The Haiku Apprentice

Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan

by Abigail Friedman



The Haiku Apprentice is the joyous story of an American diplomat’s journey into the realm of haiku while living in Japan. More than that, it is an account of spiritual and political self-scrutiny. I find it easy to enter Abigail Friedman’s world. This may be partly because I am a woman, but more so because she is a marvelous narrator. Friedman's descriptions are vibrant, while her down-to-earth wit spices the narrative, which is consistently intelligent and sharp.

This writer is careful not to leave linguistic stumbling blocks. She opens doors for less experienced readers, with lucid explanations of Japanese words, pronunciations, and traditions. As Friedman describes her haiku education under the tutelage of Kuroda Momoko, one of Japan’s most esteemed haiku masters, readers will surely find it impossible not to learn along with her. Every haiku student should read her discussions of kigo and Zen. She features contextually relevant haiku throughout, including some written by her fellow poets in Japan and a few by the author. Her translations of well-known haiku by the Old Masters invite readers to rediscover their timeless appeal. When seen again through Friedman's eyes, long-familiar poems are newly inspiring.

After the author joins a haiku group, she shares a new awareness regarding haiku poets:

Perhaps all these people had discovered something I was just now learning; that survival in an increasingly complex world requires each of us to tend to our souls, our individuality, more than ever. I needed to nurture my ability to see the world as I saw it, not as others might see it.

Abigail Friedman ends the story of her haiku quest with perhaps her most important insights:

My new name was a reminder to me that haiku is not just about writing about beauty, but is a path of self-discovery. I could not expect to write good haiku if I was not seeking to be true to myself.

This book is delightfully accessible, regardless of the reader's experience (or lack of it) with poetry or Japanese language and culture. I recommend The Haiku Apprentice, not only to haiku aficionados, but also to anyone who enjoys a good read.

— Ferris Gilli   June 12, 2006



THE HAIKU APPRENTICE: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan; by Abigail Friedman, Foreword by Michael Dylan Welch, Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, California; © 2006, Abigail Friedman

224 pp, 5 3/8 x 8"
ISBN 13: 978-1-933330-04-4
ISBN 10: 1-933330-04-X

Stone Bridge Press, P.O. Box 8208, Berkeley, CA 94707

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Click here to read a conversation with Abigail Friedman in the WaterBridge Review.