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Volume 36.3
Autumn 2005

 

featured essay

 

The American Haiku Movement
Part I: Haiku in English

by
Charles Trumbull [1]

The history of the American haiku movement can be said to have begun when Commodore Matthew Perry negotiated a treaty between the United States and the Japanese governments in 1854, opening the way for trade and communication between the West and Japan. Japanese art, seen as exotic, quickly became popular in Europe, especially France, where it exerted a strong influence on the Impressionist painters. At the same time information on the poetry of Japan began to circulate. There were close connections among French artists, musicians, and poets in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, and Japanese art as well as poetry influenced the group known as the Symbolist poets of France. In Great Britain and America the Imagist poets — among them Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound, T.E. Hulme, and John Gould Fletcher — drew inspiration from this French group. One of several influences on both French and American poets was the Japanese haiku.

English-language poets first became aware of Japanese poetry trough translations, but the early versions of haiku have not stood up well. In England, Basil Hall Chamberlain’s The Classical Poetry of the Japanese in 1880 and William George Aston’s A History of Japanese Literature in 1899; and in America Yone Noguchi’s The Spirit of Japanese Poetry in 1914; and Lafcadio Hearn’s Japanese Lyrics the year following are of interest now primarily as examples of the earliest English-language materials on the subject. A “hokku” (haiku) of Noguchi’s dating from 1903 has recently been identified as “the first haiku written in English of which we have a record, and quite possibly the first haiku written in any Western language” (Gurga “Midwest”).[2] Just as important as the Imagists or Noguchi for the history of the American haiku movement, perhaps, was the Transcendentalist tradition in literature, especially the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.[3] Their close observations of nature and Zen-like philosophy came to be a significant influence in the American literary style. William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Charles Reznikoff were among the twentieth-century poets who wrote in this spirit (Swede 111–14).[4]

These various influences in the West began to coalesce in the mid-twentieth century. Works of haiku scholarship appeared that allowed poets to reach toward a deeper and truer understanding of the nature of haiku, even though they were unable to read or study Japanese haiku in the original language. Unfortunately, translations were also published that tended to focus on the most superficial aspects of the poem, reinforcing the hazy and often erroneous notions left over from the exoticisms of the Imagists. In the United States following World War II, chiefly as a result of exposure to Oriental culture and philosophies during the occupation of Japan, a tremendous interest in the art and literature of Japan and in Zen Buddhism arose. This provided an intellectual and spiritual climate in which haiku might flourish.

Two men who may be called the pillars of the Western haiku movement, Harold G. Henderson and R.H. Blyth, both served in Japan during the occupation years. Henderson worked as special adviser for the Civil Information and Education Staff Section under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and later headed Sections for Education, Religion, and Arts and Monuments. He met Blyth who, though offered a job by Henderson, spent those years as a professor in the Peers’ School and special tutor to the Japanese crown prince. The men became friends and on occasion worked together when the interests of the army of occupation and the royal family came together. Both showed a deep interest in the literature of Japan and especially in haiku. Henderson’s The Bamboo Broom had been published in 1934. This book, with its lucid discussion of “characteristics of haiku” followed by a brief look at its early history, presented Henderson’s rhymed translations of representative haiku of Bashô, Buson, Issa, and Shiki (plus some others) in the context of the lives of the poets, including the haiku in rômaji (a transliteration of the Japanese characters) and a word-for-word English translation of each poem that gave the reader a tool for closer study. In 1949 Blyth published Eastern Culture, the first volume of his monumental four-volume work, Haiku. Between then and 1952 Spring, Summer–Autumn, and Autumn–Winter appeared. In these volumes are Blyth’s translations with comments and explanations of, as he wrote, “all the good haiku that I could find from the beginnings up to and including Shiki.” The first volume deals at length with the spiritual origins of haiku, including its connection with Zen, and places haiku in the context of literature, especially English poetry. Over the years Blyth published other books on Japanese life and culture, Zen, senryu, and, in 1963–64, a two-volume History of Haiku. At the end of this work Blyth included a collection of original English-language haiku by an American, J.W. Hackett, thus demonstrating the capacity of Eng-lish as a medium for the Japanese verse.

Henderson’s An Introduction to Haiku was published in 1958. This expanded and somewhat revised version of The Bamboo Broom has remained an excellent beginning source for understanding Japanese haiku and by extension for determining what English haiku might be. His Haiku in English (1965), was the first how-to book on Western haiku. He briefly discussed characteristics of classical Japanese haiku and then turned to examples of English haiku to comment on aspects of conformity and divergence in the developing Western haiku. A third haiku scholar, Kenneth Yasuda, whose 1947 book A Pepper Pod (which appeared under his haigo, or nom de plume, Shôson) included translations of classical haiku plus experimentation of his own in English-language haiku, published The Japanese Haiku in 1957. Its subtitle, “Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English,” indicates something of its scope. Both Henderson and Yasuda provided transliterations into rômaji of the Japanese texts, and both men inclined toward rhyming the first and third lines of their translations. Yasuda also provided titles for the haiku.

All three of these early teachers embraced the idea of writing haiku in English. A 1964 article of Henderson’s set forth clearly some of the questions and problems to be faced regarding original English and American haiku.

Where it comes to establishing standards for haiku written in English, it does seem likely that our poets will eventually establish norms of their own. But what are we to do in the meantime? It seems obvious that we must build our work on Japanese norms, as any too great deviation from them would result in poems that were “not haiku.” And, yet to accept these norms in their entirety is literally impossible (“Comments” 11)

Henderson briefly discussed Japanese norms, both for content and form, emphasizing what has since often been overlooked, namely that the norms are just that—norms, not hard-and-fast rules. He went on to enunciate the differences between what is termed a syllable in Japanese and in English and questioned the suitability for English-language haiku poets of syllable-counting in the Japanese way. Indeed, haiku prosody has remained a singularly divisive issue within the community of haiku poets.

The relationship of haiku to Zen is another question that has absorbed the attention of the haiku community throughout its development. Unquestionably, the early impressions were that haiku were inextricably linked with Zen. The Blyth Haiku volumes and the writings on Zen by D.T. Suzuki influenced the Beat poets in the 1950s either directly or through the popular writings of Alan Watts.[5]

Other scholarly and popular books began appearing in the 1950s as well. The Anthology of Japanese Literature compiled and edited by Donald Keene, an academic researcher, was published in 1955, adding to available haiku translations in sections entitled “The Narrow Road of Oku” (Oku no hosomichi) by Bashô, “Conversations with Kyorai” (Kyoraishô) by Kyorai, a disciple of Bashô, and including “Haiku of the Middle and Late Tokugawa Period” as translated by Henderson. A work titled Haikai and Haiku was produced by a special committee under the chairmanship of Sanki Ichikawa and published in 1958 in Tokyo. The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, a trade book edited in England by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite and published in 1964, contained 262 haiku and senryu, including some from the early 20th century.

The 1950s saw the publication of the first of a series of small volumes of the Peter Pauper Press series of haiku translations. The first three (Japanese Haiku, 1955–56; The Four Seasons, 1958; Cherry Blossoms, 1960) were edited and translated by Peter Beilenson; the fourth (Haiku Harvest, 1962), left unfinished at Beilenson’s death, was completed by Harry Behn, whose own volumes of haiku translations were published by the children’s division of Harcourt, Brace under the titles Cricket Songs (1964) and More Cricket Songs (1971). Selections from the vest-pocket-sized Peter Pauper Press books were published in 1968 as A Haiku Garland and in 1970 as Lotus Blossoms, and excerpts from the first three appeared as A Little Treasury of Haiku from Avenel Books in 1980. Although it is explained in the preface to the first Peter Pauper volume, Beilenson’s doubling up of the second line in each verse to accommodate woodcut illustrations resulted in what appeared to be an awkward four-line form for the haiku. No reference to the Japanese original, aside from the author’s name, was given, and haiku scholars have faulted the fidelity of the Beilensen and Behn translations. Nevertheless, the books sold well and were the first introduction to haiku for many Western readers.

In the middle years of the twentieth century, authors here and there—most of them probably unaware that the literary lions were not yet certain that haiku could be written in English — were beginning to do just that. Among the earliest published collections of haiku in America were Stella Knight Ruess’s Poems in Trees (1930) and Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin’s January Haiku and Eye-Poems (holograph edition, 1950). William Seltzer’s Poems (1959) included twelve haiku; Álvaro Cardona-Hine published The Gathering Wave in 1961, and Frank Ankenbrand, Jr.’s Plum Blossom Scrolls, and James Kritzeck’s Twenty-five Haiku appeared in the following year.

The American Haiku Mainstream

By 1960, then, the haiku had entered the radar of American poets and attracted a few disciples, mainly academics and others familiar with Japanese culture. A variety of translations, some better and some worse, were available, haiku scholarship had begun, writing haiku in English had been proved feasible, and a few souls were beginning to try their own hand at the exotic Japanese verse. Both translations and original haiku at this time were often rhymed and titled, and almost everyone tried to copy the Japanese 5–7–5 syllabic form. The foundations of an American haiku movement were laid.

The appearance in 1963 of American Haiku was an important landmark. This journal and those that followed have been the backbone of the American haiku movement, providing a sense of community for nonprofessional poets scattered across the county, a forum for critiquing and discussion one another’s work, and a road map for the development of the genre. Besides publishing original haiku, American Haiku promoted the discussion of both techniques and the directions that haiku in the West might take. Although some haiku had been published here and there in small magazines, American Haiku was the first publication devoted solely to haiku (and the related senryu) written in the English language. Twice a year for six years this charming magazine went out to an increasing number of poets and others interested in English-language haiku, setting a high standard for the periodicals that would follow. American Haiku printed seminal articles about haiku craft and esthetics and featured book reviews, some written with a startling frankness that has rarely been repeated in the years since. Issue number one was published in Platteville, Wis., under the joint editorship of James Bull and Don Eulert. Over the years various editors had a hand in producing American Haiku, including Clement Hoyt, Robert Spiess, Walter H. Kerr, Gustave Keyser, Joyce W. Webb, and Gary Brower. Especially under Hoyt’s editorship American Haiku became a bastion of traditional 5–7–5 haiku.

In the spring of 1967 Eric Amann produced the first small issue of Haiku in Toronto, Ont. Although more oriented toward Zen than American Haiku and other magazines of the time, Haiku was nevertheless open to experimentation in the poems, in format of the magazine, and in the presentation of Japanese translations. Amann was interested in the whole picture and printed bilingual versions of Spanish and German haiku plus modern Japanese haiku. Jack Cain’s “Paris,” thought to be the first haibun (prose poem with haiku) in English, was reprinted here in 1969. Amann turned Haiku over to William J. Higginson in the spring of 1971. Continuing to publish until 1976, Higginson focused on interaction between modern poetry and haiku, and his inclusion of haiku sequences and linked forms, senryu, and haibun was of special interest and value. Haiku West, edited and published by Leroy Kanterman in New York City, appeared twice a year from June 1967 until January 1975. More traditionally oriented, the magazine published many quality haiku and senryu. After the formation of the Haiku Society of America in the winter of 1968–69, Haiku West served as its voice. Other early periodicals included SCTH (Sonnet Cinquain Tanka Haiku — 1964–80) edited by Rhoda De Long Jewell, and The Blue Print, a small haiku paper that circulated for a time around 1968–69.

 

Other Haiku Eddies and Currents

Another way of defining the “mainstream” American haiku movement is to look at the other currents that flowed from the early haiku experts, especially Blyth. These include, first, the Beat generation, which was attracted to Oriental philosophies and literary genres. Kenneth Rexroth translated Japanese haiku in the 1950s. Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Diane Di Prima, and Allen Ginsberg were writing verses in this period and showing an insight into the nature of haiku. The Beats were important to the haiku movement mostly for having “been there, done that,” but little of lasting influence on haiku in America remains from them except the luster of their names.[6]

Likewise, a few African American poets have explored haiku, tapping the same roots as the mainstream practitioners and the Beats, but developing unique content and esthetics along the way. These include Etheridge Knight, who wrote of his eight years in prison with his raw lyrics and black esthetic in the usual haiku form and in haiku sequences.[7] Robert Hayden, Julius Lester, Richard Wright, Randolph Nelson Levy, and Sonia Sanchez [8] were prominent names in this stream of haiku writing. To a greater or lesser extent all these poets harness the brevity of the haiku form to encapsulate and add impact to a social message. Poets writing in this current have not much influenced mainstream haiku — as Higginson writes, “the haiku forms a small, almost innocuous portion of their whole work” (“Afro-American Haiku” 10) — nor has the haiku genre yet had much influence on black American writing.

A few Native American poets have explored haiku as well. Writer and scholar Gerald Vizenor has found a relationship between the Chippewa (Ojibway, Anishinaabe) dream song and the Japanese haiku that he was exposed to when he was a soldier in the Far East. He has plumbed these connections in several books of lyrical haiku beginning in 1964.[9] The verses of poets such as Raven Hail (Cherokee), Nora Marks Dauenhauer (Tlingit), and Mary TallMountain (native Alaskan) show the poets on intimate terms with nature and employ the terseness and structure of traditional haiku to bring home the spiritual condi-tion of their people.[10] William Oandasan (Yuki) also published a number of haiku collections.

Many long-form poets have at one time or another experimented with haiku, and some have translated the Japanese classics as well. Their translations, in fact, are generally of greater interest than their original work in the genre. Available in several earlier, mainly unsatisfactory renderings, Oku no hosomichi was sensitively translated by poet Cid Corman and Susumu Kamaike and published in 1968 as Back Roads to Far Towns. Bashô’s famous travel journal was given a spare, sensitive treatment, with additional notes available for the Western reader. Over the years Corman added several other books of fine haiku translations [11] as well as Zen-tinged poetry of his own. Robert Bly has translated Bashô and Shiki [12] but made it clear in an exchange of letters with Cor van den Heuvel in 1973–74 that, while he admires Bashô’s haiku, he finds very little of merit in English-language haiku.[13] Likewise Robert Hass and Sam Hamill came out with trade books of translations of the Japanese classics but published few, if any, haiku themselves, and both have indicated their lack of enthusiasm for English-language haiku.[14] Yvor Winters wrote haiku-like one-line poems in an Imagist mode but later disowned them. Charles Henri Ford reportedly wrote a haiku every day.[15] Richard Wilbur has long used rhymed, image-rich tercets in poems such as “Alatus” in his 1988 New and Collected Poems and “Zea” and “Signatures” in his 2001 collection Mayflies.[16] In The Inner Room, James Merrill occasionally interrupts the flow of a prose poem with a stanza in haiku form. Recently, the journal Modern Haiku has featured new haiku by Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti in its pages.[17] Paul Muldoon, who earlier had written rhymed sequences of “language haiku,” also was published in Modern Haiku.[18] Among other mainstream authors and poets who have dabbled at haiku are E.E. Cummings,[19] Hayden Carruth, J.D. Salinger, William Stafford, Seamus Heaney,[20] Wendy Cope,[21] Tom Disch, John Updike, W.S. Merwin, Leonard Cohen, Richard Brautigan,[22] Paul Goodman,[23] John Ashbery, and Donald Hall (see references at Works Cited).

Finally, mention needs to be made of haiku written within the Japanese American community, although with a very few exceptions (see the discussion of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, below), there has been almost no contact between English-language and Japanese-language haiku groups and only limited involvement of Japanese Americans in the English-language haiku movement. Because haiku groups in Japan are normally formed around a sensei, or haiku master, it is tempting to conclude that within the Japanese American community it is not considered possible to sustain a respectable group absent a sensei. Still, haiku and senryu groups have formed in America, often under the aegis of Buddhist temples and other Japanese cultural centers. Haiku groups that were formed in the 1930s in California continued under the even more trying circumstances of the internment camps set up by the U.S. government to isolate Japanese American during World War II. A fine collection of the haiku of some of these groups writing in the Kaiko (“Crimson Sea”) style of the avant-garde Japanese poet Nakatsuka Ippekirô was gathered by Violet Kazue de Cristoforo and published in 1997 in May Sky.[24]

 

The Haiku Society of America

As more and more people in America became aware of haiku, inevitably they became aware of one another as well. They began to meet to discuss their readings, debate haiku form and esthetics, and critique their own writings. American haiku was beginning to get organized. In 1956 Helen Stiles Chenoweth organized what is likely the first informal haiku discussion group in America, the Writers Roundtable of Los Altos, Calif., to foster creative writing, and for at least a decade members of the group studied and wrote haiku. A collection of their work, Borrowed Water, was published in 1966.

The Haiku Society of America, created in the winter of 1968–69, was the first formally structured organization devoted solely to Western haiku, and it remained the only one for a number of years. On the evening of Oct. 23, 1968, twenty-three men and women met at Asia House in New York City. Harold E. Henderson, with help from Leroy Kanterman and encouragement from the Japan Society of New York, was responsible for the meeting.[25] Kanterman was chosen to head the group that was known at first simply as the Haiku Society. Regular monthly meetings were scheduled, and these were usually held in rooms of the Asia Society or at the offices of the Japan Society. Simple bylaws were drawn up and adopted at the April 1969 meeting. With this, the group became the Haiku Society of America, with membership open to all interested in haiku upon payment of nominal dues. Henderson was named honorary president and he took an active and dedicated interest in the group until his death.

Word of the Society spread rapidly, and inquiries soon arrived from states outside the New York City area. With a growing membership, the Society steadily expanded activities under the succeeding presidents.[26] Early meetings concentrated on discussion and criticism of submitted haiku. Beginning in 1973, however, meetings became more structured and focused on matters of historical background, followed by a series of programs on craft and technique. In 1974 Society members were invited for the first time to read haiku under the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, an event that has continued each spring since.

At these early meetings every effort was made to include materials from members unable to attend, and comprehensive Minutes were sent out regularly. These Minutes formed a valuable resource for haiku scholars and poets. In fact, the HSA soon became something of a national clearing house for haiku information, and a number of specific projects were undertaken by the members. For example, when a Society survey of English reference works showed inadequate and misleading definitions, a committee composed of Anita Virgil and William J. Higginson worked with Professor Henderson to develop valid definitions for haiku and the related terms hokku, senryu, and haikai. “Haiku” was defined as follows (with slight later amendments):

1. An unrhymed Japanese poem recording the essence of a moment keenly perceived, in which Nature is linked to human nature. It usually consists of seventeen onji [Japanese sound symbols].

2. A foreign adaptation of 1, usually written in three lines of fewer than 17 syllables (Haiku Path, 80, 82).

These were adopted by the Society and sent to dictionary and encyclopedia publishers in 1972. Many papers from the Minutes and the definitions of haiku terms were included in the collection A Haiku Path, published by the HSA to commemorate its twentieth anniversary (61–85). In response to thirty years of developments and experience, the HSA felt a need for new guidelines, and in 2003 a committee comprising Naomi Y. Brown, Lee Gurga, and William J. Higginson proposed a new definition of haiku, hokku, senryu, renku, and haibun. Their proposals were accepted by the HSA membership in September 2004. The kernel of the new haiku definition reads as follows:

A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition.

The HSA Minutes, which had become the more formal Minutes & Proceedings in 1975, had long been popular with members. By 1978 the idea for an HSA magazine was beginning to take shape. The catalyst and driving force behind this idea was Lilli Tanzer, and she became the editor of HSA’s Frogpond when it began publication that year. (See the discussion of Frogpond, below.) Under the editorship of HSA Secretary Doris Heitmeyer, the Minutes & Proceedings began to include news of haiku developments beyond the Society and eventually evolved into a quarterly newsletter.[27] The news needs of the HSA membership were brought into the electronic age with the launch in 1998 of an HSA Web site.[28]

 

Other National and Regional Organizations

As the HSA was expanding activities in the New York area in the 1970s, national and local haiku groups were forming elsewhere. In Portland, Ore., shortly before the end of 1974, Lorraine Ellis Harr formed the Western World Haiku Society, which published a newsletter and sponsored annual haiku contests comprising many categories, with winners published in a series of WWHS anthologies.

One of the interesting developments of this period began with the founding in 1975 of an English-language division of the Yukuhari Haiku Society, a venerable Japanese organization with headquarters in Tokyo, that was dedicated to yuki teikei, or traditional haiku written in seventeen syllables and using a season word. The group took seed in the San Francisco area and flourished under the care of Kiyoshi and Kiyoko Tokutomi. Close ties were maintained with the home society in Japan, but in January 1979 this group became an independent organization, the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society of the U.S.A. and Canada. The first issue of the YTHS’s Haiku Journal appeared in mid-1977. It ceased publication, but a second publication, Geppo, continued. In addition to regular meetings, which have included traditional Japanese-style events such as moon-viewing parties, the YTHS has held a retreat at Asilomar, Calif., each autumn. A southern California branch of the YTHS was formed in autumn 1997 on the initiative of Jerry Ball and meets monthly in Long Beach.

The North Carolina Haiku Society, founded in 1979 by Rebecca Ball Rust with a nucleus of seventeen members, for some years conducted a successful annual haiku contest, has sponsored an annual Haiku Holiday, and published a newsletter, Pine Needles. The Rockland County (New York) Haiku Society was launched in the 1980s and was still active in 2002. Sue-Stapleton Tkach and Mary Lou Bittle-DeLapa of Rochester, N.Y., were the founders of Haiku PUNY (Haiku Poets of Upstate New York), in April 1989. Haiku meetings were also held in Milwaukee, Wis., in these early years.

Two anchor haiku groups were formed in 1988–89, one on either end of the country. The Boston Haiku Society incorporated in September 1988 at the Kaji Aso Studio and has met monthly since. Members of the group are very active in holding readings throughout the Boston area, and they have published a monthly newsletter and three anthologies of members’ work.[29]

Activity was increasing among California haiku poets, especially in northern California, where much of the early American haiku activity had taken place. In the mid-1980s, largely due to the efforts of Garry Gay and Jerry Kilbride, a group was formed that at an inaugural meeting in Oakland on Feb. 5, 1989, became the Haiku Poets of Northern California. The membership of HPNC is probably the largest of any regional group in the country. It has been involved in activities that include regular meetings with informative programs, public readings, and the issuing of haiku books through the group’s own publisher, Two Autumns Press. HPNC has been served by high-quality publications with Woodnotes and later Mariposa.

The HPNC served as something of a West Coast counterweight to the Haiku Society of America on the East Coast. In 1991 for the first time the HSA elected a president — appropriately, Garry Gay — who did not live on the East Coast, and a giant step was accomplished toward bringing the nation’s haiku poets together. A system of regional coordinators was adopted by the HSA in 1993 to try to bring the benefits of HSA membership more equitably to other parts of the country. The HSA never specifically sought to create local haiku groups or chapters, however, nor is there any provision in its charter that gov-erns HSA relationships with other haiku groups in the U.S. or abroad.

Throughout the 1990s, the growth of the haiku movement continued to be reflected in the formation of new groups in major metropolitan centers. The Spring Street Haiku Group was organized by Dee Evetts and included, by invitation, some of the best of the New York City haiku poets. Especially noteworthy among the group’s activities was the publication annually since 1993 of a series of members’ anthologies in chapbook format. In 1994 the group also organized Haiku on 42nd Street, a selection of haiku and senryu by twenty-six New York area poets, that was displayed for six months on the marquees of empty movie theaters on 42nd Street at Times Square and caught the attention of the national media. In early September 1995 a group of poets from the Washington, D.C., area decided to get together regularly to discuss haiku; they took for their club the name “Towpath,” from the scenic pathway of the historic C & O Canal along the Potomac River. The Richmond (Va.) Haiku Workshop was formed in September 1996 by Josh Hockensmith and Stephen Addiss; the group took over publishing the journal South by Southeast in 1999. Nine enthusiasts from the Chicago area met on January 21, 1996 to form Chi-ku, the Chicago-area haiku group.

A study group calling itself High Country Haiku formed in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1996, and another formed in Boulder, Colo., in the summer of 1998 following a workshop given at the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) by Zen teacher Clark Strand. The Arkansas Haiku Society was formed in Hot Springs, and the Western Massachusetts Haiku Group, centering on poets Larry Kimmel and Carol Purington in Colrain, Mass., is active. Pinecone, the North Georgia Haiku Society, began in October 1996 and meets bimonthly in the Atlanta area.

In spring 1999 Jerry Ball and Fumio Ogoshi founded the Southern California Haiku Study Group in Long Beach. A group catalyzed by Bruce Ross was active in Burlington, Vt., in the late 1990s. The Salt City Haiku Group was announced by Susan Scholl in the autumn of 1999 for Syracuse, N.Y.-area poets. The Central Valley Haiku Club began informally in Sacramento, Calif., in 1999. Further south, monthly meetings of the Haiku Poets of San Diego, a new group announced in the fall of 2000 by Naia, were taking place. The Delaware River Haiku Group was launched in May 2001 replacing the Mid-Atlantic Region Haiku Workshops, all-day Saturday meetings that had been held annually between 1997 and 2000 in the Wilmington, Del.–Philadelphia area. A New Orleans chapter of the HSA was organized in early 2002 and the Fort Worth (Texas) Haiku Society came together under the direction of Cliff and Brenda Roberts at about the same time. By the first years of the new century, haiku groups were springing up with regularity and vigor across the country and HSA membership was approaching 1,000.

 

Meetings and Conferences

The growing interest in the techniques of the haiku genre as well as in the artistic quality of the poems being produced led to larger-scale gatherings. The First Symposium on English-Language Haiku, May 16, 1967, was hosted by Wisconsin State University, Platteville. Clement Hoyt, Robert Spiess, and James Bull — all associated with American Haiku — presented papers that were later published in the journal. The First International Haiku Festival, organized in Philadelphia by Nicholas Virgilio on May 1, 1971, was a daylong gathering featured both Western haiku and traditional Japanese arts. Three years later, as a kind of celebration of the publication of Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology, poet and professor David Lloyd of Glassboro State College in New Jersey organized a second Haiku Festival at the college. Haiku poets from the eastern seaboard, college students, and others gathered in Glassboro on May 5–6, 1974, for readings, workshops, and formal and in-formal discussions. The 20th anniversary of the founding of the HSA was the occasion for a number of observations in 1988, including the Roseliep Haiku Celebration at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, organized by Bill Pauly, Lee Gurga, and Sister Mary Thomas Eulberg, in August. On October 15 there was another gathering of Midwest haiku poets, this time for a day-long meeting in honor of the HSA at Principia College in Elsah, Ill. Mary Lu Fennell organized the conference and Lee Gurga planned the program. A gala weekend was held on November 4–6, 1988, at New York City’s 7th Regiment Armory and later at the Kenilworth Hotel in Spring Lake, N.J., on the Atlantic Ocean for two days of fellowship, fun, and renku-writing.

The first gathering of an important new series of haiku conferences under the name Haiku North America was launched August 23–25, 1991, at Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif., where two of the organizers, Jerry Ball and David Wright, were faculty members. This was the first conference to bring to-gether haiku poets from all parts of the continent and to garner support from the major haiku organizations in the United States and Canada. The keynote address, entitled “North America and the Democracy of Haiku,” was given by William J. Higginson. The second conference in the series was held July 15–18, 1993, again at Las Positas College. The keynote addresses were given by Zen specialist and poet James W. Hackett and translator Jane Hirschfield. Canadian poets, coordinated by Marshall Hryciuk and Keith Southward, hosted more than one hundred attendees at the third HNA conference, July 14–16, 1995, at the Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (now University) in Toronto. The fourth meeting in the HNA series took place July 24–27, 1997, at Portland State University in Oregon, organized by Margaret Chula, Cherie Hunter Day, and Ce Rosenow. Featured speakers were haiku scholar Janine Beichman and Sam Hamill, poet and publisher of Copper Canyon Press. Haiku North America 1999 — Chicago was organized retreat-style at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., July 8–11, 1999 by Sara Brant, Joseph Kirschner, Lidia Rozmus, and Charles Trumbull. Keynote speaker Gerald Vizenor explored “Haiku Culturalism.”[30] The sixth HNA meeting, held June 28–July 1 in Boston, and organized by Raffael de Gruttola, Karen Klein, and Judson Evans, drew 152 registrants from 8 countries. Higginson was again keynote speaker. Haiku North America 2003 was planned by Pamela Miller Ness, John Stevenson, and Stanford Forrester and convened in June–July in New York City. HNA 2005 was scheduled to take place in September 2005 in Port Townsend, Wash.

 

Haiku Contests and Awards

In the early years interest in haiku was stimulated across the United States by several contests sponsored by Japan Air Lines. In 1964 something over 41,000 haiku were submitted to their National Haiku Contest. Seventeen contests conducted by radio stations in different parts of the country screened the entries, and five winners from each local contest were submitted for final judging by Alan Watts. The selection of Watts, not himself a haiku poet but rather an expert on Zen, to judge this seminal contest reinforced the notion that haiku is informed by Zen and undoubtedly influenced the course of American haiku for years to come. Japan Air Lines published the 85 national entries in a booklet entitled Haiku ’64. James W. Hackett won the grand prize of two round-trip tickets to Japan. In the winter of 1987–88 JAL, in association with Haiku Canada and the Haiku Society of America, organized an English Haiku Contest for residents of Canada and the United States. Kazuo Satô, the top Japanese expert on foreign haiku, was a leading force in the creation of the contest, with five key figures in the East Coast haiku establishment — Cor van den Heuvel, William J. Higginson, Penny Harter, Hiroaki Sato, and Adele Kenny — serving as judges. Van den Heuvel was invited to Japan for a press conference to announce the winners. The Grand Prize winner was Bernard Lionel Einbond, and about 200 runners-up were chosen from among 40,000 entries.

The Nyogen Senzaki Memorial Haiku Prize was awarded annually from 1964 through 1980 by the Poetry Society of Texas. This contest, which is believed to be the earliest American award for haiku, was named for the great Soto Zen teacher in America, Nyogen Senzaki, and was the creation of one of the sensei ’s students, Clement Hoyt. Robert Spiess won the first contest. Later, from 1983 until 1992, the Poetry Society of Texas sponsored the Katherine Schutze Haiku Memorial Award.
The Haiku Society of America, too, has sponsored a variety of contests for haiku and related forms. First were the Merit Book Awards for outstanding achievement in the field of haiku publication, which were begun in 1974 (for books published in 1973–74), continued in 1978, and held every other year from 1981 to 1987 and every year since 1988. Beginning in 1976, the Society has conducted an annual haiku contest, open to all poets, in memory of Harold G. Henderson. The Gerald M. Brady Award for best unpublished senryu was added to the roster in 1988 with a grant from haiku poet Virginia Brady Young in memory of her brother. In earlier years winners of the Henderson Award sometimes included linked forms, and in 1990 a separate HSA award for renku was created; this contest was named in memory of Bernard Lionel Einbond in 1999. In 2005 the first Mildred Kanterman Memorial Award for best first book of haiku was awarded.

The HSA appoints judges for the Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku Competition for High School Students, which also began in 1990 and is sponsored by the association dedicated to the memory of that American haiku pioneer. Beginning in 1987 the journal Modern Haiku sponsored a contest for haiku by high school seniors, the annual Kay Titus Mormino Memorial Scholarship, that awarded a top prize of $500. In later years other prizes were added in memory of Ann Atwood, Geraldine Clinton Little, Margaret Dunfield, and Nunzio Crispi; all were discontinued by 2004. The oldest continuing student contest is probably the annual International Haiku Contest of the Hawai’i Education Association, which was first held in 1979 and awards a great number of prizes in separate flights for students and adults and season word, humorous, and “Hawai’i word” sections. Every few years the contest-winning haiku are gathered together by Darold D. Braida and published in a volume entitled Na Pua’oli puke’umi (“Joyous Blossoms”).

The haiku journal Dragonfly sponsored a variety of contests for subscribers, and two other periodicals, Larry Gross’s The Top (Tournament of Poetry) and David Priebe’s Haiku Headlines feature an ongoing haiku competition or kukai in which submitters vote on their favorite haiku in the issue. Other journals, including Modern Haiku, South by Southeast, and The Heron’s Nest, designate and sometime reward “best of issue” haiku or “editor’s choices. A contest in memory of longtime editor Robert Spiess was launched by Modern Haiku in 2003. In 1981 the Museum of Haiku Literature in Tokyo first made available a grant of $100 a year to the HSA to support a best-of-issue award in Frogpond as well as the British Haiku Society organ, Blithe Spirit. The amounts were raised to $200 a year in 1994 and to $300 in 2000. Local haiku groups often hold contests of one type or another. Two of these that achieved national significance are the Loke Hilikimani Contest, organized by the Rockland County, N.Y., haiku group, which ran for five years, 1987–90 and 1992, and the popular San Francisco International Haiku, Senryu, and Tanka Contest, which was inaugurated in 1993 by the Haiku Poets of Northern California. The Boston Haiku Society holds the annual Kajo Aso Contest.

American writers’ organizations and literary journals sometimes welcome haiku in their poetry contests, and occasionally feature separate haiku sec-tions or even freestanding haiku contests. Notable among these are the well established competition mounted by the National League of American Pen Women—Palomar Branch[31] and the Penumbra Poetry and Haiku Contest, sponsored by the Tallahassee (Fla.) Writers’ Association.[32] Each year a great many thematic “haiku” contests are held by American newspapers, radio stations, and civic organizations that perpetuate the notion that a haiku is any sort of witty remark or social comment written in lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables; these need only dismissive mention here. One exception, however, is the annual bumper-sticker contest held by the Christian Science Monitor newspaper beginning in 1997. With a general subject of automobiles and traffic and judged by poets who know haiku, the CSM contest has demonstrated that such a competition can be fun and promote the (generally commercial) goals of the sponsor, all while encouraging the composition of good haiku.

 

Journals

In the first section we saw how the early haiku journals—American Haiku, Haiku, and the others — contributed to the sense of community and accelerated the growth of the American haiku movement. This has been no less true in recent years. Even in the Internet age, the haiku journals are where the “action” is and remain the mode of record and, hence, the most important bellwether of the movement.

Two journals have dominated American haiku, but the haiku scene has also been enriched by a succession of smaller, often ephemeral journals that have explored various dimensions of the vital American haiku movement. From its first publication, on the heels of the closing of American Haiku, Modern Haiku has held pride of place. Kay Titus Mormino produced the first issue of Modern Haiku in the winter of 1969–70. In its third year it changed from four to three issues a year. Mormino named Robert Spiess editor in 1978, and the journal’s base was moved from Los Angeles to Madison, Wis. Over the years, Modern Haiku provided a forum for all views on the evolving aesthetics and craft of English-language haiku, featured the finest essays, consistently reviewed the haiku literature, introduced hundreds of new poets, and kept a finger on the pulse of haiku in Japan, Europe, and elsewhere. Because of ill health, Spiess turned the editorship of Modern Haiku over to Lee Gurga following issue 33:1 (winter-spring 2002).

Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America (and first called HSA Frogpond, a name chosen in a contest), made its appearance in February 1978. The first issue listed in addition to Lilli Tanzer as editor Yasko Karaki as consulting editor, and Stephen Wolfe as correspondent in Japan. The editors originally intended to publish all haiku submitted by HSA subscriber/members, but this policy was almost at once found to be infeasible, and the magazine welcomed haiku, senryu, linked verse, essays, and reviews by members and nonmembers alike. Frogpond began as a quarterly and remained so, with a few deviations, through the end of 1995, after which time it went to three issues a year. The several editors [33] have brought various interests and skills to the journal, and over the years Frogpond has been in the vanguard of presenting linked forms and haiku sequences, tanka, and haibun as well as high-quality essays and reviews. An awareness of the needs of the membership has always governed the journal’s editorial choices. Frogpond’s circulation is the largest of any English-language haiku journal.

Haiku Highlights and its successor journal, Dragonfly, were another pillar of the haiku movement in its salad days. With Jean Calkins as editor and publisher, Haiku Highlights made its first appearance in May 1965. It published material of highly variable quality, first as a monthly but later as a quarterly. Lorraine Ellis Harr, based in Portland, Ore., assumed editorship in 1972 and soon renamed the magazine Dragonfly. Harr wielded a strong editorial hand, but many poets who cut their teeth on Dragonfly thank her for her superb guidance in the subtleties of the haiku genre. Dragonfly consistently sought to bridge the Pacific, notably by featuring articles on haiku aesthetics by a Japanese scholar, Yagi Kometarô (subsequently gathered into a useful compendium, Haiku: Messages from Matsuyama), and, especially later in its run, translations from Japanese by editor Richard Tice. Tice and Jack Lyon became the editors in 1984, publishing irregularly from Magna, Utah, until 1992.

Early in 1977 the first issue appeared of Cicada, a new Canadian haiku magazine edited and published by Eric Amann. With triple emphasis — traditional Japanese heritage, the middle ground of haiku in the here and now, and far-out exploration and experimentation — the excellently produced Cicada sparked a resurgence of Canadian activity. The final issue appeared in 1981, but the periodical was reborn in Japan: New Cicada made its debut in 1984, edited and published by Tadao Okazaki and with Amann and Lilli Tanzer as consulting editors.

Two notable journals began in the early 1980s on the East Coast. Brussels Sprout was established in 1980 in New Jersey by Alexis Rotella. In 1987 the journal was passed to Francine Porad in Washington state. Porad continued to publish high quality haiku and black-and-white artwork until 1995. Hal Roth’s Wind Chimes added a valuable dimension to the haiku magazine world with a series of twenty-eight issues published in Maryland from 1981 to 1989. Other general-service haiku publications have included Bonsai (Jan and Mary Streif, quarterly, 1976–78); Leanfrog (Louis Cuneo) 1979–82); The Red Pagoda (Henry Lewis Sanders, quarterly from 1983); Old Pond (Tony Suraci, biannual, 1986–88); Black Bough (Chuck Easter and Kevin Walker, irregular, 1991–99)[34]; and Persimmon (Mary and James Taylor, biannual, 1997–99). Recent — and continuing — additions to the roster include Dasoku, a letter-sized biannual from the Kaji Aso Studio in Boston, begun in 1997, and Bottle Rockets, a thriving project of Stanford M. Forrester in Connecticut, which was launched in 2000.

Amann’s name is closely associated with Zen haiku, and his Cicada was the first journal to explore the important relationship between haiku and Zen.
George Klacsanzky published a Zen-tinged haiku magazine, Haiku Zasshi Zo, on the West Coast in the 1980s, while Season (Carolyn Thomas) edited Heron Quarterly of Haiku and Zen Poetry, from 1997 to 1998, also on the West Coast.

Among the several journals that were established as membership publications, a few later assumed national importance. Woodnotes, the quarterly newsletter inaugurated by Vincent Tripi and Paul O. Williams at the time of the creation of the Haiku Poets of Northern California in 1989, evolved into a full-fledged journal, especially when Michael Dylan Welch replaced Williams as co-editor in 1991 and took over full editorial responsibilities in 1993. Woodnotes and HPNC soon parted ways, but the journal continued publishing independently through autumn 1997. In 1999 HPNC began publishing Mariposa, a slim, twice-yearly journal of members’ haiku, edited by D. Claire Gallagher and Ebba Story and later by Story alone.

Four periodicals of primarily regional interest sprang up in the early 1990s, and two are still in existence. Seaoats was a twice-yearly publication of the Haiku Poets of South Florida, begun and edited by Robert Henry Poulin, that was active in the mid-1990s. Nor’easter has been published twice a year since 1992 by Larry Kimmel for the Northeast Region of the Haiku Society of America. Northwest Literary Forum was launched by Ce Rosenow in Oregon in 1992 and lasted for seven or eight years. South by Southeast was begun by Kenneth C. Leibman upon his election as Southeast Region Coordinator of the Haiku Society of America in 1994. From 1995, under the editorship of Jim Kacian, SxSE became more national in scope. It was taken over by the Richmond Haiku Workshop in 1998.

Self-help and teaching have always been important to the haiku movement. In 1976 the Haiku Appreciation Club was organized by Edna Purviance to share ideas and help, especially with beginners. A newsletter provided a forum and publication outlet, being superseded in a couple of years by the magazine Portals. Another southern California publication making appearance at this time was David Priebe’s Haiku Headlines. A Monthly Newsletter of Haiku and Senryu, in the spring of 1988. Priebe has managed to keep publishing a haiku monthly for an amazing seventeen years (as of mid-2005), printing up to 100 original haiku in each issue as well as managing the administration of a continuous readers’ ballot on the best of each issue.

Among the highly selective journals — those that are looking for “a few good haiku” — are High/Coo, a small quarterly inaugurated by Randy and Shirley Brooks in Indiana in 1976 that lasted until 1982. Four years later the Brookses began publication of Mayfly, a minisized haiku magazine that has showcased 14–16 carefully selected verses, originally three times a year, and more recently twice. Acorn is an amazing success story, immediately catapulting into the top rank of haiku journals. In 1998 editor A.C. Missias recognized a need for a straightforward, soundly produced haiku-only journal and proceeded to fill that need very well. Three supplements to Acorn containing theoretical work on seasons in haiku (2000), tanka (2001), and linked forms (2003) have also been published.

By the same token, a few journals have been [self-]consciously experimental in one way or another. Clarence Matsuo-Allard, in Manchester, N.H., launched his Sun-Lotus Haiku in the spring of 1976; Uguisu, devoted to one-line haiku exclusively, in 1977; and Amoskeag/Big Sky in the early 1980s — all were short-lived, as was Joseph Earner’s earlier New World Haiku, published in San Fernando, Calif. Begun in 1992 and lasting until 2000, Point Judith Light, edited by Patrick Frank, welcomed social-themed haiku. Raw NerVZ Haiku, published since 1994 in Quebec by Dorothy Howard, is the enfant terrible of the haiku publishing world, with a no-holds-barred editorial policy regarding form and content, absence of censorship (some would say editorial discretion), and junkyard layouts and graphics. Another journal on the cutting edge is ant ant ant ant ant, which earlier was the epitome of a boutique publication when each copy was handmade by editor Chris Gordon. Recent issues have presented a dozen or more haiku each from a limited number of poets.

A few publications have been concerned with the relationship of the haiku to mainstream poetry, especially the short poem. Frederick A. Raborg, Jr., publisher of the poetry magazine Amelia, expanded the publication’s haiku supplement, Cicada, into a separate quarterly in 1986 and issued it from Bakersfield, Calif., until his death in 2001. Phyllis Walsh inaugurated Hummingbird, a handsomely produced chapbook-sized journal dedicated to short poems, including haiku, in 1991. Michael Dylan Welch’s quarterly Tundra was launched in the summer of 1999. It was the first heavyweight journal to confront — and aggressively so — the question of the haiku’s relationship to short poetry. A second number appeared in June 2001, but publication apparently stopped with that issue.

Senryu, renku, haiga, and haibun are often called “related forms” of haiku, and an occasional journal has concentrated on the phenomena of haiku in the broader context. Seer Ox, edited and published by Michael McClintock from 1972 to 1976 in Los Angeles, brought out the wry humor, occasional vulgarity, and sometime parody of senryu with a refreshingly light touch. To date this has been the only journal exclusively devoted to senryu, that kissing cousin of haiku. Mirrors, published from spring 1988 by Jane Reichhold in Gualala, Calif., was a subscriber-produced magazine with artwork and haiku on each page designed by the author/artist. Mirrors was taken over for a while by Nika (Jim Force) in Calgary, Alta., but ceased publication in 1995. Chiyo’s Corner, a celebration of four-color graphics, multilingual poetry, and a variety of verse forms, began in August 1999 under the editorship of Kathleen Decker but was discontinued in 2001.

In 1985 Tundra Wind (Jim Wilson), an exponent of amateur publishing associations (APA) started APA-Renga. This was taken over by Terri Lee Grell (T.L. Kelly) in 1989, expanded to include other materials, and renamed Lynx. It was passed on to Jane and Werner Reichhold in mid-1993. They added tanka, subtracted haiku and fiction, and put up a Web version beginning in 1995, then discontinued the ink-and-paper version a few years later. HWUP! of Larry Gross, which began in 1991, also featured participatory renga among advice on the writing of various kinds of poetry. Chameleon was originally conceived by Zane Parks as an annual print magazine devoted to renga that was to launch in 1998, but by early 2002 only the Web site seemed to be active.[35] Henry Lewis Sanders tried to launch a rengay newsletter in 1998. Journeys, the first periodical devoted exclusively to haibun, appeared in 2002.

 

The Emerging Canon: Haiku Anthologies

An indication that American haiku had come of age and was beginning to develop its own canon came with the publication of the first comprehensive haiku anthology in 1974. The Haiku Anthology, published in a paperback edition by Doubleday Anchor, brought together under Cor van den Heuvel’s careful editing about 230 haiku by 38 well-known American and Canadian poets. The introduction by van den Heuvel limning something of the early history of Western haiku, the biographical sketches, and materials from the Haiku Society of America toward a definition of haiku added immeasurably to the worth of the book. Publication of the anthology was also the first recognition of original, Western haiku by a major commercial publisher. In 1986 a revised and much enlarged edition of The Haiku Anthology, again edited by van den Heuvel but published in a trade edition by Simon & Schuster, continued to set a standard for Western haiku and furthered an awareness of haiku beyond the boundaries of the relatively small haiku community. The second edition contained nearly 700 haiku and senryu by 66 poets and included valuable examples of linked forms and haibun as well as biographical and bibliographical notes. This edition of The Haiku Anthology was indexed by authors’ names and first lines in The Columbia Granger’s Index to Poetry in Anthologies. The third edition of The Haiku Anthology appeared in 1999, published this time by W.W. Norton, initially in a clothbound edition. The contents had grown to include about 850 haiku and senryu by 89 poets. The introductory essays to the first two editions were included, as was a new foreword. In its three editions spanning twenty-five years, The Haiku Anthology cemented its position as the Blue Book of American haiku.

A second important anthology appeared in 1993: Bruce Ross’s Haiku Moment: An Anthology of North American Haiku. Ross included an essay on Northern American haiku as an introduction to the 825 haiku by 186 poets. Somewhat less selective than van den Heuvel in his criteria for inclusion, Ross’s geographical view was broader than van den Heuvel’s second edition, and he introduced to his anthology a number of important haiku poets representing what he called the “fourth generation” — those Americans who began publishing in the late 1980s.

In 1996 Jim Kacian and his Red Moon Press brought out the first of the annual Red Moon Anthologies. Aiming at a systematic approach to compilation, Kacian and his staff of nine to eleven editors scanned the year’s English-language haiku periodicals, books, contests, and a few Web sites. The result has been a pleasing series of volumes of very good haiku, senryu, haibun, linked forms, and essays that very nearly represents a chronicle of the year in haiku. Red Moon Press has also published anthologies of haibun and haiga and three volumes in a series called A New Resonance: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku.

A number of American regional anthologies have been published, typically the project of a local haiku group. The best of these are the Midwest Haiku Anthology (1992), assembled and edited by Randy M. Brooks and Lee Gurga, The San Francisco Haiku Anthology (1992), edited by Jerry Ball, Garry Gay, and Tom Tico (1992); Third Coast Haiku Anthology (1978), edited in Milwaukee, Wis., by Jeffrey Winke and Charles Rossiter; Bridge Traffic: Haiku and Related Poetry by People of the Massachusetts Pioneer Valley (1998), edited by John Sheirer; and Pocket Change (2000), from the Towpath Haiku Society edited by Ellen Compton and others. Local haiku groups such as the Haiku Poets of Northern California, the Northwest Region of the Haiku Society of America, and the Boston Haiku Society also publish periodic anthologies that showcase the recent work of their members. Surprisingly, only a handful of topical haiku anthologies have been compiled. In this vein, Alexis Rotella brought together a sampling of butterfly haiku in 1981, Rod Willmot in Canada put together an erotic anthology in 1983 and Hiroaki Sato compiled a bilingual Japanese-English anthology of erotic haiku in 2004, and Leroy Kanterman honored the scarecrow in 1999.

 

Gaining an Understanding of Japanese Haiku

The American haiku movement has been fortunate to have a variety of translations — ranging widely in style and fidelity—of classical haiku from Japanese to serve as a point of reference. We have already mentioned The Anthology of Japanese Literature compiled and edited by Donald Keene in 1955, the retranslations of Beilensen and Behn in the 1950s and ’60s, and the works of Cid Corman. In addition, the Australian Buddhist poet Harold Stewart produced two books of translations of the Japanese masters — A Net of Fireflies (1960) and A Chime of Windbells (1969) that, because they rendered the haiku into rhymed couplets and provided titles absent in the originals, were not much valued by mainstream American haiku poets. Still, they proved quite popular with the general public. Essays included in Stewart’s two books deal with spiritual aspects of haiku. Twenty-Five Pieces of Now was a mini-book of 25 Japanese haiku translated by Hian (William J. Higginson). In the early 1970s, the brevity and bite of these translations were a welcome contrast to the wordy and often sentimental translations that abounded at the time. In 1973 Higginson’s Thistle Brilliant Morning introduced the unfamiliar twentieth-century Japanese poets Hekigodô, Santôka, and Hôsai.

Books by Hiroaki Sato that included From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated with Burton Watson (1981), and One Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku to English (1983), as well as Earl Miner’s Japanese Linked Poetry: An Account with Translations of Renga and Haikai Sequences (1979) and The Monkey’s Straw Raincoat and Other Poetry of the Bashô School, introduced and translated by Miner and Hiroko Odagiri (1981) were substantial contributions to the literature. Sato’s Eigo haiku: aru shikei no hirogari (1997; “Haiku in English: A Poetic Form Expands”), presented the development and current situation of English-language haiku to Japanese readers.

Noted Midwestern poet and Zen poetry specialist Lucien Stryk produced books of translations of haiku and other Japanese verse beginning in 1965. Stryk’s approach has appealed to many American haiku poets because of his laconism — a style that catches the conciseness of the Japanese originals and emphasizes the Zen content of the haiku. Of special interest in this connection are Stryk’s works The Penguin Book of Zen Poetry (1981), On Love and Barley: Haiku of Bashô (1985), The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (1991), and Cage of Fireflies: Modern Japanese Haiku (1993).

Stephen Addiss (with Fumiko and Akira Yamamoto) issued three charming books of translations — A Haiku Menagerie (1992), A Haiku Garden (1996), and Haiku People (1998) that include the Japanese original verses as well as marvelous sumi-e illustrations of his own. Just at the time he was named poet laureate of the United States, Robert Hass came out with a book in the Ecco Press’s The Essential Poets series, The Essential Haiku: Versions of Bashô, Buson, and Issa, so it is probable that haiku registered a small blip on America’s literary radar in 1994. The book contains prose works and haibun by the three Japanese masters, as well as essays and explanations by Hass. Another prominent West Coast poet, Sam Hamill, published his collection of Issa’s haiku, The Spring of My Life, in 1997, The Essential Bashô in 1999, and collections of multiple Japanese masters, The Little Book of Haiku (1995) and The Sound of Water (2000). Two other works that should not be overlooked are Lenore Mayhew’s Monkey’s Raincoat (1985) and Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature by Makoto Ueda (1983), especially for its chapters on modern poets Shiki and Seisensui.

 

Western Haiku Scholarship

In 1971 William J. Higginson’s essays on haiku and senryu in English were collected in Itadakimasu, having appeared first in Haiku Highlights. Higginson’s classic The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (1985), compiled with the aid of Penny Harter, made accessible for the first time in English a concise, eminently readable compendium of haiku history, modern developments, and information on both writing and teaching haiku and related forms. Now twenty years old, it is still essential reading for the American haiku poet. Higginson’s twin volumes, The Haiku Seasons and Haiku World, published in 1995–96, explored the historical background of the Japanese saijiki and laid the foundations for “An International Poetry Almanac” —the subtitle of the latter volume. In Haiku World Higginson presented hundreds of season words (kigo) and, using more than 1,000 haiku as examples, demonstrated how these concepts are employed by poets around the globe (187). For the first time English-speaking haiku poets had adequate tools for studying the Japanese kigo system and could debate the adequacy of these conventions for non-Japanese haiku.[36] Adding to the body of methodological works, Clark Strand published his Seeds from a Birch Tree, in 1997. Intended as a “how-to” book, it divided the haiku community, a segment of which was attracted to the spirituality and straightforward methods Strand taught while others criticized his dedication to 5–7–5 haiku and saw a lack of discrimination in the haiku selected for inclusion. Four other instructional books appeared in rapid succession in the first years of the new century: David Coomler’s Hokku—Writing Traditional Haiku in English (2001), Bruce Ross’s How To Haiku (2002), Jane Reichhold’s Writing and Enjoying Haiku (2002), and Lee Gurga’s Haiku: A Poet’s Guide (2003).

An extremely influential long article was Eric Amann’s long essay The Wordless Poem, which appeared as a special issue of Haiku Magazine in 1969. Drawing on Zen to show the cultural background of Japanese haiku, Amann illumined more clearly here than anywhere else in the published literature the very essence of haiku, that indispensable center without which there is no haiku. He drew on both classical Japanese and 20th-century Western haiku to contrast haiku with the tradition of Western poetry. Amann’s views were substantially challenged only in the late 1990’s with the publication of Haruo Shirane’s book (see below). Cor van den Heuvel’s article on the English-language haiku movement, “Concision, Perception, Awareness — Haiku,” which appeared on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Book Review (March 29, 1987), brought the humble haiku to the attention of a nationwide audience, and was the first detailed notice to appear in such an important main-stream periodical.

The first critical study in English of the life and writings of Bashô appeared only in 1970. Makoto Ueda’s Matsuo Bashô: The Master Haiku Poet filled a vital need for Western writers not only in its full account of Bashô’s life but more especially in critical discussions of his writings and his techniques. The same author’s Bashô and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary (1992) represented another giant step in haiku scholarship, translating 255 of the master’s haiku and including critical commentary by Japanese scholars through the years. Steven D. Carter included haiku and senryu as well as other genres in his 1991 anthology, Traditional Japanese Poetry, which won applause for the fidelity of its translations. Toshiharu Oseko, an independent researcher in Japan, published the first volume of his remarkable compendium Basho’s Haiku: Literal Translations for Those Who Wish To Read the Original Japanese Text, with Gram-matical Analysis and Explanatory Notes in 1990. This contains 330 of Bashô’s haiku in Japanese, rômaji, and word-by-word translation with abundant critical and historical notes. A second volume, containing Bashô’s remaining 650 known haiku, appeared in 1996. Haruo Shirane, a professor of Japanese litera-ture at Columbia University, contributed what is perhaps the deepest and most thorough examination of Bashô and his relationship to Japanese culture and lit-erature in his 1998 monograph, Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Bashô. Shirane’s book was also the most forceful statement to date that Bashô was far less influenced by Zen than had generally been believed by American haikuists. Bashô’s Haiku, a new book of translations with copious annotations, was published by scholar David Landis Barnhill in 2004.

The first book in English to focus on the life and the writing of Yosa Buson, Haiku Master Buson (1978), was a collaboration between a Japanese and an American scholar, Yûki Sawa and Edith Shiffert. Ueda weighed in with his The Path of Flowering Thorn: The Life and Poetry of Yosa Buson in 1998. A third study entitled “Reluctant Genius: The Life and Work of Buson, a Japanese Master of Haiku and Painting,” and written by Leon Zolbrod, professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, was abridged and serialized in Modern Haiku from 1992 to 2002. Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master, a book about the life and works of Japan’s foremost woman haiku poet, by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi contains some of the most exquisite renderings of haiku into English yet accomplished. No book-length study of Kobayashi Issa existed in English until 2004, when suddenly we were graced with two. Ueda completed his tour of the three main pillars of Japanese classical haiku with Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa, and Issa specialist David Lanoue offered his Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa. After Bashô, Issa is the most published haiku poet in English, and the several major collections of translations all contain useful essays on his sad, eventful life and his contributions to haiku.[37]

Shiki, the great reformer and revivifier of Japanese haiku, is the subject of an excellent study by Janine Beichman, Masaoka Shiki, and a sampling of Shiki’s haiku and tanka was collected and translated by Burton Watson. Harold J. Isaacson’s highly idiosyncratic collection, Peonies Kana: Haiku by the Upasaka Shiki, contains so many distractions in the form of asterisks and Japanese words imbedded in the haiku that the pleasure of reading the poetry is compromised. The finest survey in English of the development of modern haiku in Japan is found in the Poetry section of Donald Keene’s 1984 two-volume survey of modern Japanese literature, Dawn to the West. About modern and contemporary Japanese haikuists overall, however, there has been a dearth of biographical and analytical works in English, although a recently in the West a number of book-length collections of works by these poets have appeared.[38]

Bibliographic work on haiku in English has been scarce, and almost nothing has been done in the past fifteen years. Gary Brower’s Haiku in Western Languages: An Annotated Bibliography, published in 1972, offered much, especially for the very early years of Western haiku and material on Japanese haiku. Randy and Shirley Brooks brought out four editions of Haiku Review (’80, ’82, ’84, ’87), a directory of haiku books and articles in print that also included overview essays of new publications.

The establishment of the American Haiku Archive at the California State Library in Sacramento provided for the first time a focal point and central repository for the American haiku movement. The inauguration of the archive was celebrated in ceremonies on July 12, 1996. It is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and promotion of all haiku and related poetry as a vital component of literature in the English language. A prominent American haiku poet has been selected each year as honorary curator.[39]

In just over 100 years, haiku, a Japanese genre perched somewhere between poetry and spirituality, synthetic but enormously popular on its home ground, has been discovered by the West, translated, imitated, and — dare we say it? — mastered and integrated into Western culture. Early students of Japanese haiku, notably Blyth and Henderson, fretted over whether haiku could be transplanted in foreign soil. Early practitioners such as Yasuda and Hackett ably demonstrated that it could be done. Along the way the haiku was enormously influential to other writers. Haiku’s succinctness, objectiveness, concreteness, and minimalist approach to poetics were a tonic to poets as diverse as the Imagists, the Beats, and Native Americans. The spiritual depth of haiku continues to challenge scholars even while the simplicity and directness of these short verses made the genre immediately popular among a broad segment of the American public. This popular aspect has, in turn, led to a flowering of English-language haiku worldwide, the subject of a future installment of this long essay.

End Notes

[1] Much of the material in this paper is a reworking and updating of the authoritative study, “A History of Western Haiku,” written by Elizabeth Searle Lamb, first published in four parts in Cicada in 1979–80, and subsequently appearing as introductory chapters to two sections in the omnibus collection, A Haiku Path: The Haiku Society of America, 1968–1988. Entire blocks of text are unchanged, and a large percentage of the first two sections is her work. Elizabeth reviewed an early version of this manuscript and made suggestions for its improvement. She declined to be named as a coauthor, but I am very much in her debt for allowing her materials to be altered and reused in this way. To this great lady of American haiku, who died in February 2005, this work is humbly dedicated.

[2] The analysis of Noguchi’s work was later published in Gurga, “Ezra Pound.”

[3] The contribution of these writers to American receptivity to haiku is the theme of Thomas Lynch’s unpublished doctoral dissertation, “An Original Relation to the Universe: Emersonian Poetics of Immanence and Contemporary American Haiku.” In the 1990s Tadashi Kondô was working on a concordance of nature allusions in Thoreau and the Japanese system of season references and read a preliminary draft of a paper on the subject at the inaugural meeting of the Haiku Society of America South Region, Hot Springs, Ark., Nov. 7, 1998.

[4] Swede, “History” 108–34.

[5] In 1959 or 1960 an LP record simply called Haiku was made from a lecture Watts gave over station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, Calif., and included, on the second side, haiku read by Watts in English and Sumire Jacobs in Japanese and with accompaniment of traditional Japanese instruments. A CD version of this recording was available in 2004. Watts also discussed haiku as related to Zen in his 1957 book, The Way of Zen.

[6] See also the Introduction to Jerry Ball, et al., editors. The San Francisco Haiku Anthology, 5. Cor van den Heuvel makes the same point in The Haiku Anthology, 1974, xxix, note 5.

[7] Knight’s are surely the most anthologized of all English-language haiku. They appear in, among others, Randall, Black Poets; Ellmann and O’Clair, Modern Poems: An Introduction to Poetry; Sullivan, The Treasury of American Poetry; and Dacey and Jauss, Strong Measures: Contemporary American Poetry in Traditional Forms.

[8] An interview with the poet about her haiku appeared in South by Southeast VI:1 (1999). For examples of her haiku, see especially her collections Homegirls & Handgrenades (1984), Under a Soprano Sky (1986), Like the Singing Coming off the Drums (1998), and Shake Loose My Skin (1999).

[9] Raising the Moon Vines (1964), Seventeen Chirps (1964), Empty Swings (1967), Matsushima: Pine Islands (1984) — the first two of these books were reprinted in 1999 — and Cranes Arise (1999). The introduction to Matsushima is especially valuable, as is the chapter “Multiple Traditions in Haiku” in Kimberly M. Blaeser, Gerald Vizenor: Writing in Oral Tradition (1996). Blaeser’s own haiku appear in her Absentee Indians 42–43.

[10] This aspect of haiku is explored in my paper, “The Uses of Haiku: Native American Writers.”

[11] One Man’s Moon (1984), Born of a Dream (1988), and Little Enough (1991).

[12] The Sea and The Honeycomb (1971) and Bashô (1972).

[13] The correspondence was published in Tundra 2 (September 2001), 27–42. Bly was certainly not the first to question the value of English-language haiku. Captain F. Brinkley, an early student of Japan, wrote in 1901 that “The Japanese stanza … cannot be played on a foreign instrument” (Japan: Its History, Arts and Literature). The Imagist poet John Gould Fletcher seconded this sentiment in 1918: “Good hokkus cannot be written in English” (Japanese Prints, 16). Both citations are from Lanoue, “Global Haiku.” See also note 14, below.

[14] The Spring of My Life: And Selected Haiku (1997). Hamill’s sequence, “Fifteen Stitches” for Wayne Larrabee, comprises verses written in haiku form. Excerpts were published in South by Southeast 6:3 (1999), 30–31. For Hamill’s dim view of American haiku see his interview in Northwest Literary Forum 19 (1996), 16–24. On page 22 he says, “I frankly don’t read a lot of American haiku. There are too many things that are commonplace in Japanese haiku that simply can’t be done in English 99.9 percent of the time.… I don’t have a whole lot of patience frankly for most American haiku. When I run across it I generally enjoy it for its light verse. I can’t off the top of my head think of one serious haiku writer in America. I have enjoyed occasional haiku by people like Hackett or Henderson but I can’t think of a great body of work by someone” (23).

[15] “From Blues to Haikus: An interview with Charles Henri Ford, by Rhonda Roland Shearer and Thomas Girst. Tout-fait: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal 1:2 (May 2000). Ford published a chapbook of poems, Secret Haiku, in 1981.

[16] See also the discussion in Carper.

[17] Collins in 33:3 (autumn 2002), 34:1 (winter-spring 2003), 34:2 (summer 2003), 34:3 (autumn 2003), 35:1 (winter-spring 2004), 35:2 (summer 2004), 36:1 (winter-spring 2005), 36:2 (summer 2005), and 36:3 (autumn 2005); Olds in 34:2 (summer 2003), 34:3 (autumn 2003), and 35:2 (summer 2004); Ferlinghetti in 34:2 (summer 2003); McClure’s sequence “Maui” in 34:1 (winter-spring 2003); and Snyder in 33:3 (autumn 2002).

[18] Modern Haiku 35:2 (summer 2004). See also the Works Cited below. Muldoon’s book of haiku, Sixty Instant Messages to Tom Moore, was published by Modern Haiku Press in 2005. It is excerpted in Modern Haiku 35:3 (autumn 2004), 74, and 36:1 (winter-spring 2005), 24, and reviewed by David Burleigh in Modern Haiku 36:2 (summer 2005), 75.

[19] Welch 51–56.

[20] Seamus Heaney, read as part of his Poetry Day presentation, Sept. 11, 1996, Rubloff Auditorium, Art Institute of Chicago.

[21] Cope 65.

[22] Brautigan in Kennedy 82.

[23] Goodman, “Hokku” in Kennedy 82.

[24] De Cristoforo. See also the Modern American Poetry Web page devoted to Japanese American Concentration Camp Haiku.
<http:// www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/haiku/haiku.htm>.
Accessed Aug. 15, 2005. Similar poems by Japanese Canadians, also often dealing with the problems of integration into Western society, were included in Howard and Duhaime. Modern Haiku published a substantial collection of internment camp haiku by Itaru Ina with his journal entries in issues 34:2 and 34:3 (2003).

[25] Higginson. Haiku Compass, 2. Charter members of the HSA were Frederika Blankner, Susan Braun, L.A. Davidson, Bernard Lionel Einbond, Harold G. Henderson, Frank Hoyt, Leroy and Mildred Kanterman, Elizabeth Searle Lamb, Milton Levenson, David Ellit Lit, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Marks, Mrs. Robert K. Munrow, Edythe Polster, Judith Riccia, Sydell Rosenberg, Eugene A. Ryan, Salvatore J. Tarantino, and Nicholas Virgilio.

[26] Presidents of the Haiku Society of America have been Leroy Kanterman 1968–69, Alfred Marks 1970, Elizabeth Searle Lamb 1971, Leroy Kanterman 1972, Anita Virgil 1973, Virginia Brady Young 1974, Bernard Lionel Einbond 1975, William J. Higginson 1976, Carl Fredericks 1977, Cor van den Heuvel 1978, Hiroaki Sato 1979–81, Geraldine C. Little 1982, Alexis K. Rotella 1983, Virginia Brady Young 1984–85, Penny Harter 1986, Adele Kenny 1987–88, Charles D. Nethaway, Jr. 1989, Adele Kenny 1990, Garry Gay 1991, Raffael de Gruttola 1992, Francine Porad 1993–94, Bruce Ross 1995, Barbara Ressler 1996, Lee Gurga 1997, Kristen Deming 1998, Paul O. Williams 1999, John Stevenson 2000, Jerry Ball 2001–02, Stanford M. Forrester 2003, and Charles Trumbull 2004–05.

[27] In early 1996 the function of newsletter editor was split from that of the HSA secretary. Dee Evetts became secretary and Charles Trumbull was named to edit and publish the HSA Newsletter, and its informational role was further expanded. Mark Brooks took over the editorship after the spring 2002 issue but managed only one issue before he was replaced by Pamela Miller Ness. Johnye Strickland became Newsletter editor in January 2005.

[28] The site was originated by John Hudak and designed by Jon Hensley, then redesigned and expanded in 2000–03 by Dave Russo in the newly created post of HSA Electronic Communications Officer. Russo handed the HSA Webmastership to Curtis Dunlap in 2004, and Gary Warner took over in 2005.

[29] Jensen, ed., Hands Full of Stars (1995), de Gruttola et al., eds., The Ant’s Afternoon (1990), and de Gruttola and Klein, eds., Voice of the Peeper (1999).

[30] Published as “Fusions of Survivance: Haiku Scenes and Native Dream Songs.” Modern Haiku 31:1 (winter-spring 2000), 37–47.

[31] National League of American Pen Women — Palomar Branch Web site.

[32] Penumbra Poetry Web site.

[33] Lilli Tanzer saw the magazine through its first years, turning editorship over to Geoffrey O’Brien in 1981. He was followed by Bruce Kennedy (1982), Alexis Rotella (1983–84), Elizabeth Searle Lamb (1984–90), Sylvia Forges-Ryan (1991–93), Elizabeth Searle Lamb a second time (1994), Kenneth C. Leibman (1995–97), Jim Kacian (1997–2004), and John Stevenson from 2005.

[34] Easter.

[35] Chameleon Web site.

[36] In 1980 the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, which takes special interest in seasonal words as a necessary element in haiku, issued an extra edition of its Haiku Journal entitled Season Words in English Haiku. This is what the Japanese call a kiyose, a list of English-language seasonal references and corresponding Japanese kigo. It is remarkable in that it also tabulates the occurrence of the seasonal words in eight haiku journals and anthologies.

[37] Books of translations of Issa’s haiku include The Autumn Wind (translated by Macken-zie, 1984), Issa: Cup-of-Tea Poems (Lanoue, 1991), The Dumpling Field (Stryk, 1991), and The Spring of My Life (Hamill, 1997).

[38] Among the books published in the United States are Cape Jasmine and Pomegranates: The Free-Meter Haiku of Ippekirô, translations by Soichi Furuta (1974); Mountain Tasting: Zen Haiku by Santôka Taneda, translations by John Stevens (1980); and Right Under the Big Sky, I Don’t Wear a Hat: The Haiku and Prose of Hôsai Ozaki, translations by Hiroaki Sato (1993); Grass and Tree Cairn [Santôka], also by Sato (2002); The Essence of Modern Haiku: 300 Poems by Seishi Yamaguchi, translated by Takashi Kodaira and Alfred H. Marks (1993); The Kobe Hotel [Saito Sanki], translated by Saito Masaya (1993); Sonô Uchida’s A Simple Universe (1995); Red Fuji: Selected Haiku of Yatsuka Ishihara, edited and translated by Tadashi Kondô and William J. Higginson (1997); Einstein’s Century: Akito Arima’s Hai-ku, translations by Emiko Miyashita and Lee Gurga (2001); Love Haiku: Masajo Suzuki’s Lifetime of Love, translations by Lee Gurga and Emiko Miyashita (2000); two volumes by Yoshiko Yoshino: Budding Sakura: Haiku, translated by Jack Stamm (2000), and Tsuru, translations by Lee Gurga and Emiko Miyashita (2001); Ban’ya Natsuishi’s A Future Water-fall, translations by Stephen Henry Gill, Jim Kacian, Ban’ya Natsuishi, and Susumu Taki-guchi (1999). Japanese haiku in many styles by twenty modern Japanese poets are gathered in Ueda’s Modern Japanese Haiku: An Anthology (1976). Studies on English Haiku by Atsuo Nakagawa (1976) contains a discussion of the Japanese “haiku renovators” beginning with Shiki, and then addresses the problems of translation and the various forms that have been tried in original Western haiku.

[39] Elizabeth Searle Lamb 1998–99, Jerry Kilbride 1999–2000, Robert Spiess 2000–01, Cor van den Heuvel 2001–02, Leroy Kanterman 2002–03, William J. Higginson 2003–04, Makoto Ueda 2004–05, and Francine Porad 2005–06 have been honored in this capacity over the years.

 

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