Aug 03

Richard Wright Postage Stamp

Posted: under Reviews.
Tags: , August 3rd, 2009

by Kelly

by Kelly

So I go to the mailbox to collect my daily mail, and as I walk back to the house flipping through my letters, who should I spy but an American haiku master?

The face of Richard Wright — who Alison wrote about several weeks back — was on a 61-cent postage stamp and stuck to a large envelope.

I did a bit of Goggling and learned that the Richard Wright stamp was released in April of 2009.

According to a press release from the U.S. Postal Service, not only was Wright an accomplished writer, but he also worked as a letter carrier during the Great Depression.

However, while the press release mentions the titles of Wright’s most famous works — Native Son and Black Boy — it doesn’t say a thing about his haiku fascination! Let this post right that wrong!

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Jun 21

Haiku: This Other World – by Richard Wright

Posted: under Reviews.
Tags: June 21st, 2009

There is something about the haiku of Richard Wright.

Yes, Richard Wright, the famous author of Black Boy and Native Son, also wrote thousands of haiku of which he composed during the last 18 months of his life.

Haiku: This Other World is a wonderful collection of selected haiku chosen by Wright himself.  And I keep returning to this book when I want to be inspired by another’s haiku moments. Wright’s haiku are diverse – some are personal and dark while others are funny or tranquil. Yet they are always grounded in nature and a 5.7.5 syllable count. I could not help but wonder who Wright was and what he was going through as he wrote this body of haiku.

Why did Wright suddenly take up haiku during his last years? And what was his attraction to this ancient and structured Japanese poetic tradition?

These questions are answered In a touching forward by Wright’s daughter, Julia Wright. In this loving homage to her father’s last years, she vividly describes her father’s relationship with haiku during difficult times. Self-exiled in Normandy and suffering from chronic health problems and personal loss, she believes her father found a steadying refuge in haiku. She paints a picture of Wright’s cottage with haiku hanging on wire rods all around the tiny rooms. And she describes her father trying to convince her to write haiku herself:

“Julia, you can write them too. It’s always five, and seven and five – like math. So you can’t go wrong.”

And it is haiku like these that pull me in:

My cigarette glows

Without my lips touching it, –

A steady spring breeze.

.

In this rented room

One more winter stands outside

My dirty window pane.

.

Just enough moon

To make the smell of apples

Light up the orchards.

.

Is Richard Wright a master of haiku like Basho and Issa? Perhaps not but I don’t think this matters. What is so compelling about Wright’s work in haiku is how very apparent it is in the work itself that he needed to write these poems. Little poems that contain the pulse of life even when that pulse can be rough – and yet so beautiful.

Find it on Amazon: Haiku: This Other World

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