Book Review: ‘Japanese Poems Steal Brains’ by Haiku Salut

Haiku Salut, who describe themselves as ‘Baroque-Pop-Folktronic-Neo-Classical-Something-Or-Other’ might have had all the right intentions when they decided to publish their series of backstage Haikus in book form. Japanese Poems Steal Brains is charming and well-made as a physical object, but so much of the content seems more than a little self-indulgent. After reading cover-to-cover in a single sitting, I was left with a crushing sense that the aura the group longed to give off was less Derbyshire Dales (from whence they hail), and a whole lot more Shoreditch High Road, where style trumps substance every time.

In fairness to the band, the very particular nature of this poetic form is hard to make great. Let’s assume we don’t know anything about them or their music for a second; here’s an example from the book:

Curious breakfast,
in suspicious pecan pie,
what is this? Custard?

Okay. Here’s another one:

I can’t find my phone,
Shitting hell it’s in the bin!
Odours of cat piss.

You get the idea. This is essentially a collection of in-jokes and tour stories which, if told in a form above a finite number of syllables, might prove vaguely amusing. Therein lies the problem – it’s not generous to the reader, so much as exclusive. The illustrations by Katrine Brosnan give the book a wit that’s otherwise lacking, and the concept itself is interesting, if nothing else. Perhaps given a bit more touring, and a reined poetic experience, Haiku Salut can show us something more.

Pete Cary

Pete Cary

Pete Cary

Pete Cary

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