This essay takes up Etheridge Knight’s haiku as a means to trace his “major metaphor” of prison as a form of postcolonial cross-cultural haiku poetics. Knight’s haiku often focus on those that are voiceless along with the systems that work to disenfranchise them, using their experiences and conditions to engage the unequal power dynamics silently perpetuating inequality. In mapping out the explicit and implicit walls that position the hierarchies present in Knight’s haiku, and connecting these to his published comments on the role and function of haiku within his own poetic imagination, we can better understand Knight’s interest in re-imagining haiku as an American form that can speak to the specific conditions and context of American settler colonialism. As well, by bringing in several of Knight’s previously unpublished haiku from later in his life, we can also see that his investment in haiku was a life-long endeavor. Knight imagined his haiku as a means to advocate for change and freedom, giving voice to those who existed on the margins by criticizing the hubris connected to power and privilege.
Copyright © 2020 by Tom Morgan
The Haiku Foundation
Morgan, Thomas Lewis, "‘To Sing the Haiku the American Way is a Beautiful Thing’: The Haiku of Etheridge Knight" (2020). English Faculty Publications. 131.