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Haiku Maven: War of the Sexes

hm_logo Dear Haiku Maven, If a highly regarded haiku journal’s online sample issue has 15% of haiku written by women should I bother to submit to this journal? The editor is a man. Disheartenedana

Haiku Maven suggests that before submitting any work, you write to the editor of this highly regarded journal and let him know of his perceived-by-you-faux pas. Since the sample issue is online, the solution is rather simple. If the editor does not respond or his response leaves you dissatisfied, Haiku Maven would encourage you to enlist in the Haiku War of the Sexes. Caveat: Enlistment is not for the faint of heart.

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. I believe i became interested in gender regarding this
    community in 2002, when i felt that female haijun where
    better than male, until i broke down my favorite poems (not
    per gender) and at that time i discovered that i was wrong.
    Now, as far as the mainstream goes, my favorite poets are
    all male, not to say that i do not have copies of Silvia Plath,
    Rita Dove or Penny Harter!



  2. I’ve been periodically curious about how my poetry might be received with a different by-line. As an experiment, I’ve sometimes submitted work to journals and contests under pen names that might indicate various ethnic backgrounds, genders, ages, etc. I can’t say that I’ve noticed any sharp delineation in the results, though the sample is too small to warrant any conclusions. I’ll just say that it has always seemed like a valid question to me.

    PS I was writing and publishing poetry for over thirty years before I encountered haiku and my experiments and the curiosity that inspired them have not related exclusively to haiku.

  3. My post was really addressed to this statement:

    “Dear Haiku Maven, If a highly regarded haiku journal’s online sample issue has 15% of haiku written by women should I bother to submit to this journal? The editor is a man. Disheartenedana”

    I replied:
    “What I find worrying is that into the second decade of the 21st Century we are still talking about just two genders.” Alan Summers October 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    But I am perplexed why there is still, officially, only two genders mentioned in certain poetry circle discussions.


    Paris Lees – Channel 4′s first transgender presenter?

    Paris Lees:

    Hermaphrodite pages:

    I can’t see that I’m the only one who knows transgender people in the arts. I must admit I do not know of any, to my knowledge, hermaphodrite/intersex artists or poets.

    My worry is not that some poets here might not know hermaphrodite/intersex poets, or transgender, but that we continue to negate their existance by narrowing everything down to “two genders, two sexes” in the 21st Century.

    I think it would be healthy for many of us, not just ‘Dana’ if we worried less about women and men dynamics, and more about where we might be going right, or wrong, in our poetry. A broadening of acknowledging the sexes, gosh, at least of four genders, at least, would have a healthier effect on our world outlook.

    Gopi Shankar, a gender activist from The American College in Madurai said that, apart from male and female, there are more than 20 types of genders, such as transwoman, transmen, androgynous, pangender and trigender etc. and in ancient India it was referred to as Trithiya prakirth:

    kind regards,



    Poetry should be a freedom that everyone can approach, and only limited in publication by the quality of its work.

  4. I “speak” only for myself as an editor of The Heron’s Nest, John, Managing Editor, can and does speak for us all.

    Thank you Gene for the very kind words.

    I’m in my 14th year at this and have not noticed any gender bias in our Journal, nor do I feel it personally (but self-awareness is the hardest kind). Years back, I did count a few issues and found it roughly equal, male/female, the balance variable.

    If Alan is referring to other gender classifications, I’d have no way to know. Like another writer above, I just guess according to first name, and often have no idea. I just doesn’t matter.

    I should note that a journal can only choose, editorially, from what it is sent. I have no idea if, as a whole, haiku-in-English has more practitioners of one gender or the other.

    The Nest is also very diversified by geography. I do note this but do not believe I’m influenced by country of origin. By rough count, poet-reported, the current Heron’s Nest represents work from 22 countries. This is not deliberate, I do not think, on the part of the editors. The quality of the haiku, and only in English, is the thing.

    Further, we now have six editors, 3 of each. Christopher Herold operated solo for 9 or 10 months (monthly journal in the early days). He added Ferris Gilli and me, both genders. The next “hire” (we are all volunteers) was Peggy Willis Lyles.

    – Paul

  5. I just check the Nest last week , the two issues that i have
    handy, vol. 9 & 10 and the results are pretty close to 50/50.
    The Heron’s Nest is probably the best haiku publication offering
    both a paper magazine and online publication. My personal
    opinion of couse, and the Nest has the first shot at publishing
    my haiky since 2002, well, when i make a deadline.


  6. Enola Borgh, my mother, was a pioneer in Women’s Studies, at UW-Milwaukee. I cannot fully comprehend what her generation of women achieved. But I am old enough – will be 60 soon – to have had to work especially hard to stay true to my gifts when young. This was because I “worked outside the home” and grew an academic career for a time. Then when I no longer had a formal position, I experienced some of what women who chose to “stay at home” went through. Work is work – whether paid or not. I don’t know what young people experience now. Teaching is also hard physical work, and when I could no longer sustain the schedule, I experienced all kinds of conflicting comments. So I decided to hopefully be an older person who trusts the young people to find their own way, and support them from the background!

    If the goal is to share one’s work, there are so many ways. I admire the editors here who welcome communication in general (and respond if they can). I would imagine they will be more likely to receive a wide variety of submissions and that their journals will benefit.

    I think what I experienced growing up was a broader social world in my communities – and things can be hard to interpret. I surely agree with others here that each person is unique, and to focus on the work most of all. Always told my students not to over-generalize.


  7. I should make it clear that the figures I quoted below for the September issue of AHG are for the haiku submissions *only*.

    – Lorin

  8. To compare notes (though it’s still early days, as my first call for submissions went out only a month ago and the journal’s being revived after a break of several years): looking over those so far received (for the next issue), it seems that only about 20% are from women! Hopefully the trend won’t continue and I just need to spread the call more widely (hence, in part, my posting here), but still…

    To digress a little: something else that strikes me is that a similarly low percentage of those submissions are of haiku, although, as stated in the guidelines, I’m seeking “haiku and other short poems”. This raises the question of whether haiku poets tend to be reluctant to send their work to journals other than those focused exclusively on haiku (as appeared to be the case when I looked into this a few years ago). Why, if so? Because the chances of acceptance in other venues could be lower (which, to me, suggests an overly competitive approach)? Or simply a preference for reading haiku alongside other haiku?

    And just for the record, in case Disheartenedana was referring to the NOON sample in her post (the appearance of both coinciding so closely I couldn’t help wondering), it’s not a “sample issue”, but a smaller sample of poems from previous issues – assembled, as mentioned in my earlier post, with aesthetic considerations foremost in mind, and open to modification.

  9. Hmmm …

    Though with ‘A Hundred Gourds’, the aim is to be inclusive, that means to be inclusive, as far as possible, of the various kinds of haiku being written rather than to promote one style or ‘school’; to be inclusive of the various nationalities and localities and *both* Englishes; and to include publishable haiku by relative beginners along with those written by more experienced poets. It never occurred to me to keep tabs on gender.

    My impression has always been that I receive more submissions from people with male names than those with female names. I’ve checked for the September issue of AHG:

    AHG 2.4, September 2013

    total submissions = 165 (submissions by individuals, *not* by number of poems, which was approximately 1,650 )

    Males = 92
    Females = 73

    (I’m guessing for one name: I don’t know whether it’s a male of female name so I’ve placed it with the males. And I have no idea who is writing under a male, female or neuter pen name … would I assume it was a woman if someone went by a pen name such as ‘young negligee’ ? … probably not.)

    Another impression I have is that more people with female names submit tanka to AHG’s tanka editor.

    I very much like Patrick’s quote:

    Lincoln was once asked at a whistle stop: who’s smarter men or women? He answered,
    “Which man and which woman?”

    …and his response : “Which haiku was accepted? Which one rejected?”

    – Lorin

  10. 19 October 2013
    Has Disheartenedana had a bad experience with a male editor or poetry teacher that perhaps counting up the percentages of male or females published is of prime consideration when sending out some work? Sorry to hear that.

    Usually when I read or check out a haiku journal or, any poetry magazine for that matter, my interest is in how good the poems are. Especially if I am going to submit my own work to the magazine. Or pay for a subscription. Editors do have their own sensibility and the work they publish probably reflects that state of mind. Does that mean if they are male more male poets will show up? Could be an interesting study. Since at least two prestige journals, Frogpond and Acorn, are edited by women one might run some counts from them between the sexes.

    I have helped edit incoming submissions for a journal or two but as usual when in that mode I am more concerned with whether I think the poem is a worthy of publication in the next issue. I really don’t care what sex created them or what age or what political party they registered as. Any human on earth is eligible to write a good one. I would think that any highly regarded poetry journal only has that criteria.

  11. One sample issue does not make a journal (or should I say determine a journal’s character.)
    New journals must be given a chance to sort themselves out and I’d never hesitate to submit, especially if the maiden journal is outstanding and helmed by a respected writer/editor. Take a chance. s stated above a journal can’t pluck poetry out of the air. It survives through submissions.
    Take a chance…

  12. Lincoln was once asked at a whistle stop: who’s smarter men or women? He answered,
    “Which man and which woman?” Which haiku was accepted? Which one rejected?


  13. PS. I should have said (not to be presumptuous) that I’m sorry to hear that someone wouldn’t have felt free to let me know of her concern, were she referring to my journal.

  14. ‘Disheartenedana’ may well be referring to a different journal, but I recently posted a sampler from NOON: journal of the short poem online (, well aware that the proportion of poems by women was small, so this is a topical and troubling issue for me. The main reason is that over the years I received more submissions of poems from men than women, and without a gender quota in mind, the published poems reflect that disproportion (though in the journal, the percentage wasn’t as low as 15%). Another factor is that I tried to weave a representative sample of poems together in a kind of sequence. After noticing that there were embarrassingly few poems by women, I found several more that I would have been happy to include, but found it difficult to weave them into the sequence suitably. Besides, as an online sample, it can easily be modified if and when the ‘solution’ comes to mind; or I might try making a fresh sample.

    If ‘Disheartenedana’ were to point out aspects of the poems themselves that were off-putting, that would be another matter. As it is, it’s disheartening to me that she didn’t feel free to let me know of her concern.

    For what it’s worth, I can confidently say that there has been no significant gender gap in the proportion of submissions that I have declined. If anyone reading this is interested in sending haiku or other short poems for NOON, please rest assured that I welcome submissions from all (though of course, getting a feel for the journal by reading back issues or – less satisfyingly – an online sample, is advisable). The deadline for the winter issue is 15th November.

    All the best,


  15. Without knowing which haiku journal’s online sample issue we are talking about I find difficult to comment directly on that particular and singular sampler or issue, especially as this was a sampler which we are unable to study.

    What I find worrying is that into the second decade of the 21st Century we are still talking about just two genders.

    I’ll be running a feature that doesn’t narrow itself like that, but I have to be honest, as far as I know, the current issue of Lakeview Journal’s Special Feature which I edited has only two genders:

    24 women
    31 men

    I’m surpriseed it wasn’t at least 50-50.

    If a magazine is said to be open to all genders but only seems to have a majority in one of those, I would urge Dana (aka Disheartenedana) to continue submitting to those magazines and narrow their percentages.

    There are single gender publications, and I see no harm in that fact, but if a magazine is open, I hope it’s just open to the best work by any gender, and has no hidden agenda.

    warm regards,


  16. It would seem to me that there are many reasons why a particular journal might contain haiku mostly by men. It could be that the editor pays no attention to the percentages, but happens to get work mostly from men, with no intent to have significantly fewer women poets represented. So hardly a faux pas at all. It could be that the poetry submitted by men happens to simply be better, so again, not a faux pas. I know of no haiku journal editor who edits with gender quotas in mind, and would actively avoid a journal that did. It could also be that the editor happens to resonate mostly with men, again not a faux pas, just a personal preference — and something fine for any editor to have (Robert Spiess had a soft spot for poems about canoeing, but that hardly meant he opposed poems about other activities).

    I think it’s possible to read too much into gender percentages, but don’t submit if the percentages bother you. Perhaps it says something about the person who notices. But if it’s a good journal and you like the haiku there, why not submit, regardless of the gender percentages? If you’re going to worry that much about gender, why not worry about the racial profile of the submitters, or whether they’re Democrat or Republican (in the United States), or their shoe size? If it’s good poetry, then focus on THAT.

    I think the only faux pas here would be for a woman NOT to submit to a journal where it seems mostly men get published. To avoid submitting would be to accept the perceived problem rather than trying to fix it. If you think the editor’s tastes are imbalanced, then *submit* your work to help contribute to the number of women included, especially if more of a balance is important to you.

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