A Hundred Gourds 3:2 March 2014

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Haiku Guy: The Guy, the Books, and the Classroom

| Introduction | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 |


Like many members of the haiku community, David Lanoue wears many hats. In addition to being a world-renowned Issa translator and professor at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, he currently serves as the president for Haiku Society of America. Among all these roles and titles, I, for one, fondly recognize Lanoue as the man who has also written a series of haiku novels.

Starting with Haiku Guy (Red Moon Press, 2000) and most recently Dewdrop World (, 2013), these five books follow a young poet by the name of Buck-Teeth who studies haiku under Cup-of-Tea, a fictionalization of Issa, in Old Japan. Meanwhile, in New Orleans the unnamed narrator and writer of Buck-Teeth’s story reflects on his own life, which often runs parallel with Buck-Teeth’s. With witty, off-the-cuff prose interspersed with haiku, each story explores the joys as well as trials and tribulations of being a writer, not so lucky at love, and living within a diverse and opinionated creative group. All of this is accompanied by mini lessons, commentaries, and philosophies about haiku, aesthetics, and approaches. In short the series reflects what a lot of poets experience as they enter into and grow up within the haiku community.

I first encountered Lanoue’s haiku novels in Dr. Randy Brooks’s Global Haiku Traditions seminar at Millikin University when I won Haiku Guy in a kukai competition. I didn’t get a chance to read it until the summer, but once I did, I was hooked. I even spent a good portion of the following semester attempting to win Laughing Buddha. Two years down the line my honors project focused on the combination of haiku and narrative prose, which I ended up calling haiku fiction. Haiku Guy, Laughing Buddha, and Haiku Wars (the three books out at the time) were the starting place for my research.

To say the least, these books have had a profound impact on me as a writer, and I believe they have great educational potential due to their structure and Lanoue’s initial intentions. This feature highlights two cases of haiku novels in the classroom: one on the college level, another in K-12. AHG appreciates Tom Painting generously sharing his teaching materials and lessons plans. And, of course, many thanks to Lanoue for taking the time to answer my questions via email, and all the insights he provides regarding the haiku novel.

—Aubrie Cox, haiga editor


David Lanoue speaking in front of the attendees of the 2013 3rd Quarterly Haiku Society of America meeting in Evanston, Illinois.