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  • Writer's pictureEvangeline Lawson

Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon by Richard Wright


I grant to sparrows

The telegraph wires that brought

Me such good tidings!

Written over the last eighteen months of his life while in French exile, Richard Wright "was never without his haiku binder under his arm." Crafting thousands of concise little poems to reaffirm his literary genius in yet another genre, Wright has established himself as an equally gifted poet in as little words as possible.


A black woman sings:

Filling the sunlight with steam,

Bubbling molasses.

Haiku 452 by Richard Wright (from HAIKU: The Last Poems of an American Icon)

A Haiku is one of my favorite forms of poetry. It has the key elements: structure and often vivid imagery, packed into three lines of concise expression. It may seem easy enough, but actually takes quite a bit of skill. So it is only fitting that I review the literary genius of Richard Wright in this format.

First, I had no idea that Wright wrote poetry. One could argue that his novels are poetic, full of scenery that transfers the reader to the context of his characters, but in the traditional sense, I was surprised to find that he crafted hundreds of tiny poems to add to his legacy. Keeping in mind that these Haiku were created over a short period of time at the end of his life, sometimes during trials of terrible illness, provided another reason to love what Wright left behind.

Imagine being so ill that you're bedridden most of the time and you're just forced to observe and imagine the world that is buzzing on seemingly without you. What would you envision? How would you capture the adventures your mind takes when it goes on a journey? That is what gave me more appreciation for this work. Some pieces depicted picturesque scenes while others seemed like comical witness.

As a person who values poetry as much if not more as I appreciate other genres, this is a little gem and great we a study aid if mastering the art of Haiku writing is something you'd like to achieve.

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