Millikin University Haiku Writer Profile

Alan Pizzarelli


  snow falls from trees
   of passing cars
by Alan Pizzarelli

Biographical Background

Alan Pizzarelli was born in Newark, New Jersey on January 12, 1950. He currently resides in New Jersey. In the mid-seventies Pizzarelli began writing comic senryu and was one of the first to explore that genre of haiku.

This profile of haiku writer, Alan Pizzarelli, was researched, written and created by Brad Tubbs.

See Erin Crow's interview-based reader response essay on Alan Pizzarelli.

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Author's Books

The Flea Circus, 1989

City Beat, 1991

The Windswept Corner, 1998

Amusement park, 1990

It’s Here, 1995

Baseball Poems, 1988



Reader Response Essay

I have chosen ten haiku by Alan Pizzarelli that were my favorite. Each one of these haiku put me in a different moment. I will write about where each haiku takes me, why it takes me there, the images I get from them, and the chosen word usage of the haiku. Alan Pizzarelli has a way of using comedy and sarcasm to project great images through his words.

        on the bright marquee
a man’s shadow changes the letters

The brightness of the marquee against the shadow of the man is a good image. I can put myself into this haiku. It puts me in a downtown on a nice starry cool night. I stop to read the bright marquee, it takes me a while but I get it. Just as I finished reading it one of the letter parts began to move and it walked away. I reread the marquee which now says something completely different. This haiku does well with putting me into the moment.

    reaching for
  the wind up toy
it rides off the table

This haiku has a delayed reaction. By starting with the image of just reaching for the toy and then adding the element of motion throws so fun into the haiku. If I just read the first two lines I think that the toy is simply sitting somewhere waiting to be wound up. Then in the third line all of the sudden caught off guard we are reaching to keep the toy on the table. Once I see the toy in motion though it takes me back to the winding up process. The toy gets wound up then place on the table and it takes off from there. Watching the toy I get caught up having fun and I realize that it is going off of the table a little to late. This haiku makes me smile because of the movement of the toy, I get to make whatever the toy does up myself.

       just before dawn
    a beachball      floats
across the stillness of the pool


The "just before dawn," does a lot for me in this haiku. I have been up all night outside of my friend’s apartment talking. Which in it of itself is fun. Someone notices the stillness of the water and the presence of the beach ball. It is nice weather, warm and the stars were very abundant. We lost track of time and before we knew it we were talking about the ball in the pool and the sun broke through the horizon. The placement of the words "float" and "lightens" are great. By putting "float" out away from the other words it, to the eye, begins to float. The by dropping "lightens" we have a break to take in the floating ball and then light starts to fill the sky.

        the fat lady
bends over the tomatoes
        a full moon

This gave me the image of being young again and at my friend’s house with a bunch of other friends. We are in the backyard play a game of some sort. The neighbor behind my friend’s house is outside doing lawn work. She was ding some work with the flowers which we didn’t notice that much. Actually we didn’t really notice her at all until she began to work in the garden which was right by the fence. What really grabbed our attention was when she was picking her tomatoes, she was bent over and showing her bum. The game came to a halt and we all started to snicker and whisper in a group of course. Well we laughed for a little while longer but then she moved on to the cucumbers. I really liked how this haiku kept us moving forward. First the description of her, then what she was doing, and then the full picture right there in the open.

     At shortstop
   between innings
sparrows dust bathing

Little League games, the family outside on a nice day or early evening giving their support to the team. The game is in progress and everyone is either coaching or being coached. After one of the third outs the field is cleared for a brief moment while teams are switching and that’s when the birds join in on the game. I enjoy the positioning at shortstop and I like how Pizzarelli uses dust bathing.

snow falls from trees
   of passing cars

This is a more traditional haiku of Pizzarelli’s. There is a since of peacefulness and beauty within this haiku. I see everything covered in snow, so pure and white. The image of the first line with the snow covered trees and the snow falling from those trees is beautiful. The rumble approaches and the train enters the white surroundings passing by adding color for a moment or two and then back to the white cover. The area that this takes place in seems to be distant and rarely visited so the rumble is heard all around.

    flinging the frisbee
   skips off the ground
curving up       hits a tree

This selection takes me in two different ways; one as the frisbee and the other as the thrower. The reason that it turns me into the frisbee is that the reader is taken on the ride with the frisbee. By both the words themselves but also by the placement on the page of the words. After we skip off of the ground we start to skip up and begin to soar again, we have a little hang time through the spacing and then we hit a tree. Then we have time to fall to the ground, breath, and be joined by falling petals of the tree. The dropping down of the petals line is very good. It has the delay of falling petals and the placement of the petals falling on the ground.

the dog runs after the stick
i pretend to throw

For anybody that has ever had a dog this haiku is perfect. I remember playing with my dog Dexter and that happened only about a million times. He would be so excited and would bring me the toy with his tail a waggin’. He would drop it in my lap or at my feet and then hit it with his nose until I would play. The second that I picked it up he would jump back and be ready to go. Any movement of my arm and Dex would be off like a rocket.


I read this haiku two different ways, one as the "buzzZ" being an alarm clock and the other as the "buzzZ" being a bug. The morning ritual of battling the alarm clack was my favorite reading of this haiku. It go off I whack the snooze and five minutes later it’s in my ear again. This is an on going battle that has yet to be solved. The reading of the bug is just as good because everyone has had that bug that you just can’t get. The bug that won’t leave you only, it’s always in your ear and you slap at it, thinking you’ve hit it you relax. Only to find it buzzing in your ear again. Either way that you read it I enjoy how the word "buzzZ" grows in size, as it grows more and more annoying.

out of the car wash

    clouds move
  across the hood

This haiku is set up very well. Being at the car wash gives the reader an image of what kind of day that it is, I see it as a nice warm day. A day that I get a chance to wash my car and relax. As I am pulling out of the car wash I an admiring the cleanliness of the front of my car. And as I get further out, my eyes still focused on my hood, the images of clouds take over the shiny look of my car. My eyes focus in on the reflection of these newly formed clouds and then go right to the source and look up to find a storm coming. Doesn’t this always happen. I think that the clouds appearing in the hood is great it draws your attention to the nice clean car and then the clouds move in to "rain on the parade."

—Brad Tubbs



Additional Web Links and Resources



haiku conferences haiku courses at Millikin Modern Haiku magazine
speakers & readings haiku competitions at MU student renga
student haiku projects published haiku by students links to haiku web sites
student research on haiku haiku by Millikin students directory of haiku magazines


2001, Dr. Randy Brooks• Millikin University
last updated 8/16/01 • about this web site