Considering the question of whether haiku can be deconstructed, two readers offer dueling close readings of two classic Japanese haiku and two contemporary American haiku. Though haiku, built out of pure image, seem to avoid making or privileging any definitive claims, they are also made out of the slippery element itself, language, and they test and call into question the very conventions that seem to govern the form. Ultimately, we find common ground in the notion that haiku are provocative and suggestive enough—and self-aware enough about the nature of language—to make the genre itself a kind of deconstructive practice. Even (or especially) in a genre that uses so few words, language repays close attention to the ways in which every utterance communicates more than it, or we, can ever know.


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pp. 117-134
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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