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Reading: ''Ku Only Live Twice'': Ian Fleming's Use of Haiku Poetry


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''Ku Only Live Twice'': Ian Fleming's Use of Haiku Poetry


Tim Gardiner


Ian Fleming uses Japanese-style haiku in his 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, skilfully weaving short haiku poems into the prose to chart Bond’s mission to kill Blofeld in the Castle of Death. The influential Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) is referenced throughout the novel, his haibun (haiku and prose combined) clearly an inspiration for Fleming’s use of the haiku. Indeed, Fleming’s novel was an early attempt to bring haiku poetry to an English language readership unfamiliar with the form. Fleming’s haiku incorporate Japanese poetic techniques such as cutting words, seasonality, and clear imagery and they do not deviate far from the “traditionally” accepted 5-7-5 syllable structure of haiku in English. However, Fleming’s use of haiku often cross over into senryū, a more emotional form of Japanese poetry closely related to haiku and entirely appropriate for Bond’s journey of personal rebirth and revenge. As such, Fleming’s novel represents an important incursion into the world of haiku, employing poetry both as a plot device and as a means of providing insight into Bond’s psyche.      

How to Cite: Gardiner, T. (2021). ''Ku Only Live Twice'': Ian Fleming's Use of Haiku Poetry. International Journal of James Bond Studies, 4(1). DOI:
Published on 01 May 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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