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Mary Karr and Christopher Robinson briefly discuss baseball haiku.

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Christopher Robinson's debut novel, War of the Encyclopaedists, co-authored with Gavin Kovite, will be published by Scribner in 2015. You can find his work in The Missouri Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Nimrod, McSweeney’s Online, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, Bread Loaf, and the Djerassi Resident Artist program. He has been a finalist for numerous prizes, including the Ruth Lilly Fellowship and the Yale Younger Poets Prize.

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  • Michael Dylan Welch October 4, 2010, 4:16 am

    Nice to hear you sharing baseball haiku. Two points of interest. First, George Swede is Canadian, and I know he would take exception to being considered American, but his haiku still captures the spirit of the game on either side of the border. Second, your opening definition of haiku is a common perception. However, in Japanese they count sounds, not strictly syllables (the word “haiku” itself, for example, counts as two syllables in English but THREE sounds in Japanese. Because of differences in the language, it’s a sort of urban myth that haiku in English should be 5-7-5 syllables. If you’re writing a haiku that long in English, it’s much longer than haiku in Japanese, since you can pack a lot more thoughts into 17 English syllables than you can in 17 Japanese sounds (Japanese words typically have many more syllables than their English counterparts). Anyone who thinks otherwise would presumably think that 100 yen is equal to 100 dollars! For decades, unfortunately, haiku has been widely mistaught in schools (or taught superficially), focusing just on a misguided notion that 17 English syllables equals the 17 sounds (not syllables) they count in Japanese. Furthermore, such a focus on form has been to the almost complete neglect of a focus on aspects of haiku that are actually much more important (in both English and Japanese), which are the “kigo” (season word — for which pretty much any baseball reference would qualify) and the “kireji” (or cutting word), which we can achieve in English by giving the poem two juxtaposed parts that create a sort of gap and leap as readers figure out their relationship. For an overview of basic haiku strategies, I invite your readers and listeners to read “Becoming a Haiku Poet” online at I also recommend reading William J. Higginson’s *The Haiku Handbook* (Kodansha) and Cor van den Heuvel’s *The Haiku Anthology* (the 1999 3rd edition from Norton). I also have a few of my own baseball haiku online at (some of which appear in Cor van den Heuvel’s *Baseball Haiku* book, which I believe you were quoting from). Thanks for featuring baseball haiku—and haiku—in your presentation.

  • Cor van den Heuvel November 15, 2010, 9:42 pm

    Viewers of Poetry Fix #12 Baseball Haiku might like to know that, as Michael Dylan Welch rightly surmises in his comment, that all of the haiku quoted by Mary Karr are from the book Baseball Haiku, edited by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura. And that the first two quoted, the one about the baseball cards and the one about the glove on the handlebars, are by Cor van den Heuvel. The two by George Swede were correctly credited by Mary as was the Japanese example by Imai Sei about the towering clouds, but the one about the fly ball that “never comes down” is not by a Japanese poet, it is by the American haiku poet Raffael de Gruttola. These poems were all accurately credited by Mary in her wonderful review of the book, which appeared in The Washington Post, May 25th, 2008. Thank you for the chance to add this comment and for this chance to thank both Chris Robinson and Mary Karr for saying such nice things about haiku in general and these baseball haiku in particular.

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