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New to Haiku: What to Do After Your Second (or Tenth!) Haiku Publication

Earlier this year, I suggested things to consider after your first haiku publication. To recap: celebrate your publications (always!), support the journal in which your poem appeared and make plans to submit again, start and keep good records of your publication history, keep an eye out for reprint markets or contests that take published work (acknowledge the place of first publication when you submit), join THF’s Haiku Registry or other networking services for poets (I like Poets & Writers), and consider if you’d like to write toward a theme for your first book or chapbook of haiku.

Maybe you have done all of these things and you have published a handful of haiku (congrats!). You might still be wondering, what now? I think this is a question that writers often ask themselves, and as you grow as a poet, your goals will evolve. As you continue on your haiku journey, here are some suggestions to consider:

Adopt consistent writing habits.

One piece of advice that pops up regularly in New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners columns is that new poets should write, write, write, and revise. Several haiku poets interviewed here have spoken to just how many “bad” poems it takes for them to crank out one “good” haiku.

For me, maintaining a consistent writing practice is difficult. Often, I fail to set aside time to write; haiku moments have to grab me and hit me over the head before I write about them. I don’t recommend this as a sole writing habit! Haiku moments can be exciting, but there are many other moods to explore.

I find themed haiku contests helpful in my own writing practice. Writing to a set topic focuses my mind and leads me to contemplate subjects I might never have considered.

Weekly writing prompts via social media are another helpful way to keep words flowing. I previously wrote about haiku & writing prompts on Twitter here. You can also join in the bimonthly prompts at THF’s Haiku Dialogue and the monthly prompts at the THF Kukai.

Adopt good haiku reading habits too.

Even more than regular writing time, seasoned haiku poets recommend that newcomers regularly read published haiku. As Ben Gaa stated in his New to Haiku interview: “Read. Read. Read. And read some more.”

The haiku journal most recommended by New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners interviewees (to date) is Modern Haiku (with at least 8 mentions). The Heron’s Nest, Frogpond, and Acorn tied for second (with at least 6 mentions apiece). However, my math is admittedly a bit fuzzy. Many folks mentioned specific journal editors that shepherded them on their haiku journeys (I didn’t count those journals), and I don’t think any editor-interviewee specifically recommended their own journal or journals (but surely they would?). I can say with confidence that more than 30 other English-language haiku (and senryu!) journals were suggested as personal favorites, which says something about the wonderful range of publications out there. And although most poets recommended reading haiku, I’d estimate that roughly half of the interviewees didn’t suggest any one particular journal.

In his New to Haiku interview, John Hawkhead described reading NOON: journal of the short poem specifically because he often doesn’t understand the poems in it and wants to understand why. (I have a similar relationship with Bones.) It’s easy to enjoy haiku that we like. It takes effort to appreciate poems that we don’t. Regularly reading quality haiku that you find challenging can help you grow as a poet.

Maintain your personal haiku community and rebuild as needed.

I’ve written before about the importance of finding and building your personal haiku community. As Crystal Simone Smith wrote in her New to Haiku interview, “Community is the key to the palace.” This can be as simple as enjoying a regular haiku lunch date with a friend, joining in a local or Zoom haiku gathering, or regularly attending a haiku conference.

Lately, I’ve been learning the tough lesson that part of building and maintaining your haiku community is rebuilding it. Sad to say, groups on social media (and social media platforms in general) have an expiration date. I’ve enjoyed the Twitter haiku community for many years, but some poets have been leaving or reducing their time there recently due to changes on the platform. I’ve found some lovely folks on Facebook at NaHaiWriMo, Buds of Haiku, and My Haiku Pond, among others. I’ve also been eyeing some of the newer social media platforms and wondering about their haiku communities. If you’ve got a favorite social media haiku haunt, let us know in the comments!

Set haiku writing goals regularly and share them with a friend.

It’s tempting to set benchmarks for the number of haiku you will publish in a set amount of time, but you have little control over journal editors. (Be sure to follow good haiku submission etiquette, it helps.) Behavioral experts suggest setting goals over which you have control. (I like to set SMART goals; you can read about this technique of goal-setting here.) So, you might decide to write a haiku a day with the NaHaiWriMo Facebook group, for example, rather than planning to publish a certain number of poems next year.

Share your writing plans with someone in your haiku circle and update your friend often. Be sure to ask about their haiku goals too.

Stretch your wings.

Maybe you have writer’s block; perhaps you are growing bored with haiku (gasp!) and need a change. There are a number of haiku-adjacent creative outlets to explore.

If you enjoy art, try your hand at creating haiga, visual image wedded to haiku. Visit the THF Haiga Galleries for inspiration.

If you like prose or creative non-fiction along with your haiku, haibun might be more your speed. You can read Touchstone Award-winning haibun for 2022 at the bottom of this page.

If you find yourself writing haiku-like poems that focus mainly on people and the human experience, look into writing senryu. Tia Haynes, former editor of Prune Juice Journal, shares her thoughts on the differences between haiku and senryu here. Prune Juice Journal and failed haiku are two senryu journals that you might enjoy.

Torn paper bookmarks with this monoku by Julie Bloss Kelsey: unfurling my wings inner sun
I brought a few of these handmade bookmarks to Haiku North America.

Consider giving back to the haiku community or bring haiku to the general public (in a way that works for you).

It’s easy to believe that we don’t know enough about haiku yet to share it with others. (I still think this every time I sit down to write one of these columns.) It helps to remember that most folks, if they know anything about English-language haiku, only memorized a definition of lines and syllable counts back in grade school.

If you volunteer, find ways that work best for you. For example, the thought of speaking to a large group leaves me queasy, so you are unlikely to find me volunteering to address a full auditorium. However, I did talk to my son’s class about haiku and short-form poetry when he was in middle school. I titled my informal lecture Everything You Think You Know About Haiku is Wrong to pique the interest of teens. I used a handout so the students wouldn’t all be staring at me when I spoke. And in addition to haiku, senryu, tanka, and kyoka, I taught them about renegade forms like horrorku, sciku, and scifaiku (along with other short-form oddities like science fiction tanka and Fibonacci sequences) because I personally enjoy them.

Everything you read on The Haiku Foundation website is the work of one or more of our many wonderful volunteers (thank you!). Each section you see was once an idea someone (probably Jim Kacian!) thought was worth sharing. This New to Haiku column came about because I went to a haiku conference once and felt lonely and lost. Writing about haiku has the added advantage that it makes me happy. Through these interviews, I get to “meet” poets one-on-one, which keeps my shyness in check while allowing me to enlarge my haiku circle. Thanks for reading!

How do you maintain your haiku writing practice? Do you have a social media haiku group we can join? Do you volunteer in the haiku community? Do you have advice for writer-poets who overuse parentheses (sometimes) and exclamation points (often!)? Tell us 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.

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. Thanks Julie. I rely heavily on the advice from ‘New to Haiku’ and the various links it sends me to in order to pass on information to my haiku group which now runs its own monthly kukai. We have our own newsletter twice a month and meet seasonally to discuss why some of our own haiku works better than others. When warmer weather arrives (winter here in Australia) we plan to ’haiku bomb’ our small town by placing haiku in the trees, on fences, chalked on footpaths etc just to get it out there…and probably bewilder the community. We do have a column in our local monthly paper as well. THF info has been an exceptionally inspiring.

    1. Hi Jenny,

      Great idea!

      I still remember putting up a hundred or so haiku into a small tree outside a house that was part of an art trail. I was doing this as signage for places not so easy to find. It was very cold, snow on the ground, an open door with free hot drinks (soft and non-soft) and hot food. I couldn’t believe that people stayed out for 20 minutes reading loads of the haiku! Within seconds they could have been in a warm room with hot food and drink.

      I saw similar surprises when I helped put out over 3000 haiku along library shelves, one couple even changed their holiday plans, so that they could keep dropping into the library and read more haikai verses!

      warm regards,
      Alan

      Alan Summers
      founder, Call of the Page

  2. So grateful for this column and for all that I learn from it, Julie. I am finding myself stymied by things like joining the Haiku Registry and even thinking about putting together my first collection. I think, also, that the destruction of Twitter has left me feeling untethered despite knowing I have joined Threads. I really don’t know how people post and keep up on more than one social media site. 😂

    Which is all to say, I am grateful for the prompts I do weekly, Haiku Dialogue, THF Monthly Kukai, and the journals that inspire me to write to their themes. Sometimes it’s more than enough to recognize what is getting done instead of what isn’t.

  3. I read. Everything. Essays. Orion magazine. Emergence magazine. Not so much novels. Literary short stories. I have joined a writing group. I am the only one who writes japanese forms and is published in them. Doesn’t matter to me in what century a classic was written. They’re called classics for a reason. And the exposure to different prose genres enlivens my haikai writing language.

  4. A very helpful write-up, Julie. Thanks for sharing these nuggets of wonderful advice. I’m sure this column benefits new and veteran poets equally.
    You are doing a great job. A BIG THANKS for all your efforts.

  5. Thank you Julie for this valuable advice. As for giving back, I answered Bryan’s shoutout for HSA mentors. I was honored that he accepted me, based on my three years of experience in the haiku community. And I think I get more out of the mentorship than my two lovely mentees at our monthly Zoom session, as I search for readings to recommend, and develop, prepare, and review assignments. I will definitely share your article with them!

  6. I would add to this: consider reading poems other than haiku. A good starting place will be poems by Jane Hirshfield and W.S.Merwin both of whom are very familiar with Japanese aesthetics. Consider writing poems other than haiku.

    Philip Rowland’s Noon publishes haiku regularly along with a wide variety of short poems. For me, beyond all the publications
    mentioned above, it is the very best journal featuring haiku. It treats them as poems in the whole ecosystem of poetry. As such, they take on a life and a shine that is too often dulled in journals that specialize.

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