Kristin Boryca

Raymond Roseliep:
A Biography of an Extraordinary Haiku Poet

Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2001

Raymond Roseliep:
A Biography of an Extraordinary Haiku Poet

Raymond Roseliep, "probably the most widely published haiku poet in North America," was ordained to priesthood in 1943, at the Catholic University of America (Rabbit in the Moon, backflap). Roseliep published over twenty books, including Rabbit in the Moon, Step on the Rain, The Still Point, Light Footsteps, The Linen Bands and Firefly in the Eyecup.

Two major haiku awards that Roseliep has received were the Shugyo Takaha Award from the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society of the United States and Canada and the Harold G. Henderson Award from the Haiku Society of America (Dayton, backflap), which he won for the following haiku:

wild swan drifting through
the woman’s body

(Rabbit in the Moon ,42)

Roseliep’s love for haiku springs from his initial love for writing short poetry, which he devoted much of his younger life to. Always anxious to experiment, Roseliep often tests the use of alliteration, consonance, rhyme and rhythm in his haiku, as well as works with form. In his book, The Still Point, Roseliep states that "American haiku will cease to be adventuresome if we should suddenly stop for breath. Like old Bashô’s frog, we must keep plunging. Eastern and Western frogs do, of course, and not all of them make the same sound" (preface). The following haiku exhibits both an experiment with form, as well as, with alliteration:

frog, be like your cousin
at Basho’s, drop the bassoon
and just p

However, Roseliep’s experimentation does not stop at style, he also pursues various methods for writing haiku. For example, he discusses his first encounter with the Japanese concept of mu in his book The Still Point. Mu, he states, "means ‘nothing; none; empty’" (preface). He goes on to say that he "began exploring the honeycomb and catacomb of mu as themes for the haiku moment." Even before that, in his chapbook A Day in the Life of Sobi-Shi, Roseliep explains how he took on a "haigo, or haiku-name," Sobi-Shi, which translates into "’a man of art who loves the rose,’" and uses this name as the basis for this short chapbook. An example of a haiku from this chapbook is as follows:

in Sobi-Shi’s glass
the dark rose
of a love ago

Dr. Bill Pauly, professor of English at Loras College in Iowa and friend of the late Roseliep, characterizes Roseliep’s haiku as being full of love. He goes on to discuss Roseliep’s love for his career as a priest and his compassion for people.

Your death
In the bird loud air
No further word

(Rabbit in the Moon, 83)

In his essay "Devilish Wine," Roseliep confesses that "I am sometimes asked, ‘Why do you write a poem?’ and I want to answer, ‘A poem helps me complete my being,’ but I usually say, ‘To find out what I’m thinking’" (56). He goes on to state that "every poet writes for himself; after all he is his own first audience, and he must please that audience" (56).

This answers the why and for who questions that people wishing to dive into an author’s poetics asks, but what about the what aspect of poetics? Well, Roseliep answers, "the subject matter is everything in the three worlds—man, nature, and God" (57).


Dayton, David, ed. A Roseliep Retrospecitive. Ithaca, New York: Alembic Press, 1980.

Judson, John, ed. Voyages to the Inland Sea. LaCrosse: Center for Contemporary Poetry, Murphy Library, 1974.

Roseliep, Raymond. A Day in the Life of Sobi-Shi. Pennsylvania: The Rook Press,

Roseliep, Raymond. Listen to Light. Ithaca, New York: Alembic Press, 1980.

Roseliep, Raymond. Rabbit in the Moon. Plainfield, Indiana: Alembic Press, 1983.

Roseliep, Raymond. Step on the Rain. Pennsylvania: The Rook Press, 1977.

Roseliep, Raymond. The Still Point. Menomonie, Wisconsin: UZZANO, 1980.

—Kristin Boryca

For more information about Raymond Roseliep including reviews of several of his haiku books, see Donna Bauerly's web site and related works at:


©2001 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors