Editorial, 2004

Vol 4-1, December 2004

EDITORIAL: The Aspirations of the World Haiku Club

Susumu Takiguchi, Editor in Chief

This is the first issue after the departure of Debi Bender as Editor-in-Chief. She has now become a ‘legendary figure’, having edited this unique world-wide comprehensive haiku magazine on the Internet and making it a new addition to the haiku literature in the world the like of which had never been seen before. Bender’s enormous contribution was possible not only because of her excellent editorial capabilities, innovative mind and selfless dedication but also because of her deep, unswerving and unflinching belief in what the World Haiku Club (WHC) stands for and aims at. It is therefore opportune for us to remind ourselves in this issue of the aims and initiatives which are the most conspicuous characteristics of WHC. Bender has helped to establish these aims and initiatives. In this sense, this editorial serves also as a tribute to her good work for the world haiku community. For this purpose I will use below some of the official documents of WHC which demonstrate its aims and initiatives in the form of mottos, slogans and mission statement.

 It is evident that Bender’s is a hard act to follow. What we now should do in this new circumstance is to try to move World Haiku Review forward to its new stage of development on the back of the success she has brought to it as the pioneer. Preserving Bender’s tradition of elegance and quality as the undercurrent, we must at the same time seek newness, freshness and further innovation in order to enhance the magazine’s unique position in the world haiku community. Difficult though it may be, two talented poets have come forward to take the courageous first step to help me achieve this challenge. They are Linda Papanicolaou and Karina Klesko. To me the evidence of their hard work and selfless dedication under difficult circumstances in putting the new WHR together as webmasters is all there to see in the magazine itself. They have created new image, style and design for WHR as well as improving technical details such as easier navigation. I hope readers will join me in offering due accolade and thanks they deserve and enjoy the product of their ‘labour of love’. I also wish to take this opportunity to express the same sense of praise and gratitude to all the editors and other officials who have made this issue possible.

A review process is under way at WHChaikuneoclassical and WHCsenryu as part of our initiative for ‘Higher Standards & Quality’. The same is planned for WHCvanguard and WHCbeginners as well. WHCpoetrybridge has absorbed WHCshortverses and is undergoing a vigorous makeover as well as a reform of its substance under the new directorship. New and ambitious projects are being introduced such as the WHCworldkigo Project. World Haiku Review is at an advanced stage of preparations for the next issue in a new guise and broader horizons after Debi Bender’s editorship. The World Haiku Club has entered a new stage of development and expansion with increased and strong leaders in various areas of its world-wide activities.

WHC is a unique entity, different from any other organisations, or at least it is trying to be so. The main reason for it is simply if it is like others there is little point of its being at all. With that understanding, the members will be pursuing WHC’s aims in any activities with which they happen to be involved.

WHAT IS WHC IN THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL WAY ?

The ultimate aim:

‘To bind minds and hearts of the people in the world together through haiku’

This may sound like a silly, sugary platitude but for some reason haiku has that power. It is all the more necessary because the world is once again split asunder. This applies to all nations and individuals. Haiku can help in a very modest way, especially those who are modest. We have regrettably had our share of suffering from those people who divide us and are unlikely to be completely free from them in the future. On the other hand, WHC has contributed to enabling people to ‘meet’, become friends and share poems and views on a vast scale. Therefore, this is not an empty slogan but a really practical one.

Two Major Ongoing Tasks (also mentioned below): 

(1) To challenge all existing conventions:

No persons, rules, practices or conventions are beyond criticism or improvement. Those which seem to be strong and generally accepted should be especially re-examined. Otherwise, dogmas, distortions, misconceptions and stalemate would, as they do, prevail. Those which have come through such critical scrutiny will have proved themselves to be good and worthy. Many things have already been challenged and reviewed for the better understanding of haiku and related genres, such as the haiku moment, excessive Zen emphasis, the true nature of senryu, many US-led haiku rules to name but a few. The impact is quiet but palpable.

(2) To chart our future:

In a sense, criticisms are the easiest part (though difficult enough!). It is the alternatives or counter-suggestions for improvement or reform that is the really difficult part, but, if done well, would be very rewarding and useful. So, this really means that, rather than a mere organisation, WHC is a haiku reform movement on a long-term basis.

Four Principles:

  • Challenging conventions and charting our future
  • A celebration of diversity, individualism and local initiatives
  • Championing innovation, experiments and new talent
  • … thus upholding permanent poetical value

From the cover of World Haiku Review, these are fairly straightforward to understand, though the implications are deep and far-reaching. That WHC is rooted deeply in tradition is assumed here but could not be put on the cover because of the limited space. More on that below.

Special WHC Initiative of 2004:

Continued campaign for ‘Raising Standards & Quality’: In the end high standards and excellent quality are the only thing that matters in art. (Past initiatives: Creation of WHC for 1998; ‘Organising World Haiku Festival 2000 – London/Oxford’ for 1998-2000, ‘Making WHC a permanent entity’ for 2001, ‘Structural and philosophical build-up’ for 2002 and the start of the initiative for ‘Raising Standards & Quality’ for 2003 and beyond.)

Basic Policies include:

  • To be different from anybody else or any other organisations. (Otherwise there is no point of running WHC.)
  • To operate on a different platform from the levels defined by such concepts as nation, region, continent, culture, language, organisation, faction or schools of thought: the ‘world’ in the meaning of WHC is the platform and the individuals in that ‘world’ are our players on this platform (see the next article); (This is essentially to avoid silly but harmful and hurtful things (negative haiku politics, rivalry etc.) which these levels are sure to bring to WHC as they are doing elsewhere, and give members of WHC undisturbed time for creation.)
  • To operate on the basis of individuals and not on the basis of organisations, not least to avoid all sorts of ills associated with organisations; (All too often self-interest is put before common or public interest or the interest of haiku itself. Negative haiku politics in inter-organisational relationship hinders the healthy development of haiku.)
  • To condemn negative haiku politics and have nothing to do with it; (There are one too many individuals who indulge in negative haiku politics.)
  • To put “Raising Standards & Quality” as a long-term goal and at the heart of its operation (however long it may take to achieve it);

Where We Stand:Schools of thought, trends, haiku movement:

(1) WHC is deeply rooted in Japanese literary tradition in general and haiku tradition in particular, and their correct interpretation and following both in Japan and the rest of the world;

(2) Having such tradition at the basis of all operation, WHC also encourages innovation, experiments and new talent;

(3) WHC is a broad church and embraces all schools of thought, trends, or haiku movement within the framework of WHC’s aim. WHC therefore will not side with any particular school or trend either as its own line or as the target of support;

(4) WHC endorses (i.e. does not disown) dominating forces in the world haiku community but equally importantly it also encourages and helps other populations, countries, regions, languages and cultures at the same time. Conversely, such dominating forces are not outside of WHC’s challenge or constructive criticism (such challenge or criticism will be done through serious and sincere exchanges of people, views, interaction and discussion);

(5) WHC is more of a (reform) movement, and/or a huge collection of various activities than a mere organisation.

Two Theatres: 

(1) WHC operates in the “real” world: This term is used in a physical sense such as World Haiku Festival, numerous meetings, workshops or publications.

(2) WHC operates in the “virtual” world: This means all our activities on the Internet: website, WHR, numerous mailing lists and “electronic” projects and events such as the “Double Kukai” (31 Dec/1 Jan), world-wide ginko or the World Kigo Project. Trinity of WHC in the “real world”: (1) World Haiku Festival and other conferences/meetings (2) Magazine and other publications (3) Education: schools, workshops, public lectures

Trinity of WHC in the “virtual world”: 

(1) Central website

(2) Magazine: World Haiku Review

(3) Mailing lists fora (“mailing lists” are a wrong name as WHC is trying to eradicate the defects and failings of the so-called mailing lists, some of which are harmful to haiku)

Main Activities:

(1) World Haiku Festival in even-number years (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 etc.): these are major world haiku conferences

(2) World Haiku Festival in regions (being held at any time on a regional basis: Holland in 2003, Kyushu in 2003, Okayama in 2004, planned in Paris in 2005)

(3) Other smaller meetings of various kinds

(4) Public workshops, lectures, school visits and other educational activities

(5) Publication of haiku-related books, contribution to newspapers, magazines, radio etc.

(6) Organising world-wide events: kukai, tournament, or simultaneous ginko

(7) World Haiku Review: the largest and most comprehensive online magazine in the world

(8) World Haiku Review (printed version): planned to be launched anew, focusing on haiku works only

(9) Over thirty specialised mailing lists to deal with different genres and subject matter

(10) Running mailing lists for educational purposes: WHCbeginners (one of the best fora for beginners), WHCschool, WHCacademia, etc.

Notes

World haiku: A very important key terminology of WHC. R. H. Blyth mentioned the term but it has rarely been used. Seemingly obvious what it means, it says a lot which WHC gives it as its meanings and implications. WHC has given it a high currency across the world, though people nowadays use it nonchalantly and freely. It could also be easily misinterpreted. First and foremost, what it does not mean should therefore be mentioned to pre-empt such misinterpretations and misconceptions. It does not mean some kind of standardised or homogenised haiku to be created, applied, mimicked or followed world-wide. It does not mean a priori haiku either, which some people assert exists anywhere in the world quite apart from the country of its origin.

What it does mean is haiku written by individuals living in all parts of the world, reflecting the author’s originality, individuality, local soil and culture, or peculiarities, and having the highest degree of freedom of poetic expression and creation. “World haiku” is a generic term to encompass all these different haiku poems in their entirety. Differences are, therefore, the key point. However, this does not mean that the recognition of, and search for, something in common in all haiku is denied.

Senryu: We use the term, senryu in a specific WHC way as is practiced in the experimental list: WHCsenryu. The same is true with other terms including: vanguard, Shintai-haiku, neo-classical, short verses, or poetry bridge.

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