Richard Wright’s Search for a Counter-Hegemonic Genre: The Anamorphic and Matrixial Potential of Haiku

Dean Brink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Examining Richard Wright's vast haiku oeuvre, this article shows how he used haiku to reinvent the form in English by repeating playfully anamorphic imagery so as to construct a poetic matrix modelled on, but distinct from, the categories he saw used in Japanese haiku. Writing haiku in this productive manner produced Nietzschean jouissance rather than resentment, so that the affective dimension of a multitude of socio-economic relations, including race, could be demonstrably reframed in this matrix of anamorphic imagery which maintained political allegories and critical consciousness in the landscapes of his invention. He asserted measured displacements and anamorphic transvaluations of how one sees (in Jacques Rancière's sense), and as such presented a modernist haiku constructed not in isolate verses (as haiku are often read), but in refrains and nodes, suggesting an intertextual matrix asserting new commonplaces (locus communis) and self-evident ways of seeing. This article also points out the lack of evidence for the current consensus in literary criticism which mistakenly asserts that Wright discovered a Zen spirit which elevated his spirit and brought him closer to nature. Moreover, the editing of the book manuscript is shown to be not only flawed in its critical framing, but in the very ordering of haiku, presentation, and even title.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1077-1102
Number of pages26
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - 29 Sep 2014


  • Comparative poetics
  • Counter-hegemonic art
  • Haiku in English
  • Intertextuality and ideology
  • Richard Wright

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