Write Like Issa: David G Lanoue

Write like Issa: a haiku how-to is a recent release by translator, teacher and writer, David G Lanoue. David is a professor of English at Xavier University of Louisiana and is well known within the haiku community for translating thousands of haiku written by the Japanese master poet, Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828).

The book is available as paperback or e-book through David’s website, HaikuGuy.com.

Having run several Write like Issa workshops, David has now brought together a number of poems by Issa, learnings from the workshops plus the work of other contemporary poets whose writing, at least in part, reflects that of Issa. The result is a book that provides practical guidance: akin to attending one of David’s workshops on how to write like Issa.

As David argues, Issa is a poet worth following due to his ‘compassion, insight, humor, honesty and leaping imagination’ as can be seen in these examples of Issa’s haiku:

evening moon –
pond snails singing
in the kettle

once again
I’ve managed not to die . . .
blossoming spring

from the great bronze
Buddha’s nose . . .
a swallow!

(translations by David G Lanoue)

David’s guidance is invaluable in encouraging modern haiku poets to write with tenderness, freshness and imagination, while also providing writers with the freedom to follow Issa in breaking some of the so-called haiku rules. For example, David encourages poets to write in the first person, as Issa often did. Some modern day examples from the book:

autumn colors –
the scarecrow’s shirt
nicer than mine

(Stanford M Forrester)

the bonsai . . .
my knotty life

(Charlotte Digregorio)

a finch in the sun
I am well
after all

(Gregory Piko)

David suggests readers should be ready to write new haiku while reading his book. Indeed, given the inspiration provided as you turn from page to page, it is difficult not to write new haiku along the way!

Despite a few minor typos, the purchase of Write like Issa is very definitely money well spent for any contemporary haiku poet. And don’t you love the visual pun provided by the cover!

Write Like Issa
Cover art showing a page of Issa’s calligraphy