Favourite Haiku

by Gary Hotham

The initial request by Sandra Simpson a couple years ago to pick 10 favourite haiku was too overwhelming for me. So after thinking about it every so often since then I decided to pick favourites from the first edition of The Haiku Anthology edited by Cor van den Heuvel and published in 1974.

I think the anthology had a very good effect on English-language haiku. It provided in one collection a generous variety of subject matter and form. Anyone writing haiku at the time or those just starting had some great examples of what the genre offered.

The copy I have was first in my hand in August 1974 and is now falling apart. The glue holding the paperback edition for over 40 years has lost that ability. I wish there had been a hard cover edition. Even so in its decrepitude many of the haiku it contained still bring pleasure. I have picked some of those favourites. There are others but I went over 10 and have tried to keep the number well below 20.

The circus tent
all folded up:
October mist . . .

Eric Amann


empty room:
one swinging coat hanger
measures the silence

Jack Cain


stars beyond

l. a. davidson


Holding the water,
held by it—
the dark mud.

William J Higginson


Hair, in my comb’s teeth
the color of autumn wind —
this whole day is gray.

Clement Hoyt


a grasshopper
jumped into it:
summer dusk

Michael McClintock


Muttering thunder . . .
the bottom of the river
scattered with clams

Robert Spiess


Lonely night: – 
the elephant
tugs at his chain.

Jan S. Streif


the old barber
sweeping hair
into the giant bag

James Tipton


in the hotel lobby
the bare bulb of a floor lamp
shines down on its distant base

Cor van den Heuvel


over the dam —
summer’s end

Anita Vigil


Lone red-winged blackbird
riding a reed in high tide—
billowing clouds.

Nicholas Virgilio


crickets . . .

Larry Wiggin


Breathing . . .
the teacup
filled with shadow

Rod Wilmott


beyond the porch
the summer night . . . leaning out
a moment

John Wills


fallen birch leaf
to the sky

Virginia Brady Young

Either I like the colon as a punctuation mark or it was more popular with haiku writers back then.


Editor’s note: American Gary Hotham has been working the art and craft of English-language haiku for more than 40 years. His work has appeared in various magazines, journals, chapbooks and anthologies, and his latest book is Stone’s Throw (Pinyon Publishing, 2016). He spent his youth in northern Maine but has since made his home in Maryland with some breaks living with wife and daughter for various lengths of time in Japan, Germany and England.

Read an article about Gary which includes some his haiku.