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Haiku Maven: The Trouble With Call for Submissions

hm_logo Dear Haiku Maven, I was excited to see a call for submissions from a new publisher of haiku. That is, until I read some of their published work. The poems they are calling haiku are merely three line free verse. Is there any way to stop them? They have at least ten new “haiku” compilations planned. I feel like they are just further diluting English-language haiku. I have a hard enough time explaining haiku to my friends as it is.

Signed, Dismayed

Dear Dismayed, In a workshop given by a celebrated poet laureate, these words were said to those attending, instead of a farewell, “Do not sent your work to every Baker, Candlestick Maker and other-in-a-tub publication; always consider the journal’s reputation for excellence.” In choosing where to submit your work, Haiku Maven advises you to be similarly discerning. Concentrate on submitting your best work to the most selective publications and publishers. In this climate in which new e-zines sprout like dandelions, a good new haiku publication can be hard to find. The litmus test is that the most selective publications will continue to thrive, while the lesser ones will disappear after a few issues. At the end of the day, haiku journals which feature three lines masquerading as haiku will not have a long shelf life. As to how to explain haiku to your friends, Haiku Maven invites responses from readers of this column. Please post your answer in the comment section.


The Haiku Maven posts each Friday to The Haiku Foundation blog. Haiku Maven offers advice about awkward situations involving haiku poets. Please use our Contact page to send a question. Haiku Maven will select a pseudonym for you based on your question. Click this link to see the Haiku Maven archive. Feel free to leave comments.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Stories, only my own stories to tell now . . .

    I had the privilege of being in the academic world for many years, as a student and professor. I remember a professor telling me to only publish in the “good journals.”

    Another professor taught me to think of publication as finding the right “home” for my work. I like that better. Room to grow there for me. And different kinds of journals related to different career goals – this was in special education.

    When I helped to train teachers – who also taught me – I advised students and listened -but then their goals were their own to decide.

    I had no idea I would find such a home with blogging, so who knows the future? One of the best things about being older is to support new efforts, so they can have a chance too. Sometimes I look at the blogs of readers who “follow me” and some are young enough to be my grandchildren. They are so bright and creative! I hope I offer hope. What “models” for publishing will they create that I cannot imagine now?

    Wonderful to contemplate.

    Thank you, Ellen

  2. Freedom of expression pairs with the Internet like a chocolate chip cookie pairs with a cold glass of milk. I know just what Dismayed is talking about. Countless submissions of a great haiku only to feel the sting of rejection when “does not fit our needs” come slinking back to the in-box. So, off to the next. . . and the next. . . and the next until, lawdy-be! Acceptance! Second rate? Cut rate? Who cares! Acceptance! Hey! Who took the last cookie?! And isn’t that just the way things are. . .


  3. I was going to answer the actual question, but I changed my mind.

    Let me tell you this instead: I live in a small town that has the same name as a large city in another country. It’s hard to imagine somebody living in that city would want to stop me from calling my town by the same name or inviting people to visit.

  4. Every writer of haiku I know worries about the lack of standards, but those doing the best work worry the least. It’s an exquisite literary form, on the level of the sonnet, but its brevity masks its difficulty. My best students seem to have been prepared by life for the demands of this challenging form. Once you get the call, what others do with the genre is incidental.

  5. I’ve just been reading David Lanoue’s comment in News of Haiku Society of America regarding the loss of membership. As I was contemplating this turn of events I thought about the long like of editors for Frogpond and how much I learned from them as I progressed. But it is hard for those just beginning to try to get the feel of haiku to have a great deal of rejects so I can understand how so many disreputable e-zines pop up all over the place, and bloggers posting all kinds of things for haiku. What’s happening now is that there is such an explosion of “haiku” out there that it seems to me that the very thing we’re talking about is changing as we speak. What makes haiku an essential manner of expression? What is the “core”? Will haiku become that essential art form that will get people through the tough times in life by being able to objectifying experience?
    I think these things will be telling as to whether haiku itself will become so dissapated that it won’t be recognizable except for a few who feel they have “saved” it… or if it becomes a vital part of life itself.

  6. Our maven is well-monikered.
    I may also add, know your editors. Do your homework. Are they well respected in the field? Do you admire their work? There’s no harm in taking a wait and see attitude, and not jump into a fledgeling publication until you see the proof of results.
    There have been some excellent but very short lived journals. (Andrew Riutta’s tanka journal Rusty Tea Kettle immediately comes to mind.) I still mourn what may have been with that one…

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