Book Review: Heroin Haikus


Heroin Haikus, by William Wantling, was originally included with Spero #2 magazine as a ‘pouch-book’ and published by Fenian Head Centre Press in 1966. It was briefly available as part of Tangerine Press’s Sick Fly Series in 2014. Now Wantling’s miniature masterpiece is available to a wider audience. With reproductions of the original drawings by Ben Tibbs, including his iconic front cover design, this is a ten poem sequence on getting high, getting busted, cold turkey and jail. Wantling died of heart failure on May 2nd 1974, aged 40 years.

The haiku in this collection are each presented over three or four lines, so perhaps a looser rendition than is typical. They offer seventeen syllable commentaries on experiences the author has been through due to his drug habits.

I was left with an overwhelming sense of sadness. As the form requires, the author conveys much in just a few sparse phrases. There is the desire of the addict, the disdain of the law enforcers, and regret. This regret is a yearning – for what has been lost, and for the next fix.

Whatever one’s views on drugs may be, this is a powerful window into the mind of an habitual user. It makes for thought-provoking reading.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Tangerine Press.


3 comments on “Book Review: Heroin Haikus

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    This does sound unbearably sad, but we can’t hide our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, can we?

    • Jackie Law says:

      Reading this generated so many conflicting emotions. The societal carnage wrought by drugs – what users do to fund their habit and how law enforcers react – are often discussed. What I find harder to understand, and why I read works such as this, is why users take the drugs given the damage they cause. I didn’t like how the author acted, but his words helped explain.

      • MarinaSofia says:

        I have friends who do brain research and it really is enlightening to see how dopamine neurotransmission is so direct and so addictive when it comes to drugs. It’s beyond the capacity of our body to resist it or deal with it.

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