English, Department of


Date of this Version

June 2001


Published in Modernity in East-West Literary Criticism: New Readings, edited by Yoshinobu Hakutani. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001. Pages 114–136. Copyright © 2001 by Rosemont Publishing & Printing Group. Used by permission.


In contemporary American haiku poetry we find a convergence of the tradition of the American transcendentalists, especially Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, with the Zen-influenced Japanese tradition of haiku composition. This convergence is most obvious in a shared belief in the ability of the poet to see the world anew, and in the desire to efface the subject/object dichotomy between the poet and the natural world. In the work of many North American poets, the transcendental and Zen traditions synthesize to generate a distinctive brand of haiku. Since the mid-1950s, literally thousands of collections of haiku poetry have appeared in the United States and Canada. Hundreds of thousands of haiku have been published in scores of magazines, and the rate of publication increases steadily. Yet English language haiku has so far not been accepted as a legitimate form of American poetry worthy of inclusion in literary anthologies and consideration in critical discussions.