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New to Haiku: Building Community

Hello, haiku friends! I’m sitting here in the kitchen of my parents’ house, thinking about the haiku community and what it means to me. I am not a life-long haiku poet. I started writing English-language haiku in 2009, after first discovering scifaiku.

My early years in the haiku community were a lonely time. Most of us don’t randomly run into haiku poets in our daily lives, and I was no exception. I began submitting to journals and accumulated my share of rejections. I knew I had something to offer, but I had no idea how to connect. This is why I now write a column welcoming new haiku poets into the community.

Welcome! Whether a new or seasoned haiku poet, I am glad you are here.

No one organization, journal, or conference is going to meet all of your needs (although we do try here at The Haiku Foundation!). You will encounter people, groups, and publications that don’t work for you. But there is a wide range of potential out there. I thought I’d suggest a few ideas for meeting your personal haiku community:

Participate in a local or regional haiku event. Meeting folks who live near you can open doors of which you were previously unaware. I suggested ways to find local groups in this previous post. Find a friendly face or two at the event and ask about other haiku happenings in your area, groups they like, journals to read. If you are lucky, you might find a like-minded soul to have haiku lunches with. (Thanks, Susan Burch!) If you are unable to find an event in your area, online haiku conferences are a nice way to connect. You can view recordings of the Haiku Society of America 2022 National Virtual Conference; the 2023 conference will likely be held online in the fall.

Attend a haiku conference. Triveni Haikai India is holding TRIVENI UTSAV 2023 from February 3-5 in Pune. (Follow Kala Ramesh on Twitter (@HaikuCrazee) to learn more and view the schedule.) Other haiku conferences planned for this year include Haiku North America, Seabeck Haiku Getaway, and Haiku Canada Weekend. You can read more about these and other haiku events in a previous post of mine, Regional Meetings and Haiku Conferences.

Find a critique group. Although local haiku critique groups are nice, they aren’t always available to the beginning haiku poet. There are several haiku workshopping forums online, including Inkstone Poetry Forum, Triveni Haikai India’s Forum (instructions for joining are on this FAQs page), and within our own THF Forum. (You must log in to see portions of the THF Forum.) You can also participate in features at THF that discuss, analyze, and/or share haiku, such as Haiku Dialogue, re:Virals, and the THF Monthly Kukai.

Canvas social media using the hashtag #haiku. I’ve written about my experiences as a haiku poet on Twitter, but Facebook and Instagram also have thriving English-language haiku communities. I’ve seen haiku posts on TikTok and LiveJournal as well, and I’m sure there are many other social media haiku communities I’ve not yet encountered. Weeding through the posts you find may sound like a daunting process, but you only need to make one solid connection for it to seem worthwhile. Read haiku first (THF’s digital library is a good place to start) and then search social media for poets whose work you admire.

Join in large-scale community haiku events.

Subscribe to publications that cover haiku happenings. For example, there’s a button at the bottom of this very page to subscribe to Troutswirl, the blog of The Haiku Foundation. We cover a wide range of haiku-themed topics here, including upcoming events.

Sign up for a haiku mentor. The Haiku Society of America has a thriving mentorship program for beginning haiku poets. P.H. Fischer, Anette Chaney, and Nicky Gutierrez spoke of the impact this program has had on them and their haiku journeys in their Advice for Beginners interviews here at New to Haiku.

Volunteer. As I’m sure you know, English-language haiku is not a lucrative business. The Haiku Foundation is run (almost) entirely by volunteers, and we’d be happy to have you join us. (You can contact us here.) We now have a page dedicated to our volunteers, thanks to the efforts of THF Board Member Theresa Cancro. One of my first volunteer jobs in the haiku community was here at THF, organizing contest entries. When you are new to haiku, it can be a challenge to figure out how to volunteer. If you have the time and inclination, find a group or publication you like and ask how you can help. They may not be able to use your talents, but I can almost guarantee that they will appreciate your offer.

Start your own haiku community. In my time as a haiku poet, I’ve witnessed the birth of a number of journals, including whiptail: journal of the single-line poem, #FemkuMag, Five Fleas (Itchy Poetry), Trash Panda Haiku, and more. These journals were created by enterprising poets who perceived a gap in the haiku community – a focus on one-line haiku, poetry by women and non-binary poets, weird poems, environment-themed works – and sought to fill it. Although this isn’t generally where new poets begin, your vision might be exactly what we are missing.

Please share your own ideas for finding and building haiku community in the comments!

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.

My thanks to Susan Burch for her insightful thoughts on a draft version of this column.

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 print poetry collection, Grasping the Fading Light: A Journey Through PTSD, won the 2021 Women’s International Haiku Contest from Sable Books. Her ebook of poetry, The Call of Wildflowers, is available for free online through Moth Orchid Press (formerly Title IX Press). Her most recent collection, After Curfew, is available from Cuttlefish Books. Connect with her on Instagram @julieblosskelsey.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this article and this column, Julie. I eagerly await it.

    I feel very fortunate to have found an amazing haiku community via Twitter and the daily haiku prompts there (#HaikuChallenge, #HaikuFeels, or weekly, #HaikuSaturday and #SenryuSunday).

    But you’ve reminded me that I just joined the Haiku Society of America and need to look into their mentorship program. I did also want to mention just how incredibly invaluable participating in Haiku Dialogue and the Monthly Kukai have been for my learning and growth. I could not recommend them more highly.

  2. Julie, this is a very important article. Building a supportive haiku community is very important for the new poet. I have found it to be a slow and rewarding process. I started with the mentorship program but started building a supportive network for when this would end. I have found it important to build a vast network of people. Everyone has busy lives so developing several avenues gives more support and options. With others started a email haiku group, workshop with others in the DM on twitter, joined a local freeverse group that I read haiku in, and belong to a zoom group. You have to be creative. Despite being an introvert, i have developed haiku friendships in the process that I can reach out to if I have a question or workshop a poem. In the beginning, I never thought this would happen. I had so many questions and no one to bounce them off of. So again very important and helpful article.

  3. Thanks Julie. Inspired by THF and various books and anthologies I’ve bought, I’ve initiated the Portarlington Haiku Society in Victoria, Australia which has twelve members who have been participating faithfully for over a year. We live in a small town but arrange to meet formally each season for a picnic, a ginko and discussion. I run a monthly kukai similar to THF and have the winning three haiku printed in our local paper. I also encourage our members to enter the THF kukai. We produce a newsletter ‘Wingspan’ twice a month with the anonymous entries to be voted on along with snippets of information and ideas. We have developed quite a bond through our society and certainly encourage others to do the same. We would love to communicate with another similar group for on-line discussion.

  4. Thank you for your piece Julie. There are so many resources imbedded in it. I am diving into them with glee.

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