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Volume 34.3
Autumn 2003

book review:

Inside Out: Haiku and Dreams
by Joseph Kirschner


reviewed by David Grayson

Inside Out: Haiku and Dreams, by Joseph Kirschner (Evanston, Ill.: Deep North Press, 2003). 88 pages; 8 x 5.5; paperback; perfectbound. ISBN 1-929116-10-1. $20.00 postpaid from the author at 2157 Ridge Ave, 2D, Evanston IL 60201.

Dreams have been a long-time fascination in both East and West. So, too, has been the affinity between dreams and poetry. In Inside Out: Haiku and Dreams, Joseph Kirschner explores the intersection of dreams and haiku.

The book is divided into two parts. The first section is theory based mainly on Jungian psychology. Kirschner discusses the similarities between dreams and haiku, using dreams in poetry, and a history of dream use in haiku. There are key similarities between the two. Images are their “common currency,” and “poetic images, like dream images, come unbidden, whenever they want.”

According to Kirschner, dreams have a long history in haiku. For instance, Bashô mentioned dreams in at least fifty haiku. To explore this connection, Kirschner solicited dream haiku, along with commentary to provide context, from more than three dozen haiku poets

night chill—
the hand on my thigh
is my own

Lee Gurga’s vivid senryu has the same ingredients that make dreams powerful: strong imagery, and the element of surprise. As Kirschner declares, “No surprise? No poetry!”

Combining dreams and poems can be tricky, however, as Carlos Colón points out:

dreaming my best haiku
on paper now
how flat it seems

Indeed, readers may find some of the dreams—and the haiku—predictable. For example, while one poet is making slow progress on a musical composition, she has the same dream every night. She’s fleeing her apartment, which is on fire. She climbs down into an alley filled with smoke, but cannot reach the clearing ahead. Her dream ends.

Needless to say, when she finally finishes her composition, the recurring dream ends. While this is certainly a powerful experience for the poet, I think the reader will have anticipated it. This highlights the key difference between dreams and poetry. Dreams exist for the dreamer. On the other hand, haiku need to be finely wrought—for they are for the reader too.



©2003 Modern Haiku • PO Box 68 • Lincoln, IL 62656