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Frogpond 46.3 • 2023

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - Earthquakes

Essay 2 - Editing Haiku

Essay 3 - Imagining Haiku Narrators

Interview - Randy Brooks



Book Reviews

Haiku Society of America


Editing Haiku

by Owen Bullock

Editing Haiku
(complete PDF version)


Here is a sample excerpt from the opening page of this essay:

Proportionately, I would say I spend as much time editing haiku as any long form poem. Occasionally, I have the experience of a haiku arriving fully formed, but that is rare. More often, it takes many revisions, even in this short form, before I find the best shape, and clarity, to discern the core of the experience I’m trying to represent — writing soon becomes editing.

Jim Kacian puts it beautifully when he writes, “Good editing is not intended to destroy the moment, but rather to expose it as clearly and truthfully as it is possible to do” (2006, n.p.). He reminds us that there’s no hurry: the moment of insight will remain so, transcending time, and if it takes us a little while to find the best version of a haiku, that needn’t be seen as any kind of problem. The point about time is particularly pertinent for me, as I’m sometimes impatient for work to be finished. If reading haiku, like all good poetry, is about slowing us down, so too does the editing process, at least when we embrace it fully. It can be a long process to find the right phrase, the right word, and a brevity suited to the form. The thirteen examples discussed in this essay are from my own writing, because I know the process firsthand, and I’ve retained the stages of revisions. Each of these pieces has eventually been published. I group the edits into three broad categories (which emerged from the writing itself): Form (including line order and use of space); Word choice (including repetition); and What’s essential.

Form (including line order and use of space)
The following haiku was originally:

meditation –
the dent
in the monk’s head

[feature continues for several more pages] . . .

Bullock, Owen. "Editing Haiku." Frogpond 46.3, Autumn, 2023, 124-140.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the feature: page 124. The complete feature includes pages 124-140. To read the complete feature, click on the link to the PDF version:

Editing Haiku
(complete PDF version)