Writer Richard Wright spent the last eighteen months of his life writing thousands of haiku. In the introduction to the book Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon, his daughter recalls watching him work:
He was never without his haiku binder under his arm. He wrote them everywhere, at all hours: in bed as he slowly recovered from a year-long, grueling battle against amebic dysentry; in cafes and restaurants where he counted syllables on napkins; in the country in a writing community owned by French friends, Le Moulin d’Ande.
Wright tried to teach her the rules:
My father’s law in those days revolved around the rules of haiku writing, and I remember how he would hang pages and pages of them up, as if to dry, on long metal rods strung across the narrow office area of his tiny sunless studio in Paris, like the abstract still-life photographs he used to compose and develop himself at the beginning of his Paris exile. I also recall how one day he tried to teach me how to count the syllables: “Julie, you can write them, too. It’s always five, and seven and five—like math. So you can’t go wrong.”
But… teenagers, man:
Back then I was an immature eighteen-year-old and, worried as we all were by his drastic weight loss (the haiku must have been light to carry) and the strange slowness of his recovery, we did not immediately establish a link between his daily poetic exercises and his ailing health. Today I know better. I believe his haiku were self-developed antidote against illness, and that breaking down words into syllables matched the shortness of his breath, especially on the bad days when his inability to sit up at the typewriter restricted the very breadth of writing.
The Richard Wright Papers at Yale contain hundreds of the poems, as seen in these images.