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An Overview of The Haiku Foundation with Jim Kacian and Scott Mason

Today at New to Haiku, I wanted to share this overview of The Haiku Foundation with you, in case you haven’t already seen it. This video will guide you through what THF has to offer. (A written transcription of the audio follows the video.) If you have any questions about the features described here or are curious about anything else THF-related, please feel free to drop a comment below or contact us via our general inquiry form. We look forward to hearing from you!

The following is a transcript of a talk given by Jim Kacian, President of The Haiku Foundation, and Scott Mason, THF’s Director of Strategy, to the Haiku North America Virtual Conference on October 15, 2021. You can watch the entire video here:

 

[JIM KACIAN:] Welcome to The Haiku Foundation. I’m Jim Kacian, Founder and President.

There’s a tremendous amount of material to be found here, and we know how daunting it can seem. So, in this short film, we hope to point out some of the highlights that can get you started.

We begin at the beginning – our beginning.

The Haiku Foundation has been a presence in the haiku world for more than a dozen years now. Nearly all long-standing haiku poets from around the world have visited our site, participated in our features, taken stock of our awards. And they all know that THF was designed to be different from every other haiku organization, in that our emphasis has been, and will always be, to promote haiku itself, rather than individual authors, a specific journal, or any particular approach to the genre.

THF is a varied and capacious resource for all your haiku explorations, and we are pleased to welcome you to this wonderful community.

We’ll handle this in three groupings:

  • What THF has to offer,
  • Where THF is going from here, and
  • How you can join in.

What THF Has to Offer

Let’s begin with what The Haiku Foundation has to offer. Those of you who are familiar with us already know the range of content to be found here. But for those of you who are new to haiku, here’s an overview of the many kinds of experiences you can expect to find on the THF site.

One thing you would expect to find on a site called The Haiku Foundation is haiku, and lots of it. So, you can think of THF first of all as a reading room. The Haiku Foundation possesses the largest English-language hard copy library dedicated to haiku in the world, and a substantial and ever-growing part of that is incorporated into our digital library. Thousands of books and journals from the earliest days of Western haiku to the present are available to you at no cost. But beyond this, we have many other kinds of reading experiences.

Our Book of the Week feature is a curated look at a new book chosen from our holdings each week, with a particular interest in the chapbook. This popular feature has been running since 2012.

In addition to being a repository for books, The Haiku Foundation also creates them under the THF marque. Within this framework, THF produces Juxtapositions, research and scholarship in haiku, the only peer-reviewed, scholarly journal dedicated to haiku outside Japan. We offer all issues for free download on the THF site and printed versions for purchase.

Since we’re all still learning about haiku, THF offers a complete set of lesson plans on teaching the genre from kindergarten through post-graduate levels, as well as continuing education and general studies. These work for both students and teachers of the genre, and for the latter, we also offer book stories, relating experiences that other teachers of haiku have had, what they have learned, and how you might incorporate them into your own practice.

And, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Haikupedia, the Haiku Foundation’s online encyclopedia of haiku. Inaugurated in 2019, Haikupedia is exactly what it sounds like – your ultimate resource of information concerning haiku from around the world, incorporating our popular World of Haiku series plus biographies of prominent people, timelines and publication histories, a glossary of terms, and much more. Haikupedia will soon become your go-to source for all things haiku, and make your growth in the genre simple and fun.

These are only some of the ways in which The Haiku Foundation serves as a reading room. You’ll discover more as you explore our many holdings. But THF as reading room is only the beginning of what we have to offer.

Let’s next consider THF as a watering hole. Haiku is a community, and as such we need a place where we might gather to share our work, to talk shop, to collaborate. The Haiku Foundation is the ideal place to do this, no matter what your current level of haiku expertise.

If you’re new to haiku, we have, well, New to Haiku, which is exactly what it says, a place where those just learning the basics of the genre will be welcomed, meet others in the same situation, be exposed to some introductory concepts by friendly instructors, and share their work with feedback if desired so you can get off on the right foot. New to Haiku is the welcome mat to the world of haiku, so step right in and explore.

Long before you wrote your first haiku, you began reading them. Reading is the first act of haiku community and the first thing you see each time you visit the site is the Haiku of the Day. Each Haiku of the Day poem is part of a monthly gallery curated by a guest editor to a specific theme. We display them one at a time, but you can also view entire galleries. We archive them, and you can read them in a bunch any time you like. Haiku of the Day is one of our most popular features.

And, while reading these poems, one or several, you may be curious to know more about their authors. Let us direct you to the Haiku Registry, an online who’s who of haiku poets, scholars, editors, publishers, and more, where you’ll find a basic biography, additional poems, and contact information. And, once you’ve been published, you too can become part of the Haiku Registry, and so share your work, and a little bit about yourselves, with the rest of the haiku community.

Again, there are many other ways in which you may gather with your fellow poets on the THF site. And you’ll discover more as you proceed. But, we also want you to consider The Haiku Foundation as a playing field. Haiku poets are no different than anyone else! We want to do our thing. We want to write. We want to share what we write. We want to see what others have written. The Haiku Foundation is the best place to be challenged, to share, and to discover.

The THF Monthly Kukai, for instance, is a casual contest where poets write to the theme of month after which we vote on our colleagues’ work to judge who has met the challenge best. Prizes are given to the top vote-getters, and the results are archived on the THF site.

Even more challenging are the Renku Sessions, where poets learn the intricacies of this thousand-year-old Japanese collaborative form, guided by a leader well-versed in its ways. The Renku Sessions began in 2014, and poets have collaborated to complete more than a dozen poems of various lengths, all of which are archived on the site and available for your perusal.

Want a stress-free prompt instead? Haiku Dialogue is our most popular feature, where a guest-editor offers a new prompt each week and gathers the various responses for all to read. Anything goes here, and poets of all levels gather to share their creative ideas. As such, this is a particularly good learning experience.

Those of you further along in your haiku journeys may have higher aspirations to literary achievement, and for you, The Haiku Foundation offers the ultimate reward. The Touchstone Awards are the highest accolade in haiku. They are presented in two categories – individual poems and books. Typically, five to seven awards are made in each category every year as determined by dedicated panels comprised of poets, scholars, and editors who have long experience in the haiku world, and have produced excellent work themselves. A Touchstone is one of the culminating experiences of haiku practice, and Touchstone recipients are recognized and honored throughout the haiku world.

You will find many other ways in which you can mingle, interact, and collaborate on the THF site. And we invite you to explore them yourselves. These thumbnail descriptions can only begin to suggest the fun you can have in participating and exploring the many offerings you can find with us.

The site has been designed with an eye toward easy navigation and optimum performance. We want you to enjoy your experience with us and have made it simple and intuitive. Since you’re watching this video, you’ve probably already noticed the New to THF? Button on the home page in the upper right hand corner. One click there, and you’re afforded a comprehensive overview of the site. And the menu bar suggests how easy it is to find things on your own.

Want to learn about haiku? Explore its many cultures? Get in contact with other poets? All this is available with just a click. That’s just a taste of what you’ll find here.

And we know you’re eager to get started, but we’d like you to stay with us for just another moment so we can tell you where The Haiku Foundation is going from here. Our Director of Strategy, Scott Mason, is here to provide you with some of our thinking.

Where THF is going from here

[SCOTT MASON:] The Foundation is now entering a new life stage – what we’ve come to think of as “The Haiku Foundation (or THF) 2.0.” Just in terms of audience, up to this point The Haiku Foundation has focused on serving those within the existing haiku community. That made abundant good sense as The Foundation was developing, expanding and refining its offerings. But now we’re ready to reach out. When something excites you, or has made a positive difference in your life . . . it’s only natural to want to share it with others.

Haiku itself does that. And The Haiku Foundation will now actively facilitate that sharing. We see it as the haiku community’s way of “paying it forward.”

So, at this stage, we’ve set for ourselves two broad operational objectives. The first one is, essentially, to continue what we’ve been doing, and to try to do it even better. That’s the core of our Mission, and the source of our credibility. Our second, added, objective is to prepare and launch formal outreach to new audiences.

The word “prepare” is key here. In marketing terms, our “product line” is superb – I think you’d agree, based on what Jim has just highlighted. But the other essential part of any outreach is proper messaging. What can we say, in a sound bite, that will intrigue people enough to want to learn more – and to take us seriously. If you’ve ever tried to explain haiku to friends or even family, you might know the challenge.

After a fair amount of deliberation, we’ve developed what marketers call a “positioning line” for The Foundation – but you can think of it as a verbal calling card. In just three words it offers an intriguing glimpse into The Foundation’s role; the defining focus of haiku itself, which is central; and why it’s important. That last point – why it’s important – is critical, when you stop to think about the perception of haiku in the popular culture. All too often, haiku is seen as trivial or, at worst, as just an easy receptacle for jokes or bits of pop psychology. You may have seen collections of these displayed as impulse items near the checkout of some bookstores.

The Foundation’s positioning line, our verbal calling card, is “Where moments matter.” Let me break it down very briefly.

The “Where” speaks to The Foundation as a source: a reading room, watering hole and playing field all in one, as Jim just described.

“Moments” speaks to the essence of haiku and its unique focus as a literary form: not syllables but rather the fleeting yet impressionable experiences in our lives that we try to capture, share and memorialize in just a handful of words.

Finally, “Matter” simply but confidently asserts that this poetic practice is one of genuine consequence to its practitioners – and it can be the same for anyone else. And, after all, how trivial can haiku be if it has and supports its very own foundation?

We’ve branded The Foundation’s outreach effort “Haiku Bridges” – and our strategic approach to that effort is likewise twofold.

First of all, we recognize that there are quite a number of individual, grassroots kinds of outreach already happening on behalf of haiku. So to recognize and encourage such outreach we publicize and even promote what we consider the best-conceived and most significant of those initiatives. We also periodically feature interviews with haiku bridge-builders from around the world – not just to support their efforts but also, perhaps, to inspire others.

The Foundation’s other principal strategy is to approach select groups or organizations with proposals for joint programs or one-off projects having a prominent haiku component. We believe that The Foundation now has sufficient standing and global presence to credibly partner with other significant players. This not only provides the best return on the volunteer time that we invest, but it also leverages our reach – and importantly, that of haiku – through the scale of such partner organizations.

As we see it, our highest-potential partners will be those whose members share a specific interest or affinity that aligns well with haiku. We’ve initially chosen to focus on two such affinity clusters.

The first will be prominent groups or sizable organizations whose members share a love of the natural world. These range from conservation groups to organizations of birding, hiking or gardening aficionados, as shown here.

The second affinity cluster would include groups or organizations whose members share an interest or activity geared to wellness or their personal well-being. These include organizations related to yoga, tai chi or meditation practices as pictured here, or even to resort partners. Almost all of us here have experienced firsthand the life-enhancing and sometimes even therapeutic benefits of our own haiku practices. So we believe that haiku represents an inviting ingredient for others as part of their overall wellness cocktail.

It almost goes without saying that many current haiku practitioners share the interests represented in one or both of these two affinity clusters. So we feel we’re fishing in some of the right ponds for the next wave of haiku enthusiasts.

You’ll be hearing more about these initiatives in the months to come. I hope we’ll be able to enlist the talents of some of you in building some of these new haiku bridges.

How you can join in

[JIM KACIAN:] You can see that this is a most exciting time for The Haiku Foundation. We have met our first levels of challenges and are eagerly taking on our next. But, much of this depends on you.

From the outset of this project, we have maintained that The Haiku Foundation will become what you want it to become. That it has grown as far and as fast as it has, suggests our good collaboration: of spirit, of enterprise, of content. But for us to become everything it is possible for us to be, this must continue. So, here’s how you can be a part of this.

The most important thing you can do, and do again and again, is to be an active participant. Come to the site. Mingle with your fellow poets. List yourself in the Haiku Registry. Participate in the Renku Sessions, and in the Monthly Kukai, and the Haiku Dialogue, and all the others. Read the Book of the Week. Delve further into the digital library. Engage haiku and encourage others to do the same.

If haiku has been good to you, and it has been to us, then at some point you will ask, “What can I do to give back to haiku?” This is the foundational question of The Haiku Foundation: the jumping off point where it all began, and it remains the central, most important aspect of what we do.

There are many ways to contribute to haiku. Edit a journal or start one. Review a book. Write an essay.

And should you wish to become part of a team that is doing this every day, consider volunteering with The Haiku Foundation. Everything we have accomplished has been done by volunteers giving their time and expertise to the cause.

Do you have a skill you can share? Let’s see how we might make use of it to further our interests.

Do you have an idea for a project or a feature that you would like to see come to fruition? All our features and programs began as somebody’s idea.

Contact us! Let’s talk about it, and we’ll try to help you realize your goals, with haiku being the winner. Our contact link can be found on every page on the site. We look forward to hearing from you.

And, of course, nothing is free. We need financial help just like everyone else. But money is only one way you can contribute to the continuation of The Haiku Foundation.

THF owns the archives of some of haiku’s greatest luminaries, including Roberta Beary, James W. Hackett, Penny Harter, Martin Lucas, Paul Reps, Alexis Rotella, Cor van den Heuvel, and many others. We always welcome archival holdings, haiku libraries, and haiku-related materials.

Likewise, The Haiku Foundation has become the beneficiary of the estates and wills of some of our departed haiku colleagues. Perhaps you might consider making The Foundation the recipient of a bequest, annuity, or annual donation.

And, for those who think a cash transaction is simplest and best, we’ve made it easy for you. Our donate button can be found on every page. We accept PayPal, and through them virtually any credit card you would care to use.

We hope this overview makes you as excited about The Haiku Foundation as we are. Most of all, we hope it inspires you to come visit often, come play, and ultimately, come join us.

Haiku has been very good to us, and it’s natural to want to reply in kind. The Haiku Foundation is the place where poets go to give back. We welcome your participation.

Thanks for watching! And we’ve kept you long enough. Explore the site, enjoy, and again, welcome to The Haiku Foundation.

Jim Kacian is founder and president of The Haiku Foundation, editor-in-chief of Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, and author of more than a score of books, primarily of haiku. He lives in the Shenandoah Valley with his partner of more than three decades, Maureen Gorman.

Scott Mason is author of The Wonder Code: Discover the Way of Haiku and See the World with New Eyes, recipient of the Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, the Touchstone Distinguished Books Award from The Haiku Foundation and a Merit Book Award (Best Prose) from the Haiku Society of America. An editor with The Heron’s Nest from 2011 to 2021, Scott currently serves on the board of The Haiku Foundation as Director of Strategy. His own haiku have received the top award in more than two dozen international competitions.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments. The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy for more information.

Julie Bloss Kelsey is the current Secretary of The Haiku Foundation. She started writing haiku in 2009, after discovering science fiction haiku (scifaiku). She lives in Maryland with her husband and kids. Julie's first book of poetry, The Call of Wildflowers, is available for free online through Title IX Press. Connect with her on Twitter @MamaJoules.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. An excellent post. While I have been sending haiku to the monthly kukai for some time (even received an honourable mention at one time…was so excited) I didn’t realise THF offered so many other things. I facilitate a small haiku group in Victoria Australia ‘Portarlington Haiku Society’ where we are all learning together. I have geared members towards your site and encouraged them to enter the kukai. We also run a monthly one of our own.
    Your site is fantastic and an amazing resource. Thank you!

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