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This is an account of how an American diplomat in Tokyo stumbled upon the world of haiku. It is the story of a literary and cultural voyage.

At a meeting she reads the calling card of a man known as Traveling Man Tree

I would love to hear more about your hobby, I said in my best Japanese.
Golf! It's a wonderful hobby, I've been enjoying it for more than forty years, he answered. I was confused. If golf was his hobby, then what role did haiku pay in his life? Could to be his profession?
Excuse me. I thought haiku was your hobby.
Oh, no. Golf is my hobby. I do haiku
, he answered, with no apparent intention to confuse.
She goes on to join a haiku group and at her first meeting, the master tells her
My job is not to judge whether you have written well or poorly, but to help you write a haiku that is true to yourself.
We can each write haiku because we each have a soul. Every soul is equal in a haiku group, and there is room in a haiku group for every soul.
By listening to the haiku of others, you will learn about yourself and your haiku. And others in turn will learn about themselves through your haiku.
In due course she comes face to face with the dilemma that faces all new English-speaking haikuists.
I was uncertain how much of what I was learning about haiku in Japanese applied to haiku in English. This was especially true with syllables in haiku. When I tried to write a seventeen-syllable haiku in English, counting syllables invariably became a distracting, arduous task. Yet in Japanese counting syllables was simple. All syllables were the same length, one beat. ... In English, I did not know whether I should be writing to a seventeen-beat rhythm, a seventeen-syllable structure, or perhaps something entirely different.
When asked about this, her teacher replies
Oh, in other languages, other rhythmic patterns might be more appropriate ... You should ask an English-language linguist or poet what form is best in English. The important point is to seek a natural rhythm in your language, and work your haiku from there.
Another myth that is exploded is the link between haiku and Zen. A members of her haiku group tells her
I suppose that many haiku writers have some sympathy with Zen concepts, especially the connections between nature and human beings and the mind. I guess it might be possible to say that the writing of haiku contains, even if unconsciously, the moment attained by Zen practice. But I don't feel I have any understanding of Zen, and although I write haiku I have nothing to do with Zen.
Another thing that the author learns during her time in Japan, is the art of calligraphy.

This is one of those books that all practitioners of haiku should consider adding to their library. In telling the story of her individual encounter with the world of haiku within Japan, the author shares her insights in ways other, perhaps isolated, writers can empathise. By comparing experiences we can all find some common ground that can lead us somewhere new.

reviewer: Gerald England.