Susan Antolin of Acorn Recommends...

As the editor of Acorn, a specialty journal that publishes only haiku and recently celebrated twenty-five years in print, the range of things I look for in submissions is both specific to haiku and universal to what makes great literature in any genre. Shorter than any other form of poetry, haiku often appear effortless, as if they were dashed off in a moment of sudden inspiration. In reality, evocative and understated haiku are harder to write than you might think. With so few words to work with, attention to nuanced connotations, sound, and syntax are especially important. And contrary to what you may have been taught, syllable counting is not at the heart of contemporary, literary haiku. Haiku that hint at a connectedness between the outer and inner worlds, elevate a sense of awe or wonder, and draw our attention to small details of everyday life (think T. S. Eliot’s “objective correlative”) are all qualities of great haiku.

While combing through the thousands of poems that I read each reading period, I am especially attracted to haiku that feel subtle and authentic. By authentic I do not mean the literal truth, of course. Oftentimes, an imagined or even surreal image conveys greater emotional truth than a thing or event directly observed. While there is no shortage of excellent how-to guides for writing haiku, it is occasionally the poem that breaks conventions that most successfully shifts something in the reader, which, after all, is a mark of good writing in any genre. For a fuller understanding of haiku as a literary art, you may consider joining the Haiku Society of America, attending the Haiku North America conference, and subscribing to various haiku journals such as Modern Haiku (and Acorn).

Susan Antolin, editor, Acorn

Photo credit: Charlie Antolin