Editorial – Haiku: A Living Thing

Editorial, May 2001

Haiku: A Living Thing

Haiku is a living thing. It is a flow, a journey and a life, vibrant, developing and free. Haiku is for everybody. It belongs to the world.

As such, haiku should never be fettered to one person or school of thought – to a fashion, an expert, sect, clique, society, association or  movement — to one region, nation, continent, people or era. Nor should it ever be subjected to the evils of narrow-mindedness, intolerance, arrogance, egotism, rivalry, politics, corruption, dogma and doctrine. Moreover, we must not allow haiku to be in captivity to complacency, ultra-conservatism, fundamentalist rigidity, abuse, inferior quality and lowering standards.

We wish to liberate haiku from all these forms of imprisonment and let it develop freely. We know not whether we shall succeed,  nevertheless we shall try. Such prisons are often created within our own minds. In order to seek out and unlock the prison doors, we at WHC shall continue to re-examine and reassess virtually everything concerning haiku under our first motto, “Challenging Conventions”. Our approach remains positive and constructive as we try to find our way  forward for haiku under our second motto, “Charting Our Future”. Once liberated, haiku can take new phases of development guided by true values of poetic creativity, notably “fuga-no-makoto” (poetic truth or sincerity).

We shall not interfere with those outside ourselves who are so bound, but rather work with them through friendship, co-operation, persuasion and examples.

If we, as a community, do not address the issues of those constrictions, haiku will stagnate, corrupt and lose quality. A voice must be raised. This call can, and should be sounded at any time and all the time. Now is an opportune time for it as any other — the start of a new century and of a millennium. It has been roughly 500 years since the time of Sokan and Moritake, 300 years since Basho’s death and 100 years since Shiki’s death. Compared with the long history of haiku in Japan, only 50 years have passed since haiku began to spread in earnest across America. It is a mere 10 years or so that haiku has reached all corners of the earth and become world haiku.

Today, all manner of new things are happening to haiku within Japan. Why, then, should it be restricted to any single and narrow school of thought outside Japan? The haiku, as an evolving form of world poetry, should be given ample time to explore different paths and develop in a variety of different ways. We should probably give it at least another 50 years to develop well and fully.

Meanwhile, the woeful communication gap between Japan and the rest of the world must be bridged at all costs. Another chasm which needs to be spanned lies between the haiku and non-haiku literary worlds. The arenas of academic scholars and practitioners of haiku must find greater connection. Bridges must also be built between the different languages and cultures in which haiku is written and enjoyed. WHC aims to be a bridge builder in all these areas.

It is a WHC’s goal to bring forth a free, dynamic and creative environment for haiku to develop organically with minimum restrictions. For that purpose, we celebrate and encourage diversity, individualism and local and regional initiatives. Also, for the same purpose, WHC endorses and promotes innovation, experiments and new talent. In this, ours may be different from many other organisations. More to the point, WHC wishes to be different for the reasons indicated above, otherwise, there is little point in bringing such an entity into this world.

In order to achieve these objectives, WHC has created a trinity of creative theatres. Firstly, it operates a “real” and “virtual” world-wide network of haiku activities under the banner of  the “World Haiku Festival”. An example of this is the three-day event “Epilogue to World Haiku Festival 2000 & Advent of JAPAN 2001” from 19 to 21 May 2001, when events including the Masaoka Shiki London Conference take place in London; at the same time, an Internet Ginko & Kukai are taking place world-wide. Secondly, WHC has a comprehensive website and twenty purpose-built Internet mailing lists which serve all the needs of haiku poets from different parts of the world. Thirdly, we now have WHC’s online magazine, “World Haiku Review”, which is an evolutionary “living thing” in its own right, an incentive for innovative poets.

World Haiku Review is a comprehensive, world-wide quarterly publication on a grand scale, the likes of which have never been seen before. Being such an enormous undertaking, it will be phased in in four stages; the current issue, as prototype, being the first phase. We shall consult with our members, the readers and our friends outside WHC in order to keep improving this magazine.

In this issue, there are many features of note. Endorsing the aims of WHC,  James W. Hackett, our Honorary President,  takes a personal interest in World Haiku Review. He presents not only his unique column of a single haiku selection, but also a special preview of the concluding chapter of the book he is writing. As this year falls on the centenary of Masaoka Shiki’s death (1867-1902) according to Japanese reckoning, we feature haiku and essays commemorating this father of modern haiku. These are part of WHC’s year-long celebrations of the centenary. This issue’s special features include sad news, not only for WHC members, but also for many haiku poets outside WHC: the death of John Crook, our Deputy Chairman. We have created a special section to commemorate his achievements, celebrate his life and honour his memory. This issue of World Haiku Review is dedicated to him.

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