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New to Haiku: How to Prepare for a Haiku Conference

Attending a haiku conference can feel intimidating. Even if you’ve been to one before, each conference has a different flavor, depending upon the location, focus, speakers, and attendees. Many poets tend to be introspective, and the thought of mingling with so many others can feel overwhelming, even when we know we are meeting new (and sometimes old) friends.

Haiku North America is rapidly approaching, and I have been thinking about what to pack for this five-day poetry event. So I broached this topic in an online forum: How do you prepare to attend a haiku conference? This is a compilation of what our group had to say:

  • By planning ahead, you can make the most of your haiku experience. Review the schedule beforehand and prioritize which sessions matter most to you. Accept that you may miss some of your favorite sessions. Pace yourself and be sure to allow some down time.
  • That said, allow yourself the option to join in that interesting conversation or to write with another poet. Leave some wiggle room in your schedule–and some flexibility in your bedtime–for happy accidents.
  • Bring some of your own published work to share. If there are opportunities for open-mic readings, check if there are planned themes so you know what to bring.
  • Prepare some handouts or other giveaways (if allowed). Some conferences encourage attendees to bring trifolds of poetry or other poetic trinkets–I’ve seen poetry on just about every surface imaginable! Check the rules of the conference to see if this is welcomed.
  • If a list of attendees is available ahead of time, note which poets you’d most like to meet. Keep in mind that there may be poets out there who can’t wait to meet you too! Introduce yourself to as many people as possible, and be sure to wear your nametag so folks can find you.
  • Bring a notebook and favorite pen so you are prepared to write when inspiration strikes.
  • Pack for all kinds of weather. The temperature in conference rooms can vary, and haiku poets tend to slip outside for gingo walks.
  • Leave room in your suitcase for conference swag. At some events, there are haiku books and journals available for purchase. Buy them at the conference to save on shipping costs. You’ll be supporting your favorite poets and haiku publishers, and you might be able to get a signed copy of a treasured book.
  • Be sure to pack a sturdy bag or backpack to carry your items during the conference (and back home!).
  • Write down your haiku-related questions. Conferences are a chance for all of us to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before or during your conference experience.
  • If you need help or feel lonely, don’t suffer alone. Ask someone for assistance. It can be intimidating to be in a room full of people whose names you know only from journals, but we were all new once and most of us are happy to help.
  • Be sure to thank the conference organizers during or after the event.
  • Have fun. 🙂

Portions of this post are adapted from Michael Dylan Welch’s tips for getting the most of out of your HNA experience, taken from a speech he made at HNA 2009. My thanks to Michael for pointing me toward this helpful resource. I’d also like to acknowledge Nicky Gutierrez, Joe McKeon, Terri Hale French, Kat Lehmann, Julie Schwerin, Kristen Lindquist, and Elliot Nicely for sharing their thoughts, most of which wound up in the text above. Many, many thanks! Any errors or omissions are mine.

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 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 3 Comments

  1. Nice on Julie – And if it’s an online conference, make sure to go through all the tech stuff/connections at least an hour before you start – it’s horrible if it doesn’t work at the start of the session. Get someone else to help by calling in and doing soundchecks / video clarity etc.

  2. I wish I was going this year, but sadly, no. I hope to get to one sooner than later. This is very helpful.

  3. Great ideas, Julie. Conferences can be a blast, but also overwhelming. It’s good to have at least a loose plan. It would be great to be able to spend quality time with everyone there, but that is just not possible. Just share your smile with everyone!

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