Skip to content

Essence #4

Essences explores the roots of the “haiku movement” in North America

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Essence #4

The Explosion of Haiku Journals
and Beginning of The Haiku Society of America

By Carmen Sterba

Numerous haiku journals came out one after another in the sixties in both the U.S. and Canada:

1963-68 – American Haiku was founded by James Bull and Don Eulert in Platteville, WI (other editors were Hoyt, Spiess, Kerr, Keyser, Webb and Brower)

1965-92 – Haiku Highlights founded by Jean Calkins in Kanoya, NY; Lorraine Ellis Harr renamed it Dragonfly in 1972 in Portland, OR and in 1984 passed it to co-editors Richard and Edward Tice

1967-75 – Haiku West was founded by Leroy Kanterman in New York; Vicki Silvers, associate editor 1967-69

1967-76 – Haiku founded by Eric Amann in Toronto, continued as Haiku Magazine from 1971 published by William J. Higginson in New Jersey

1969-present – Modern Haiku was founded by Kay Titus Morimoto in L.A. was succeeded by Robert Spiess from 1978, Lee Gurga from 2002, and Charles Trumbull, from 2006.

At the end of the sixties there was an exciting collaboration of haiku poets who met in the New York area to discuss and write haiku. A group of 23 poets gathered on October 23, 1968 for the first meeting of the Haiku Society. It was co-founded by Harold G. Henderson and Leroy Kanterman and officially became the Haiku Society of America in April 1969. Some of the first Charter Members were L.A. Davidson, Bernard Lionel Einbond, Elizabeth Searle Lamb and Nicholas Virgilio. The names of a variety of contests that are organized and judged by HSA members are named in honor of Henderson, Einbond, Virgilio and Mildred Kanterman continuing the legacy of the first members (more info here).

Here are a small selection of early haiku from Elizabeth Searle Lamb, L. A. Davidson, and Nicolas Virgilio:

Galloping . . . galloping . . .
    only a paper horse
      sitting on my desk!
 
—Elizabeth Searle Lamb, Haiku Magazine 2:3 (1968)
 

These same mango trees . . .
    they were twenty years younger,
      and my hair was black!
 
—Elizabeth Searle Lamb, American Haiku 6:1 (January 1968)

The raw emotion of yearning jumps off the page with or without the punctuation in these early haiku of Searle Lamb. Her complete collection of haiku and correspondence was an inspiration for the founding of the American Haiku Archives and she was the Honorary Curator in 1996-98. More on Elizabeth here.
 

At anchor in fog,
giving the bell a small pull . . .
a hundred bells . . .

Haiku West 4:1 (July 1970)

Chopping knotty pine
with the pitch holding fast
      hard stroke after hard stroke.
 
—L.A. Davidson, Modern Haiku 3:1 (1972), 38

The preciseness of L.A. Davidson’s choice of word extends this short form of haiku and reverberates in the sound of the bells and the beat of the pitch. More on Davidson here.

 
into the blinding sun . . .
the funeral procession’s
glaring headlights 

—Nick Virgilio, American Haiku, (1964)

The juxtaposition of the images within Virgilio’s haiku achieves an outer-worldly suspension in time and space. Illusion was a focus of his earliest work as in his iconic: Lily: / out of the water . . . / out of itself. The Nick VIrgilio Poetry Project is housed at Rutgers University in NJ. More on VIrgilio (https://www.nickvirgilio.org/).

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Essences began as a column written by Carmen Sterba in the North American Post in Seattle, WA, a bilingual newspaper in Japanese and English. Its purpose is to go back to the roots of the “haiku movement” in North America: the major poets, the individual styles of haiku, the books, the journals and conferences as they evolved from the sixties and seventies onwards. This will be a short version, so feel free to add information and comments as we go along.

Back To Top