Jan 26

Haiku by Andrew Vachss

Posted: under Reviews.
Tags: , , , , , January 26th, 2010

by Kelly

by Kelly

How is it that I have never heard of Andrew Vachss? He’s an accomplished author with well over 20 books to his name! On Amazon, reviewers heap praise all over his Burke series, a collection of 18 books about a private eye who avenges abused children.

Ah…but that’s it. He’s classified as a “mystery/thriller” writer. His books appear on the shelves along with Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva and Michael Crichton. I don’t spend much time in that part of the bookstore.

But perhaps maybe I should. Who knows which of these authors is nursing a quiet love of haiku? Turns out, Andrew Vachss is.

His newest novel is called Haiku. It’s a stand-alone work, having nothing to do with his long-running series.

In it, a group of homeless men band together on the streets of LA.

The unofficial leader of the group is a man called Ho. Ho, an elderly Japanese man, walked away his comfy life as a highly respected and admired martial arts master after a piece of advice he offered a student ended in her murder.

Ho can not come to terms with his role in her death. Thinking back on the moment she asked for advice, he believes he was dismissive of her request, that he spoke to her with an air of arrogance born from his inflated title.

Because of this, he leaves everything behind to pursue a life without any trappings in hopes that someday he’ll be able to write one solitary haiku that reflects his true spirit.

Before he can do that, however, he must survive on the streets. To do that, he needs friends. Enter the rest of the characters in this book. Each has his own demons and all are far from perfect. Together, though, they are able to pool their resources to save one of their own.

The book is not filled with haiku. Instead, it is the idea of being able to write one perfect haiku that pulls the main character through to the end.

The book wasn’t as tension-filled and suspenseful as I expected a “thriller” to be. It was much more contemplative. There was an active plot, a real problem that needed fixing, but there was also a strange sub-plot that got a lot of attention up front but then never amounted to much. Yet, overall, I enjoyed the story, and walked away curious about the author’s other works.

Which is how I ended up at the Andrew Vachss web site, which is where I found a page of his own haiku. This one, in particular, seemed fitting of a mystery writer:

When winter vanished

I searched, only to find you

Missing and presumed

If you check out the rest of Andrew Vachss’s haiku, I suggest you click on the last two. Each of them links to a accompanying cartoon.

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Jul 06

Haiku Author Interview: John Shors

Posted: under Reviews.
Tags: , , July 6th, 2009

by Kelly

by Kelly

After reading the novel Beside a Burning Sea, which incorporates haiku into its storyline, I just had to contact author John Shors and ask him how the book came to be.

Here’s our interview . . .

How did you become familiar with haiku?

After graduating from college, I taught English in Kyoto, Japan, for more than two years. It was in Japan where I first became intrigued with haiku and the beauty contained in this unique form of poetry.

The copyright date on Beside a Burning Sea is 2008. Even though this is a historical novel set during World War II, it is also a contemporary novel in that its readers are of today’s world. Sadly, poetry doesn’t command a huge readership in the United States. What sort of a response have you had from your readers about the haiku in this book?

I have had a wonderful response from readers with regard to the haiku in Beside a Burning Sea.

I’d say that, on average, I receive two or three emails a week from readers, within which they’ve written their own haiku.

I’ve also spoken with many book clubs and listened to people read their haikus to me. These events represent an unexpected but enjoyable reaction to my novel. I feel fortunate to have inspired readers to create their own haiku.

Did you know that haiku would play a part of this story when you sat down to write Beside a Burning Sea or did the haiku thread develop later?

From the start, I wanted haiku to be an important part of my novel. I’d never seen a novel that contained so many original poems, and as a writer, I was excited about the idea of populating my book with a variety of haiku that would serve to move the plot forward.

Beside a Burning Sea is a thick novel with long chapters, however, each one starts with a haiku, which by its nature is very short. Was it hard for you to switch back and forth between these two writing styles?

Writing the haiku was my favorite part of the book.

I edited Beside a Burning Sea twenty times, so I looked at each haiku at least that much. Sometimes I would change a word or two, but for the most part, the haiku remained similar to what they had been when I created them.

In terms of the transition into the longer chapters, this wasn’t a big deal. The haiku at the start of each chapter set the tone for me, and I followed that tone until the end of the chapter.

Do novel writing and haiku writing have anything in common?

Well, I like to think that my writing style has a lyrical quality to it, and from that perspective, yes, writing a haiku and a novel aren’t that different — at least for me.

I’m now working on my fourth novel, which also contains a series of poems. While these poems aren’t haiku, I so enjoyed writing poetry that I wanted to repeat the process. It’s fun for me to weave poems into my novels, and readers seem to connect with them. Hopefully that will remain the case.

Thanks, John!

Learn more at the Beside a Burning Sea web site.

Find it on Amazon: Beside a Burning Sea

You might also want to read John Shors other books.

Beneath a Marble Sky is the love story behind the building of the Taj Mahal.

The Dragon House, to be released August 2009, is about two American travelers in Vietnam who are trying to organize a charity to help local street children.

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Jun 29

Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors

Posted: under Reviews.
Tags: , , June 29th, 2009

by Kelly

by Kelly

This book, Beside a Burning Sea, was recommended by Carol Ann, one of our guest haiku’ers from the month of June.

According to Carol Ann, her interest in haiku began after reading this novel by author John Shors. Hearing that prompted me to go and seek it out at my local library.

The book is a World-War-II era tale that takes place in the South Pacific. An American hospital ship, which is supposed to be given free passage because of its Red-Cross mission, gets struck by a Japanese torpedo. Nine people manage to escape from the sinking ship and swim to the nearest land, an uninhabited tropical island.

There is a bad guy among the survivors. He’s an American-turned-Japanese spy who must try and keep his double-agent ways a secret. Throughout the book, his evil ideas give readers the chills.

To balance that plot line, there is also a love story going on. The love story plays out between Annie, an American nurse, and a wounded Japanese soldier who also made it off the ship.

Akira, the Japanese solider, must convince his fellow castaways, who are all Americans, that he means them no harm. He is sick of war and wants nothing more than to be done with violence. He dreams of returning to his life before the war when he was a professor of English and literature at a school in Japan. One of Akira’s main coping mechanisms for dealing with the troublesome situation around him is to retreat into his mind and compose haiku. As a part of the love story, Akira teaches Annie how to write haiku.

Every chapter begins with a haiku from Akira’s point of view. Along the way, Annie and he share some haiku they’ve composed for one another.

Beyond that, though, the book doesn’t focus on the art of haiku. The ins-and-outs of haiku’s long history are not covered here. Instead, haiku is a small unifying theme for the two characters falling in love. It is an intimate something that they share between the two of them.

Even though this book isn’t all about haiku, the fact that haiku plays a role at all in the plot of a 400-page WWII novel, I thought, warranted a review here on Haiku By Two.

And besides, it was a good read, one I thoroughly — and quickly — enjoyed.

If you’re looking for a good summer read, a good airplane read, or a good book club recommendation, pick up a copy of Beside a Burning Sea. And who knows? Like our guest haiku’er Carol Ann, you just might find yourself newly smitten with haiku.

Check out the Beyond the Burning Sea web site.

Or find it on Amazon: Beside a Burning Sea

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