleton. Fascinating how OP erotic poetry goes for a premium. Christ, I should put together some erotic haiku of my own and let it go out of print the following week. I’ll retire.

    • Amazon is a jack. I’d recommend Abebooks.com. Better prices, wider variety of sellers, etc. These OOP books are still going to be pricey, but they’re worth it!

    • Hi Michele,

      Since I’m not a member of Facebook, Facebook doesn’t permit me to view the page you wanted me to see. Facebook is a bit like AOL that way. They control access to your page, not you. And that’s the problem with Facebook. But I certainly don’t object to your linking to the post. :-)

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