Each day during our celebration we will focus on a single aspect of the Foundation. Today we look at some of the favorite features that recur regularly on the THF site. Jessica Tremblay talks about the future of Old Pond Comics; Anita Krumins divulges what dastardly plans she has for the Haiku Puzzler; and Jim Kacian discusses the history and future of re:Virals.
Old Pond Comics
Jessica Tremblay reports that “Old Pond Comics continued to entertain readers and generate positive comments with its quirky haiku cartoons published on The Haiku Foundation blog every Saturday. Cartoonist Jessica Tremblay introduced two new comics series — the Goose and the Fly — based on haiku by Kobayashi Issa as translated by David G. Lanoue. Readers were also introduced to Tadpole Poet, the latest (and cutest) addition to the Old Pond Comics family. In September, the first original Haiku-Comics series was featured in a Haiga Gallery. In the next year, Jessica plans to bring back her original characters — Master Kawazu and his apprentice Kaeru — for more haiku lessons and adventures in the pond, along with new friends and surprises.”
THF Puzzler: History
Anita Krumins reports that the Haiku Puzzler “began with insomnia and a visit to Ontario’s wine country in 2009. At the time, George Swede and I were the editors of frogpond. Trying to find something to think about while sleepless one night, I started to invent cryptic puzzles for haiku figures, starting with Basho. Around the same time George and I discovered the winery frogpond farm which, to our surprise, used the same typeface on its labels as we did for the magazine. We bought a couple of bottles and on the way home from the winery discussed what we should do at Haiku North America (held that year in Ottawa). Thus was born the frogpond cryptic which consisted of 62 clues to the last names of HNA conference organizers and presenters, contemporary poets who had published in the last four issues of fp and other editors of haiku publications. The prizes were three bottles of frogpond farm 2006 organic riesling. The only person who got all of the answers right was no other than Jim Kacian, the fearless leader of The Haiku Foundation.
“Fast forward to November 11, 2015. Jim wrote to me wondering if he could use the puzzle in a second showing for the Haiku Foundation’s fundraiser. Not realizing quite what I was getting in for, I said sure. And so began a whirlwind of e-mails as Jim changed course somewhat. On December 3, 2015 THF Haiku Crypto-Quiz appeared online. It had only 20 puzzlers; the prize, which was won by Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy, was the Foundation’s new publication, a biography of Raymond Roseliep by Donna Bauerly.
“Why were there only 20 puzzlers instead of 62? Because by that time Jim had decided that he would make The Puzzler a weekly event appearing every Tuesday and hosted by me. By November 17th, he had already created a tentative schedule and I had supplied him with 35 more puzzlers. If you’ve ever worked with Jim, you will, as do I, suspect that he never sleeps.”
I have been tracking who has been solving the puzzles with some interest. Obviously, one has to be conversant with the conventions of cryptic puzzles, but one also must have deep roots in the haiku community. Thus it comes as no surprise that John Stevenson and Roberta Beary have been battling it out from the beginning, with Stevenson being slightly ahead. In the pack of those who get the right answers almost every week are Polona Oblak, Sheila Sondik, Sandra Simpson, and Theresa Cancro. Others participate less frequently. Most amusing was when I got an e-mail from someone who hadn’t guessed her own name and wanted me to explain the clue!
The June 2016 Haiku Foundation Survey seemed to indicate that the puzzler did have followers who would like it to continue. Jim has asked me to keep it going for another year. I replied that I was worried that I would run out of names . . . but guess what! Jim sent me a list to work on. I now have insomnia again.”
Jim Kacian writes that “re:Virals aims to accomplish two purposes: to share excellent poems with our readership, and to inspire that readership to respond to these poems with commentary that might also be shared. The person who provides the best commentary (as judged by myself) for the current poem earns the right to select the next poem for consideration. You can view the most current iteration here.
“re:Virals began life as Virals, an initiative of Scott Metz in the first days of Troutswirl, the THF blog. In this initial set-up, Scott selected a poem by poet A, wrote a commentary on it, and posted it to Troutswirl. Poet A was then invited to select a poem by poet B and perform the same task. This worked well enough until a poet chose a poem by a deceased poet, wherein the whole process stopped until revived again by Scott. The advantage of the system used by re:Virals is that, so long as people respond to a poem, the system perpetuates itself.
re:Virals has run for more than a year now, with a solid cadre of regular participants as well as some who engage with it more occasionally. I look forward to continuing it for the foreseeable future, and possibly to gathering the many threads it has produced into an archive, where the entire body of work might be more easily accessible to all. Thanks to all who have written, read and participated, and I look forward to much more of the same.”
The Haiku Foundation added Forums to its offerings at the recommendation of Professor Richard Gilbert in 2011, and it has been a hub of conversation, research and activity ever since. This is due at least in part to the strong leadership of our chief moderators: for many years Don Baird, and subsequently Alan Summers. Alan is stepping down at the end of this year, and will be succeeded by Marion Clarke, from whom we expect a continuation of the positive experience you’ve come to expect here. Forum offerings range from introductory columns for beginners to scholarly pursuits among experts to off-the-beaten-track explorations by those interested in scifiku, vampire-ku and the like. If you don’t see what you want, we encourage you to start the conversation yourself — it won’t be long before you discover others have been thinking that’s exactly what was needed.
Once a year we ask the haiku community to help us meet our financial challenges. We reserve the period from Thanksgiving through St. Nicholas Day, the time our culture has has set aside to note our many blessings and show our appreciation. Thank you to those of you who have already contributed. If you have not done so yet, please take this opportunity to help us continue our work — details on our donation page. Again this year we have the support of an anonymous angel who will double your donations — for every dollar you commit, the Foundation receives $2. Please help us make the most of this generous offer, and thanks in advance for your support of The Haiku Foundation, and of haiku itself. We wish you a most happy holiday season.