Honorary Curator William J. Higginson
William J. Higginson
Honorary Curator, 2003-2004
Poet, non-fiction author, translator, teacher, and editor William J. Higginson, often known as Bill, was born December 17, 1938 in New York City and raised there and in Bergenfield, New Jersey. He received his B.A. with honors in English from Southern Connecticut State College. While in the U.S. Air Force he studied Japanese at Yale and served two years in Japan, where he began writing and translating. In 1968, Bill was one of the charter members of the Haiku Society of America, and later served as the group’s president.
In 1975, Higginson founded From Here Press in Paterson, New Jersey, publishing poetry chapbooks by Allen Ginsberg, Ruth Stone, and others. Higginson’s own books include The Haiku Handbook, Wind in the Long Grass (an anthology for children), The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World, translations such as Red Fuji: Selected Haiku of Yatsuka Ishihara, and several collections, including Paterson Pieces (poems), Death Is & Approaches to the Edge (poems and essays), and Surfing on Magma (poems). On the Internet, Bill edited the “Haiku and Related Forms” category of the Open Directory Project. His involvement with Japanese-style linked poetry is described on his web site.
Higginson’s poems and essays appeared in numerous literary journals, anthologies, and encyclopedias, including Blue Stones and Salt Hay, Under a Gull’s Wing, The Teachers & Writers Guide to William Carlos Williams, World Poets, An Exaltation of Forms, and Poets of New Jersey. He led writing workshops for children and adults at schools and literary and arts festivals throughout North America, including the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festivals in New Jersey and the Border Book Festivals in New Mexico, and in Japan. He taught high school English, mathematics, and Japanese, and taught literature, composition, public speaking, and creative writing at Union County College, New Jersey.
Higginson’s work as a visiting poet in elementary and secondary schools and community arts programs was documented in New Jersey English Journal and in books from Teachers & Writers Collaborative, including Classics in the Classroom: Using Great Literature to Teach Writing (1999) and The Alphabet of the Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing (2000).
We are saddened to report that William J. Higginson passed away at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, October 11, 2008, in New Jersey.
He was born in New York City in 1938, and was in his 70th year. Bill had asked to write his own biography for this page, which he was working on, and now that will not happen. We will add biographical information, sample poems, and other links to this page as soon as we can.
Bill’s contribution and dedication to haiku poetry over many decades was second to none. His books and essays about haiku have influenced students, teachers, and generations of poets writing haiku in English, and he will surely be revered by the haiku community on a par with Harold Henderson and R. H. Blyth.
The American Haiku Archives advisory board joins together in offering condolences to Bill’s family, especially to his beloved wife, Penny Harter.
Awards and Honors
Sora Award, Haiku Society of America, 2007
Member, Selection Committee for the Masaoka Shiki Prize in International Haiku, Matsuyama, Japan, 2000–2008
World Haiku Achievements Competition Grand Prize, World Haiku Festival, London, 2000
Translation Grant, Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, 1994
New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame, 1989
Merit Book Awards, Haiku Society of America, 1972, 1987, 1998
Fellowship in Poetry, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, 1977
Selected Haiku by William J. Higginson
The following poems by Bill Higginson are arranged loosely in chronological order, and span almost forty years, from 1969 to 2008. Also included are two sets of poems (not sequenced by Bill) on the themes of books & writing, and on aging. Not only was Bill a revered scholar and translator of haiku poetry, as well as an enthusiastic advocate for the genre, he was also an accomplished haiku poet himself.
A wet night
garbage cans all full
but the far one
chimes chimes and stops
but the river . . .
Holding the water
held by it—
the dark mud.
atop the rock
the rising tide
the moon’s half curve
this spring rain
the thief too
curses his job
ice on the seats
of the rowboat
the tick, tick
of snow on the reeds . . .
New Year’s Eve . . .
thieves have left my car open
in the falling snow
the cat and I
head for the kitchen
the fence post
hangs upright in the washout—
going over a bump
the car ahead
going over a bump
the old cat
hesitates on the doorsill—
a falling leaf
summer storm . . .
a shopping cart rolls past
the end of the lot
only a few old bakers
in the potato bin
would I look at the clouds
what old pond is he hoping
to find in the dusk?
Books and Writing
I look up
the tea water
every stanza links with
the midwinter cricket
the books just received . . .
snow piling up
forgotten . . . deep
into the text
rereading my own book
I fall asleep
I sit in the seat of my
dry pavement under
and fireflies so silent . . .
tomorrow the biopsy
one maple leaf . . .
end over end on the sand
without a trace
William J. Higginson (personal website)
From Here Press
Wordfield’s Haikai Pub Blog
William J. Higginson on Wikipedia
William J. Higginson Author Page on Amazon
Remembering Bill Higginson
This Perfect Rose: The Lasting Legacy of William J. Higginson
The Democracy of Haiku (see the “Honoring William J. Higginson” section)
WorldCat Archive of William J. Higginson Papers (Columbia University)
An announcement from Penny Harter about Bill’s passing, along with commentary and tributes, appears at
Additional tributes appear at
A short biography and extensive bibliography are available at
Another short biography with sample poems is available at
An interview with Bill by Amazon.com appears at
Millikin University maintains a writer profile on Bill, with reader response essays, at
If you know of other links we could add, please let us know.
Books by William J. Higginson
Higginson, William J. & Michael Lustbader. Butterfly Dreams: The Seasons Through Haiku and Photographs. Aliquippa, PA: Natural Tapestries Publishing, 2006. [CD of photographs by Lustbader paired with Japanese haiku translated by Higginson, 210 pages.] Web samples available at:
Higginson, William J. Cycling Paterson: A Haiku/Senryu Sequence. Los Angeles, CA: Seer Ox, 1974. Signed.
Higginson, William J. Death Is & Approaches to the Edge. Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1981.
Higginson, William J. Eastre. Paterson, NJ: From Here Press, 1975.
Higginson, William J. 4 Sequences. Summit, NJ: From Here Press, 2007. Broadside.
Higginson, William J. Haiku Compass: Directions in the Poetical Map of the United States of America. Tokyo: Haiku International Association, 1994.
Higginson, William J. The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku. New York: Kodansha International, 1985.
Higginson, William J. The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World. New York: Kodansha International, 1996.
Higginson, William J. Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac. New York: Kodansha International, 1996.
Higginson, William J. Itadakimasu: Essays on Haiku and Senryu in English. Kanona, NY: J & C Transcripts, 1971.
Higginson, William J. with Penny Harter. Met on the Road: A Transcontinental Haiku Journal. Foster City, CA: Press Here, 1993.
Higginson, William J. One-Line Haiku: Misunderstandings and Possibilities. Paterson, NJ: From Here Press, 1982. Article reprint.
Higginson, William J. Patterson Pieces: Poems 1969-1979. Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1981.
Higginson, William J. & Penny Harter. A Summer Surgery & Waiting. Summit, NJ: From Here Press, 1981.
Higginson, William J., Editor. Wind in the Long Grass: A Collection of Haiku. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.