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Volume 37.1
Spring 2006

 

featured essay

 

The American Haiku Movement
Part II: American Haiku, The Internet And World Haiku

by
Charles Trumbull [1]

Rooted in classical Japanese haiku, the American haiku movement developed largely independently of events and personalities in Japan and Europe, although it was influenced in one or another way by both Eastern and Western poetry. During the evolution of American haiku, of course, other nations were learning of haiku and developing their own haiku traditions. Time had not stopped in the Orient either, and beginning in the 1890s the haiku genre was being thoroughly reexamined and redefined in Japan by Masaoka Shiki and his colleagues. Western aesthetics and literary ideas were also introduced in Japan and enthusiastically studied and discussed—all of which led to a rebirth of interest, a proliferation of haiku groups, and healthy redirection of Japanese haiku on its own path. For most of the twentieth century these developments at various points around the globe remained relatively isolated from one another, and it was not until fairly recently that the several movements here and there began to take cognizance of one another and a truly global haiku movement began to coalesce. The process has been infinitely accelerated through the agency of the Internet.

THE INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON OF HAIKU

Although English was the first Western language into which Japanese haiku were translated and printed, other language communities soon followed suit. An independent haiku tradition developed in Mexico around the person of José Juan Tablada, who was much moved by the art and poetry of Japan during a visit he made there in 1900. Spanish-language haiku evolved later in other countries of Latin America and attracted some notable authors, including the Argentine Jorge Luis Borges and the Mexican Octavio Paz. [2] The first rendering of Japanese haiku into French took place in 1903 in connection with an analysis of the English translations of Basil Hall Chamberlain, but in the same year three poets composed seventy-two haiku of their own in French while on a canal-boat cruise. By the time of World War I haiku was well established in France (Agostini). Haiku traveled to Germany from France in the satchels of poets such as Arno Holtz, who went to Paris in 1887, and Rainer Maria Rilke, who is known to have appreciated haiku and written a number of them himself in French around 1920 (Ludwig). The interest of Russians in Oriental culture and literature accompanied the state’s power projections to the eastern edges of the Asian continent in the late nineteenth century. Russian literary scholars and poets read the early English translations of Japanese haiku, and a rendering of W.H. Aston’s 1899 History of Japanese Literature into Russian dates from 1904. [3] Leading early twentieth century Russian poets Konstantin Bal’mont and Valery Bryusov were enchanted by haiku and especially the more lyrical tanka and sought to integrate the forms with the vers libre that they had gleaned from the French. Artists and poets from other countries in the French cultural orbit, such as Poland (Tomaszewska) and Romania (Anakiev, “From Movement”), were exposed to haiku via France in the early years of the twentieth century. In 1927, also after some years of study in France, Milov Crnjanski accomplished a translation of classical haiku into Serbo-Croatian in his Pesme starog Japana. (“Poems of Old Japan”). [4]

Exploring verse forms in world literature during the early years of the twentieth century, Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranth Tagore translated some haiku into Bengali in the 1920s (Dasgupta). There is an active haiku scene in India today, writing in Hindi and Tamil and other vernacular languages as well as English. Brazil benefited both by direct contacts between members of the large Japanese immigration in the country and the formal and aesthetic principles it gleaned from close cultural contact with Portugal and France. A large and flourishing haiku community exists today in Brazil that still reflects its dual Asian-European heritage. National haiku organizations were formed beginning in the late 1960s: the U.S. in 1968; Flemish Belgium in 1976; Canada 1977; The Netherlands 1980; Brazil 1987; Germany 1988; the United Kingdom 1990; Romania 1991; Croatia 1992; Serbia 1993; Slovenia 1997; Sweden 1999; and Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Australia 2000. Concomitant with the publication in 2003, 100 years after the first haiku translations appeared in French, of Anthologie du haïku en France, a major collection of French haiku, the Association Française de Haïku, France’s first national-level haiku group, was formed (Antonini). Irish haikuists rallied around a journal, Haiku Spirit, before founding an organization, Haiku Ireland, in 2005. Groups were reportedly coming together in Denmark [5] and Austria as well. Curiously, Mexico, with its long tradition of involvement with the haiku, has apparently never had a national-scale haiku organization.One of the first specialists in the West to recognize haiku’s global appeal was William J. Higginson, notably in his two books, The Haiku Seasons and Haiku World. The implications of the global World saijiki, or haiku almanac, in Haiku World are that a haiku term such as “Milky Way” is more or less universal. Higginson illustrates this point in Haiku World by citing Milky Way haiku by a South African, a Romanian, and a Japanese American living in Arizona (187). With Higginson’s book American haiku poets were made aware of a great body of work being done in languages other than English, and they were spurred to find common ground with poets of other nations. Moreover, of all publications to date, Haiku World most nearly approaches a global anthology. [6]

Other collections that put North American haiku in a broader context included Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology, Bruce Ross’s Haiku Moment, and Jim Kacian’s Red Moon Anthologies, the last of which included English-language haiku composed in countries other than the United States and a few translations from other languages as well. A British-Canadian-American effort entitled Global Haiku: Twenty-five Poets Worldwide, prepared by George Swede and Randy Brooks for the Global Haiku Festival in Decatur, Ill., in April 2000, broke no new ground and was hardly global, since only anglophone poets numbered among the twenty-five who were included, although the selection of individual haiku was inspired. Canadian André Duhaime’s Web site (and parallel 1998 print publication) called Haïku sans frontières, however, combines high-quality haiku with good Web design and breadth of coverage (more than 2,000 haiku from 27 countries or language communities). This collection gives the text of the haiku in the original language and in French, and provides biographical sketches of the authors as well as French translations of significant Web and print articles about haiku. The Belgian Serge Tomé has organized and categorized the mystifyingly diverse Southeast European haiku scene on his Temps Libres / Free Times Web site. The World Haiku Association (WHA) started a Web site that invited haiku contributions from around the world. These were screened by a staff of national / language editors and posted on an anthology-like site not dissimilar to Haïku sans frontières.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN JAPAN . . .

Following the death of haiku reformer Masaoka Shiki in 1902, haiku in Japan underwent tumultuous development. The rejuvenated haiku movement that Shiki had left behind soon split into a more traditional, yuki teikei branch with Takahama Kyoshi in the lead, and a radical New Trend movement, exempliflied by Kawahigashi Hekigodô and Nakatsuka Ippekirô, that de-emphasized the formal strictures and concentrated on subjectivity and freedom of thought and feeling. Poets such as Taneda Santôka and Ozaki Hôsai abandoned the traditional structure of the haiku entirely, even as they were abandoning traditional structure in their personal lives. In the 1930s various strains of left-wing and proletarian haiku emerged, and women haiku poets began to gain respect (Ueda). The wartime years saw the enlistment of haiku poets in the aims of the Japanese militarist regime. An avant-garde haiku movement, bent largely on provoking controversy, took shape after the war, and the strong trend of socially conscious haiku also continued into the postwar period. In time, these trends were overlaid with the New Wave, which put great stock in using vibrancy of images and up-to-date rather than classical haiku language. Recently some haiku poets and commentators have advanced the term “gendai (‘modern’ or ‘contemporary’) haiku” to describe a twentieth-century development in haiku poetics, but no clear definition or manifesto of “gendai haiku” has appeared in English (or, most likely, Japanese), and those mentions that do exist often seem merely defensive and exclusionary. [7] As the economic position of Japan improved through the 1970s and 1980s, however, and despite the rapid growth of the Japanese haiku superstructure and the ability of organizations there to mount ever more elaborate meetings and other activities, haiku was seeming old-fashioned and irrelevant to many Japanese. Classes and independent groups were even formed to work in English, some Japanese poets apparently finding it refreshing to write haiku without the full weight of a 300-year-old haiku tradition on their shoulders.

THE JAPANESE DISCOVER AMERICAN HAIKU

If English-language haikuists were slow to move beyond the deep shadows cast by Matsuo Bashô, poets in Japan also were slow to acknowledge the American haiku phenomenon. This is partly because of a deep-rooted, quasiofficial belief that haiku is a Japanese genre that cannot be fully understood, much less practiced, by foreigners. [8] Gradually, however, haiku in English came to the attention of the Japanese, and over the years there has developed a certain respect, albeit grudging, of the art of haiku as practiced abroad. Part of the change may stem from an official realization in Japan of the public-relations or cultural-exchange potential of haiku. For their part American poets over the years have felt secure enough in their conviction that haiku is more than a Japanese verse and that valid haiku may be written in other languages, especially English. Accordingly, Americans have been content not to look to contemporary Japan for guidance or inspiration, although for many years there has been a handful of Japanese journals to provide such if it were wanted.The growth of Japanese interest in English-language haiku was paralleled by a string of periodicals that made a concerted effort to present English-language haiku to an international audience. Haiku Spotlight, a postcard publication, was edited by Nobuyuki Takahashi in Matsuyama, Japan. Postcards appeared weekly beginning in 1968 through the final No. 70, April 4, 1970. Presumably this was the first Japanese publication devoted entirely to English-language haiku (a rare translation of modern Japanese haiku was included). The publication included some haiku written in English by Japanese poets, but for the most part the four to five haiku on each card were by English, Canadian, and American poets. Poetry Nippon, magazine of the Poetry Society of Japan, was apparently for some years the only poetry magazine that regularly included haiku published in English. It was joined in 1977 by the international haiku magazine Outch, edited by Hirasawa Nobuo and published at first in the United States, later—until its demise in 1985—in Japan. New Cicada, perhaps the most influential of the Japanese magazines featuring English-language haiku materials, was a continuation of the North American journal Cicada and was published from 1984 to 1996. In 1978 Katô Kôko launched a monthly journal in Japanese titled , and in 1987 she began issuing an English version twice yearly. Azumi was a remarkable labor of love for haiku poet Santo Ikkoku, who personally selected, translated, assembled, photocopied, stapled, and mailed for free each issue of this irregularly appearing journal from December 1991 until his death at age 89 in 1999. HI: Haiku International, the bimonthly journal of the Haiku International Association, published in English since 1995, includes haiku and essays by members from many countries. The membership is segregated into “clubs,” with non-Japanese foreign submissions gathered into one section in the journal. The mostly Japanese-language Ginyu, edited by Natsuishi Ban’ya, publishes some haiku in English, but this journal is not yet well known or widely circulated in the West. All of these Japanese periodicals have suffered from highly variable translation and editing of English material. None yet has succeeded in bridging the gap between the communities in the haiku motherland and the English-speaking world or can be said to be providing a focal point or leadership for a world haiku movement.

More popular in the West have been the haiku columns in the English editions of the main Japanese newspapers, monthly in the “Haiku in English” column of the Mainichi shimbun (Hashimoto Isamu took over as selector after the death of the respected Satô Kazuo in 2005; the paper also sponsors a prestigious haiku contest) and biweekly in Asahi shimbun (“Asahi Haikuist Network” column, edited by David McMurray), both of which have expanded their popularity via Web sites. Yomiuri shimbun had a similar haiku column, edited by Uchida, that was discontinued in 1997, but its English-language Daily Yomiuri Web site has featured a monthly column of instruction and criticism by World Haiku Club (WHC) founder Susumu Takiguchi, called “Go-Shichi-Go” (“5–7–5”), since mid-2002.

The situation is little different on the American side of the Pacific. It cannot be said that Western haiku poets can find enough journal translations and other information about contemporary Japanese haiku and criticism to keep up adequately. No American periodical has yet appeared that is dedicated to the study or propagation of contemporary Japanese haiku. The journals Dragonfly and Modern Haiku, however, were remarkable in this regard for their presentation of articles about and translations of contemporary Japanese haiku (see the discussion of these publications in Part I).

On an informal basis, by the late 1980s haiku poets around the world were gradually becoming aware of each other, and tentative contacts were beginning to be made. Two Japanese guests, Yamamoto Kenkichi and Mori Sumio, were invited to participate in the festivities celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Haiku Society of America (HSA) on September 17, 1978. In July 1987 Higginson and his wife, the poet Penny Harter, visited Japan for ten days in connection with the publication of their manual, The Haiku Handbook. The first joint American-Japanese haiku conference was held in San Francisco on November 8, 1987. It was cosponsored by Japan Air Lines, the new Nikko–San Francisco Hotel, where the conference was held, and the Association of Japanese Haiku Poets, whose president, Sawaki Kin’ichi, led a delegation of nearly forty haiku poets. About 130 American haiku poets attended. Shôkan Tadashi Kondô and his wife, the American Kristine Young Kondô, led a group of six Japanese poets on the Renku North America Tour in 1992, spreading word about Japanese-style linked verse among haiku poets in several U.S. cities. Another prime mover of the international haiku movement, Ion Codrescu, a poet and sumi-e artist from Constanta, Romania, and his poet/translator wife, Mihaela, made a two-month cross-country journey through the United States in 1996. [9] Perhaps the most spectacular haiku trip, however, was the round-the-world odyssey undertaken by Jim Kacian, then editor of the HSA journal Frogpond, from August to November 2000. Visiting nine countries—the U.K., Slovenia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan—he spread the good news about haiku over hill and dale. Another point of contact has been between Japanese haiku poets who were resident in the West because of their studies or jobs in the decades after World War II [10] and Westerners who lived in Japan and were able to study and become involved in haiku activities in the other country. Since the 1990s there has been an abundance of short, informal visits between poets of the two countries.

A pivotal institution in Japanese-American haiku relations has been the Museum of Haiku Literature, located in Tokyo. The museum has included English-language haiku publications and literary works by Western poets in its collections. Satô Kazuo, the founding director of the International Division and the resident specialist on international haiku, began his long and significant association with the English-language haiku movement in the mid- to late 1970s—acting as an ambassador of haiku to increase communication between the haiku communities throughout the world. He published a book for the Japanese audience, Haiku Crosses the Sea: Foreigners’ Views of Haiku in 1990. Satô died in 2005.

In 1989 the three major haiku societies in Japan joined to form the Haiku International Association, a new umbrella organization, to interact with haiku organizations abroad. Within ten years, links had been forged with groups in fourteen countries. [11] In June 1990 the HIA sent an enormous contingent, some eighty poets, to participate in its inaugural event, the Japan-Germany Grand Haiku Conference, in Bad Homburg, Germany. The HIA has organized a number of activities in Japan (which typically have attracted hundreds or thousands of Japanese and a handful of foreigners) such as the First International Contemporary Symposium on Haiku in Tokyo in 1999. In October 1995 an HIA delegation traveled to the United States for Haiku Chicago, the first-ever meeting between representatives of all three Japanese organizations and the Haiku Society of America. The affair was arranged on the American side by haiku poets Lee Gurga in Illinois and Kristen Deming in Tokyo, chaired jointly by HSA President Bruce Ross and HIA delegation head and president of the Aki (“Autumn”) haiku group Ishihara Yatsuka, and conducted in English and Japanese. A reciprocal visit to Japan, the Second International HIA/HSA Joint Conference, took place in Tokyo on April 19–20, 1997.

HAIKU IN CYBERSPACE

During the 1990s the American haiku movement in a sense recapitulated its early history. Thanks to the Internet, thousands of new poets were attracted to haiku. In the process of interacting and learning, they trod the same ground that the pioneers of American haiku had traversed in the decades before. The Internet revolutionized the study and exchange of haiku and globalized what had been a localized activity. “One strength of the Internet,” as A.C. Missias, the editor of the journal Acorn, points out, “is that individuals from widely dispersed geographical areas can easily meet in cyberspace as they could rarely do in reality, to exchange their ideas, projects and even their libraries.” [12]

“Internet” is an umbrella term for a number of activities, the most important of which for the flourishing of haiku have been electronic mail (e-mail), which enables the establishment of “mailing lists,” and the World Wide Web (WWW), which provides a semipermanent location in cyberspace that can accommodate text, photos and other graphics, sounds and animation, and even interactive elements, including e-mail. Internet mailing lists are central to the formation of small haiku “cybergroups,” in which a handful of participants can share messages with the whole group, debate theory and craft, and offer up their recent creations for group critique. Hundreds or thousands of such groups, formal or ad hoc, have sprung up to discuss all imaginable subjects.

One delightfully haiku-simple example of a haiku mailing list is Tinywords, a project of D.F. Tweney’s: one haiku a day is e-mailed to subscribers. [13] Internet “chat rooms” make available a cyberspace meeting place where several persons can gather electronically and conduct real-time conversations. Instead of meeting in person, for example, the few HSA members who constitute the Alaska Region, have held monthly Internet chat-room sessions. The paradigm for an Internet haiku mailing list, however, was the Shiki Internet Haiku Salon, which was active for six and a half years (from July 7, 1994, to December 31, 2000) under the stewardship of the Shiki Team, a group of haiku poets from Matsuyama, Japan. [14] The Shiki site provided an online forum for the discussion of haiku theory and practice and the posting and critique of haiku by anyone who wished to do so. Many beginning haiku poets cut their teeth there, several pseudohaiku poets were shown the light and brought to realize what they had been missing, and even accomplished poets found useful critiques of their latest work. Because Shiki Salon membership was unregulated and the communications were unmonitored—i.e., anyone could post anything they pleased—there developed frequent “flame wars”—vicious, sometimes scatological or ad hominem attacks—that drove many poets off the list. Turnover was high. Besides the very heavy traffic of postings on the Shiki list (scores of messages a day), the newsgroup also featured, from March 1996, a biweekly kukai, a democratic variation on the popular Japanese practice of poets’ submitting haiku blind to a sensei to be read aloud and critiqued. Everyone was invited to send haiku on predetermined themes. The secretariat would then compile all submissions and post them, without authors’ names, to the entire list. Those poets who had submitted were eligible to vote for their favorites, and in the final step the scores were announced and the winners noted. This proved a highly popular and durable diversion, and upwards of fifty submissions would typically be received for each contest each fortnight. [15] Annual haiku contests, run in a fashion similar to the kukai, were another popular activity in the Shiki Salon. [16] The Shiki Salon was revived in September 2002 under the aegis of a new Web entity, Shiki Haiku Sphere and with a new name, the NOBO mailing list. At the same time, the Shiki Workshop Mailing List was shut down, although the kukai was continued under the new management.

Other popular haiku-oriented mailing lists have included Cricket (membership by invitation), Haikutalk (by Gerald England in the U.K.), John Polozzolo’s Raku Teapot (remarkable for the number of haiku old-timers who enrolled as well as the strong orientation toward graphic arts; the group published an anthology and CD of members’ work in 2003), and the several mailing lists of the WHC. In August 2001 Mark Brooks started an online haiku reading group and a few months later the “haijinx weekly wire,” the web journal Haijinx in installments, and the “haikai.info/haikai.org (hiho) project,” an electronic newsletter service. In recent years a few haiku “schools” developed on the framework of the Internet mailing lists. Hokku-Inn was begun in 1999 by a devoted admirer of R.H. Blyth, David Coomler, who taught in an authoritarian, old-school manner and promoted his notion of “hokku—not to be confused with contemporary haiku”—on his Hokku-Inn Web site. [17] Two e-schools were founded under the auspices of the WHC World Haiku Journal in 2001 . WHJ principal Susumu Takiguchi himself leads the Traditional Japanese School, which is dedicated to the yuki teikei tenets, while Ferris Gilli is “schoolmarm” of the Shintai (New Style Haiku) School, usually called the Hibiscus School.

The second great innovation of the Internet is the WWW. Creation and design of a Web site are so simple and maintenance so cheap that literally millions of people have flocked to set up their personal Web pages. Many of these are banal in the extreme—photos of the family dog or monuments to a favorite rock star—but much of value and interest was made available too. Within a few years, the Web began to look like a huge flea market, with everyone lining the verges of the Internet highway with whatever he or she found interesting. Not only haiku but civilization itself seemed to be recapitulating, and caveat emptor was the watchword.

Internet mailing lists and Web sites have sometimes evolved into online electronic haiku journals, or “e-zines.” Among haiku journals, the first to bloom was Dogwood Blossoms, the creation of Gary Warner in early 1993. Flourishing before the WWW was widely in use, the dozen issues of this magazine that appeared were text-based, not graphical.The Web site Chaba under Webmaster John Hudak featured a few quality haiku in a fresh, attractive format. Reflections—A Haiku Diary was begun by Harsangeet Kaur Bhullar in Singapore in 1996. Poetry in the Light or Haiku Light was a well maintained and functional site, regularly updated for a time by Elizabeth St Jacques in Sault Ste Marie, Ont., that featured not only haiku by wide range of contemporary practitioners but also articles, commentary, linked verse, and other short poetry genres such as the Korean sijo. In late 2001 Haiku Light featured a moving collection of poetry and comments on the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Unfortunately, none of these fine early Web sites have been kept up to date.

The Web offers a variety of haiku journals. The Heron’s Nest, which first appeared in late 1999, was remarkable in that it bridged the Web and print-journal worlds and found immediate popularity and status within the haiku community. Editor Christopher Herold applied the highest standards of editorship to the monthly project, including, after he augmented the editorial staff with Paul MacNeil and Ferris Gilli — perhaps for the first time in Web haiku journal publishing — rigorous editorial review of submissions, i.e., decisions made by more than a single “selector.” Webmaster Alex Benedict created a good-looking, functional Web site to house the editorial content. The Heron’s Nest was also available from the outset in an 81/ x 11 format by mail, and in January 2002 it changed to a saddle-stitched digest format. In mid-2002 Peggy Willis Lyles was added to the editorial staff and Paul David Mena replaced Benedict as Webmaster; Robert Gillespie was later added as editor as well. From 2005 the journal became an online quarterly with an annual print compilation.

Agnieszka’s Dowry [18] began its existence as an electronic poetry journal in 1995 and fully realized the potential of Web graphics and hyperspace such that exploring an issue of the journal became a fascinating multimedia experience. Haijinx, which saw life for a few issues in 2001–02, was a quarterly e-journal with happy graphics launched by Mark Brooks in March 2001 with the pledge to publish on the solstices and equinoxes. Haijinx boasted an international editorial staff and team-selection of haiku. Roadrunner, by Jason Stanford Brown (2004) with a Southwest coloration, and Lishanu, a multilingual site by Norman Darlington (2005), are promising recent additions to the Web journal field. In addition to these “e-zines,” many print journals offered derivative Web sites, often beautifully designed, as is the case with A.C. Missias’s Acorn, Kathleen P. Decker’s Chiyo’s Corner, Randy and Shirley Brooks’s Mayfly, and Randy Brooks’s Modern Haiku sites.

Somewhere between electronic haiku journals and individual Web pages are sites that contain potpourris of haiku-related materials. Dhugal J. Lindsay’s Haiku Universe was one of the first such omnibus Web sites, containing mostly essays and commentary by Lindsay himself but also with links to important articles by others, back issues of Lindsay’s journal Fuyoh (“Rose Mallow”), and useful links to other Web sites. Jane and Werner Reichhold’s AHA! Poetry is the most comprehensive such site, containing all manner of information, examples, contests, games, essays, and reviews about haiku and other short poetic forms. Denis Garrison’s Haiku Harvest has an international cast to it and features a print version as well as a well designed Web site. Two “megajournals” combine the protean content of an omnibus haiku Web site with the periodicity of a Web journal: Takiguchi’s World Haiku Journal (the embodiment of the WHC) and Robert D. Wilson’s Simply Haiku.

Less grand but well presented personal Web sites featuring haiku by some of the better known poets include (from among dozens) those of Marlene Mountain and Michael Dylan Welch, The Long Road Home by Garry Gay (haiku and photographs), and The Haiku and Zen World of James W. Hackett. In recent months some haiku poets have begun haiku blogs (Web logs) for online discussions or, more commonly, posting of haiku for critiquing. [19] Many haiku organizations maintain Web sites with current information of interest to prospective and actual members as well as archival materials. The HSA Web site, for example, includes a collection of haiku that have won its annual contests.

The proliferation of Web sites often makes it difficult to find one’s way through cyberspace. On-line guides to haiku Web sites and other publications include Michael P. Garofalo’s annotated and exhaustive Title Index to Haiku Webpages and Print Resources; The Open Directory Project, Haiku and Related Forms, a listing of Web resources about haiku, etc., with the advantage of wonderful characterizations of each entry by Higginson; Mark Alan Osterhaus’s Haiku Home; and Magazines Publishing Haiku, Senryu, Tanka, Renga, Haibun, Sijo, Sedoka, originally compiled by Pamelyn Casto and Mandy Smith in England—an excellent source of addresses and information that includes short notes about each journal. Paper Lanterns Web site, now defunct, had a listing of journals as well as book publishers for haiku and other Oriental forms and topics.

For all the vigorous and resplendent growth, the proliferation of Web sites and the easy availability of haiku on the Internet have a down side. First is the problem of quality control: Internet surfers are more likely to encounter pseudohaiku or poor quality poetry and bad advice than are readers of print publications. A Web site may give the impression of a being conventional publication, but a better analogy might be a poet posting a handwritten note on a grocery-store bulletin board. Second, posting haiku on the Internet has blurred the concept of “publication,” both in terms of copyright protection for the poets and what constitutes prior publication of a haiku that might be considered for a contest or print periodical.

QUI CUSTODIET?

By the 1990s, haiku was recognized as a phenomenon that was happening around the world, attracting poets of all backgrounds and cultures. Haiku was still not truly global, but the gulf that existed in contests, journals, and meetings between Japanese haiku, English-language haiku, and haiku in other languages was beginning to shrink. With the shaping of a truly global haiku movement the question began to be raised: Who’s in charge here? A struggle for primacy and control of the world haiku movement was underway. The various factions began to make themselves known in a hectic series of more or less global meetings, organization start-ups, and manifestos beginning in the late 1990s.

Five major international haiku meetings took place in the space of fourteen months in 1999–2000. The First International Contemporary Haiku Symposium was held on July 11, 1999, in Tokyo under the sponsorship of the Modern Haiku Association, one of the three major umbrella organizations in Japan. The international aspect of the Tokyo conference was the attendance of Martin Berner of Germany, Alain Kervern of France, and Tito (Stephen Gill), a Briton resident in Japan, as well as Natsuishi Ban’ya, representing Japan. The seven-point “Tokyo Haiku Manifesto 1999” that issued from their deliberations represented the laying down of the MHA’s agenda for the development of a new world haiku order. It included statements to the effect that season words are not necessary in haiku and may be replaced by “keywords” that are not related to the seasons and so may transcend national boundaries; that “originality” is the paramount criterion for world haiku; that the rhythm and sound characteristics of each language should be utilized for haiku; that “cutting words” are especially important; and that more translations are necessary in order to foster international haiku.

Matsuyama, the proud home town of Shiki and the locus of the Internet haiku activities carried on in his name, registered its bid as the leader of the international haiku movement with the issuance of the Matsuyama Declaration of September 12, 1999. This document announced the intention to “establish an International Haiku Research Center in order in facilitate research, writing, training, publication, awarding prizes and disseminating information, etc. to contribute to the development of haiku as poetry of the world,” the convening of a biennial haiku festival in Matsuyama or some other world city, the inauguration of international haiku awards to “Nobel Prize-class poets,” the judging of haiku from around the world every year, and the publication of documents and regular reports. The authors of the Matsuyama Declaration went on to make a case for haiku as the quintessential global poem. The haiku awards promised in the Matsuyama Declaration came to pass the following year. The Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Grand Prize was awarded on September 19, 2000, to French poet Yves Bonnefoy, with other prizes going to Li Mang of the People’s Republic of China, Bart Mesotten of Belgium, Robert Spiess of the U.S., and Satô Kazuo of Japan. [20] The second round of awards, announced in May 2002, included a Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prize for American haiku pioneer Cor van den Heuvel; poet Gary Snyder was similarly honored in 2004. [21]

Though no lofty manifestos or permanent organizations grew from it, the Global Haiku Festival organized by Randy Brooks and Lee Gurga at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., April 14–16, 2000, proved to be the most global of the haiku gatherings to date. Just over 100 people attended, including invited speakers from the U.K., Canada, Japan, and France. Presentations were heard on the history and practice of haiku in those countries plus Germany and the Balkans, as well as on the haiku of Richard Wright and Jack Kerouac.

The World Haiku Festival 2000, the brainchild of Susumu Takiguchi, was a loose collection of events that took place in the United Kingdom and Japan over a several-year period but concentrated in 2000. According to the Festival Web site, the events were organized by the World Haiku Club (which had been founded for the purpose) with a variety of influential patrons and backers. The main events of the festival were held in London and Oxford, August 25–30, 2000, and registered ninety-three participants from sixteen countries, with Japan and the United Kingdom being especially well represented. Three Americans were present. The winners of three WHF competitions—for haiku, essays, and achievements — with prize money totaling £1,900—about $2,750 — were announced. [22] The World Haiku Club continues in existence, actively sponsoring a number of mailing lists for all manner of special interests in the haiku world, from Spanish-language haiku, to multimedia, to other East Asian verse forms [23] and has published several issues of its Web journal World Haiku Review. In spring 2002, while gearing up for another round of festivities in Japan in September, the WHC sponsored an Internet haiku tournament.

Many attendees of the World Haiku Festival 2000 proceeded directly from England to southeastern Europe to participate in the inaugural meeting of a rival organization, the World Haiku Association, that was held in Tolmin, Slovenia, September 1–3, 2000. The WHA conference participant list included sixty-three names, including twenty-two from Japan and two from the United States. Six months after the Tolmin meeting, the WHA had established a Web site and set up a network of national editors to gather haiku and other material to populate it. Other projects reportedly underway were a world haiku anthology, a saijiki based on keywords rather than the traditional seasonal words, a history of world haiku, and international meetings.

The themes and discussions of both the WHF 2000 and the WHA — as well as the two large conferences in Japan in 1999 — contained more than a hint of concern in Japan and continental Europe about the galloping preeminence of English as the language of international haiku and a worry that the American haiku style might be overwhelming the traditions of other nations — those of the smaller nationalities in particular, but even the Japanese. The preferred solution seemed to be a sort of entente between the Japanese avant-garde and non-English-speaking European haiku poets to counter the American model, which was seen as bound up with compositional rules, excessively Zen-suffused, and often lacking in “haiku spirit.” Anakiev, the Slovenian cofounder of the WHA, articulated these worries directly,

In American haiku there is a very strong tendency toward “mass production” of haiku.… They have an extensive haiku base on which they have imposed strict rules. This is, in fact, a standardisation that does not help real poetry. If your poem does not meet these standards, you can not publish it in prominent journals. So, if European poets want to publish in an American journal, they need not worry about the poetic level, only about the poem meeting standards. This situation is very dangerous because of the important role of English, which has put American haiku in the leading position. Haiku of the smaller languages could become Americanized, standardized, “factory-made.” We discussed these problems at the World Haiku Association conference this year (Anakiev, “Haiku”).

Takiguchi, too, has spoken of the crisis of modern haiku: “It has been pointed out that symptoms of the deterioration include stagnation of existing haiku movements, lowering of the standards and quality of haiku, commercialisation of haiku, factional rivalries, self-aggrandizement and deterioration and corruption generally” (Takiguchi 7). He promised The Guardian newspaper shortly before WHF2000, “the festival would challenge an American influenced ‘minimalist’ trend towards single-line haikus [sic] which groped for ‘a moment of enlightenment’ in the style of Zen Buddhism.” Replying to purists who insist on strict adherence to ancient Japanese rules, he added, “Diversity and difference do need to be encouraged” (Ezard).

Back in Japan, the Haiku International Association made a move to expand its influence over global haiku by launching its own omnibus Japanese/English Web site on July 1, 2002. The site featured separate pages for historical topics, essays, contests, links to other sites, and collections of haiku. The HIA ran an international haiku contest since 1999 and sponsored a series of lecture meetings. [24]

The pace of international meeting has let up only slightly: a second round of the WHC’s World Haiku Festival, including a trip along the route that Bashô followed to the “Deep North,” took place in September 2002 in Akita, Japan. [25] Yet another activity of the World Haiku Club, this one called the World Haiku Festival in Holland, took place not exactly in Holland but in Leeuwarden, Friesland, September 12–14, 2003. It was decided to launch World Haiku Review, a global haiku print journal to parallel the established Web journal, in spring 2004, as well as “to bring a world-wide dimension to European haiku.” (The print journal, under the editorship of Milivoje Objedovic in the Netherlands, was announced on December 24, 2005.) World Haiku Festival 2005, held from June 15 to 20 in Constanta, Romania, attracted a number of leading haiku poets and featured numerous trips to sites of historic and tourist interest. A second World Haiku Association gathering took place October 3–5, 2003, in Tenri City, Nara prefecture, Japan, with Ban’ya as host (Natsuishi, “Report”), and a third WHA conference hosted by the Bulgarian Haiku Club convened in Sofia, July 15–18, 2005 (“The 3rd World Haiku Association Conference”). A Pacific Rim Conference, involving specialists from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, was organized by then HSA President Jerry Ball October 30–November 3, 2002, in Long Beach, Calif.26 This was followed by a second conference, on November 19–21, 2004, in Ogaki, Japan (Deodhar), with plans for another in New Zealand at a future date. In October 2003 a small but significant meeting of Polish, American, and Japanese haiku poets took place in Kraków, Poland (Trumbull). The First European Haiku Congress, organized by the German Haiku Society at Bad Nauheim, Germany, on May 13–15, 2005, attracted some sixty poets from a dozen European countries and Japan (Friebel and Börner). An Italian-inspired Euro-Japan Poetry festival in Tokyo in early December 2005 involved some major European poets, including haikuists.

At the end of 2005, then, there were four significant institutions concerned with the globalization of haiku — as well as a great deal of interest and activity in other quarters. The Tokyo-based Haiku International Association successfully gathered Japanese haiku poets from various groups and provided a unified organizational framework for them to be represented abroad. The HIA’s activities were concentrated on its journal, HI, international conferences in Japan, and Japanese group participation in meetings abroad. Haiku activities in Matsuyama, Japan, under the loose management of the Ehime Prefecture Cultural Foundation included the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Awards, the most prestigious honor in world haiku, and the influential Shiki Internet Haiku Salon, a project located at Matsuyama University. The two world haiku organizations that had been founded in the West in 2000 with democratic ideals grew in unexpected directions. [27] By the end of 2005 both had turned into reflections of the classical haiku school model, i.e., broad-based organizations ruled by a single Japanese sensei. The World Haiku Club of Susumu Takiguchi articulated itself through a series of international festivals and its umbrella Web site, which encompassed an astonishing variety of Web-based haiku activities. Natsuishi Ban’ya’s World Haiku Association also sponsored a series of international meetings as well as a global anthology in the Web and a thick annual of haiku and criticism, World Haiku.

CONCLUSION

The trajectory of the American haiku movement into the twenty-first century is clear. Globalization will accelerate as exchange and discussion of haiku becomes easier and faster. American poets will be reading more haiku from other nations and exploring the universality of the human condition. It will be especially challenging to find common ground between Japanese haikuists, who must overcome their superciliousness toward gaijin haiku, and American haiku poets, who bridle at any tug of the halter, especially by foreigners, or at being in any way pigeonholed as creative artists. The fact that most Japanese and Americans still cannot speak each other’s language will continue to hamper the development of a global haiku.

World haiku is a reality, but it still has its strong regional dialects. Although there may be slight stylistic differences among poets writing in English, haiku by poets from the U.S., U.K., and Australia / New Zealand are much more similar to one another than to contemporary Japanese, European, or Latin American haiku. Modern Japanese haiku, to American ears, often seem abstract or even surrealistic. European haiku, on the other hand, often seem to us to be more mindful of classical Japanese haiku form (especially syllable count) and closely tied to European poetic traditions. European work is much more likely than American haiku, for example, to rely on Western poetic devices such as simile, metaphor, and personification for their impact. We might speculate that haiku in European countries and Latin America is widely considered a branch of poetry, unlike the situation in Japan, where haiku has always been a separate artistic endeavor, or America, where haiku has been largely scorned by mainstream poets who have regarded these short verses as trivial, puerile, or banal.

Impeding American haiku poets’ progress toward gaining better status for our art is the overproduction of mediocre and formulaic haiku. This glut is partially owing to the ready, uncritical audience on the Internet, but it is partly the result of the toothlessness of much haiku criticism. The American haiku movement often seems to be becoming an “old boys’ club,” in which it is considered impolite or indiscreet to tell the truth out loud about the work of one’s fellow poets.

Looking inwardly at the American haiku, there is no indication that the arguments that occupied the critics in the early years of American haiku and are being recapitulated at the turn of the century have been resolved. Poets are still writing haiku in anything from one to four lines and anything from strict three-line, 5–7–5 syllabic structure to free-form minimalism. The border between haiku and senryu or even zappai has not been delineated, and Ameri- can poets seem disinclined to adopt hard-and-fast definitions. The scholarly debate about the relationship of Zen to haiku has recently been rekindled, and another relatively new battle line has been drawn with the introduction of keyword theory to challenge the traditional seasonal topics in haiku—these issues will surely percolate through the next decade at least. More and more authors are exploring haiku-related arts such as haibun, haiga, and linkedverse forms.

Institutionally, the American haiku movement is strong, with membership figures growing at healthy rates and new haiku organizations and Web sites springing up in the U.S. almost weekly. The haiku journal scene is active and has received a useful reinforcement from quality electronic publications. Broadsheets and chapbooks — often desktop-published by an author or a haiku club — continue to be the most useful vehicles for an author to make a statement. Selected and collected works of major haiku poets, sometimes in hardback library editions, are appearing as well, and anthologies are positively flourishing. In all, the American haiku movement finds itself in fine fettle at the beginning of the new millennium.

END NOTES

[1] An earlier version of this paper entitled “American Haiku, World Haiku,” was presented at the International Haiku Conference, Manggha Center of Japanese Arts and Techniques, Kraków, Poland, October 4, 2003.

[2] Examples of the haiku of both authors may be found on El rincón del haiku Web site. See also Swede and Krumins.

[3] The translation, by V. Mendin and published in Vladivostok, was reviewed by “Apreliy” [V. Bryusov?] in Vesy 9, 1904, 68–70.

[4] Cited in Anakiev, “From Movement.” See also Crnjanski.

[5] The existence of such a group is mentioned in passing in a communication from Dick Pettit to the Web journal Lynx 19 (June 2, 2004).

[6] One might also mention other international anthologies in English: the massive but quirky Haiku International Anthology “the leaves are back on the tree” (2002) edited by Zoe Savina in Greece, Knots—The Anthology of Southeastern European Haiku Poetry (1999) A Dozen Tongues 2000, comprising twelve haiku about children written in as many languages, each translated into all the others; a follow-up volume, A Dozen Tongues 2001: Our Vanishing Wilderness; and Ban’ya Natsuishi’s Haiku Troubadours (2000), a collection of 255 haiku in the original languages and Japanese.

[7] See, for example, Robert Wilson’s interview with Richard Gilbert in Simply Haiku (spring 2005), and Gilbert’s “The Miraculous Power of Language: A Conversation with Hoshinaga Fumio.” Modern Haiku 35:3 (autumn 2004). Prominent Japanese haiku poet, critic, and publisher Natsuishi Ban’ya replied to a direct inquiry about gendai haiku in these terms: “[I]n Japan people use this term quite confusedly, without knowing its definition. For me, ‘gendai haiku’ is my haiku” (personal communication, November 30, 2005).

[8] Even today, when referring to non-Japanese verse, the word “haiku” is likely to be written in katakana, the script used for foreign words, to distinguish the efforts of gaijin from home-grown Japanese haiku. In the essays in his book Japan and Western Civilization (1983), Kuwabara Takeo makes the point that the Japanese, while eager for intercultural exchange with the West, see it as a one-way street because they view Japanese language and culture as too difficult and too bound up with national history and tradition to be accessible by foreigners.

[9] Codrescu was the founder of the Constanta Haiku Society, the publisher of the bilingual international haiku journals Albatros / Albatross and Hermitage, and organizer of two European Haiku festivals, in 1992 and 1994.

[10] These include Uchida Sonô, who studied at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, in the 1950s and subsequently held positions in Japanese diplomatic missions on four continents, including the post of consul-general in Seattle, Wash., and ambassador to Senegal and Morocco. Another was Arima Akito, a physicist who came to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago in 1959 on a Fulbright grant, taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the 1970s, and later became president of Tokyo University as well as a cabinet minister. Tadashi Kondô, who studied at the University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale, and returned to the United States many times afterward, was a founder and president of the Association for International Renku. Sujû Takano studied at Heidelberg University in Germany, and Natsuishi Ban’ya was a guest research fellow in Paris from 1996 to 1998.

[11] Natsuishi Ban’ya. “After Avant-garde Haiku to Contemporary Haiku, 1971–1999,” in Japanese Haiku 2001, 43–49.

[12] A.C. Missias. “The Cyber Pond.” Frogpond 21:1 (1998). This was the inaugural column in a series that provided much useful information about haiku on the Internet.

[13] Subscribing to Tinywords is free, of course. The haiku are also archived on a Web site. Another interesting project (though not on the Internet) is Carlos Colón’s Electronic Poetry Project, in which one short poem a day was posted on an electronic message board in the Shreve Memorial Library, Shreveport, La. The project began in November 1997 and later spawned a Web page with archives of the poetry as well as a book, The Best of the Electronic Poetry Network. Tom Clausen began a similar project in the spring of 2002 using the computer network of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

[14] The original Shiki team included five Japanese—Shin’ichi Bekku, Miyamoto Hideaki, Ôtomi Hitoshi, Inoue Hiromi, and Tanaka Kimiyo —and one American, Fred Bremmer, under the leadership of Prof. Sumioka Manabu, the chief of the Matsuyama University Computer Center. Under pressure from haiku fans who were complaining about people posting tanka to the Shiki list, the Shiki Tanka newsgroup was added on May 30, 1997; it was discontinued at the end of 2000 but resumed operation in October 2002. In order to accommodate those who wanted more instruction and less freewheeling critique of their posted haiku, a third newsgroup, Shiki Workshop, was inaugurated on June 17, 1998, and lasted until September 2002.

[15] The key post of kukai secretary was held by Clark Strand (March–July 1996), Rick MacDonald (October 1996–July 1997), Yu Chang (August 1997–January 1999), and Pardee Gunter (February 1999–December 2000). The kukai continued on the Shiki Workshop newsgroup under Gunter and Billie Wilson (January 2001–August 2002), and returned on the NOBO group under Jennie Townsend and Gary Warner (September 2002–December 2004), Warner and Robert Bauer (January–April 2005), and Bauer and Townsend from April 2005.

[16] In the first year’s contest, in 1995, the winner was A.C. Missias, then a graduate student in biology at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo. Yu Chang, a professor of electrical engineering at Union College in Syracuse, N.Y. won both the second and third contests, and Timothy Russell, a retired steelworker from Toronto, Ohio, won in the fourth. In 1999 a special event, the Shimanami Kaido International Haiku Contest, was held to celebrate the opening of the bridges linking the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku. The winner among 1,502 entries by 822 poets was Maya Hiromi. The contest resumed in 2000 and was won by Earl Keener, a “gandy dancer” from Wierton, W.Va. (Reports of the winners’ trips are posted at <http://shiki1.cc.ehime-u.ac.jp/~shiki/haibun.html>; accessed November 30, 2005.)

[17] Coomler defined “hokku” in these terms: “Hokku returns to the standards of brevity, simplicity, selflessness, and closeness to nature and the season that it had before it was transformed in the 20th century into the often very different verse now collectively known as ‘contemporary haiku’” (Hokku-Inn Web site).

[18] The editors, Katrina Grace Craig and Marek Lugowsi, welcomed haiku in Agnieszka’s Dowry from the outset, and one issue (number 12, in September 2000), guest-edited by Jennifer Jensen, was devoted to haiku. AgD also had a print version, published by A Small Garlic Press.

[19] Haiku blogs can be found at the Haikupoet.com (Paul David Mena) and Haiku Harvest (Denis Garrison) Web sites, for example.

[20] International Haiku Convention; Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Awards.

[21] In 2002 the other Shiki awards went to Satya Bhushan Verma of India and Shigeda Wada of Japan; in 2004 other laureates were Hidekazu Masuda (H. Masuda Goga) of Brazil, Kô Reishi of Taiwan, and Bansei Tukushi of Japan.

[22] The World Haiku Poems Competition was won by Peggy Lyles of the U.S., with John Crook of the U.K. and Winona Baker of Canada in second and third places, respectively, and seven honorable mentions. In the World Haiku Essays Competition top honors went to Haruo Shirane for his essay “Beyond The Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson, and Modern Haiku Myths” in Modern Haiku, 31:1 (winter-spring, 2000). The World Haiku Achievements Competition awarded first place to William J. Higginson and second prize to Knots: The Anthology of Southeastern European Haiku Poetry (1999), edited by Dimitar Anakiev and Jim Kacian.

[23] World Haiku Club Mailing Lists.

[24] Haiku International Association Web site (English).

[25] World Haiku Club Web site.

[26] California State University at Long Beach announcement was published at <http://www.csulb.edu/divisions/urad/papubs/news2/This_Week_Archives/
2002--July-Dec/Oct-2002/Oct_21/tw021021--make_a_diff_day/tw021021--
haiku.conf.02.html>; accessed September 15, 2003, but not available on November 30, 2005.

[27] The two large international haiku organizations had not been born without significant political in-fighting, and in October 2002 there was another falling-out among the four founders of the WHA with the result that Jim Kacian of the U.S. and Max Verhart of the Netherlands resigned, the Web site was left idle, and the rump organization passed to the Slovenian Dimitar Anakiev and Natsuishi Ban’ya. Anakiev later withdrew from the leadership. Shortly American David G. Lanoue and Frenchman Alain Kervern signed on as directors, but they too resigned following a difference of opinion with Natsuishi at the Sofia festival in autumn 2005. The status of the WHA leadership was not known at the end of 2005, but it was clear that Natsuishi was firmly ensconced as leader and sensei. At the World Haiku Club, Takiguchi has been undisputed leader from the outset. The WHC Web site at the end of 2005 listed its officers as honorary president: James W. Hackett [advisory and largely inactive], chairman and founder: Susumu Takiguchi, deputy chairs John Crook [died in 2001] and Debra W. Bender [inactive from 2005], and patrons: Satô Kazuo [died in 2005] and the Japanese Ambassador to the UK—that is to say, Takiguchi was completely in charge. Also listed on the WHC masthead were twenty-six directors, moderators, mentors, advisers, etc., plus “WHC advisers worldwide.”


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