Great Things in Small Beginnings
Welcome to The Haiku Foundation. This project is the tangible evidence of three years’ thought and hundreds of conversations. The belief that haiku needed an organization such as this sprung up from a conversation with Ernest Berry of New Zealand several years ago. Ernie wanted to know where, if a person didn’t own a complete set of Frogponds, he might find all the past winners of the Harold G. Henderson Haiku Competition. I told him that I didn’t know if one could find all the winners in a single place. Ernie then thought it might be an excellent idea to compile a book of not only the Henderson winners, but as many winners of as many contests as could be discovered. He proposed this as a Red Moon Press volume, but I demurred. While it would be a useful volume for researchers, I reasoned, it would probably not appeal to many others. Nevertheless, we both thought, this is a resource that needs to be made available.
Some time passed and I found myself in another conversation, this one with Charlie Trumbull. He was being generous with the fruits of his labors, specifically the Haiku Database, in response to one of my many queries. What if, I asked, this database were made available to the general poetic public? What if, instead of it being labor-intensive for you, it might be so constructed as to let poets enter their own material. It would save him hours of typing and swell the size of the database towards something approaching complete more than any one man’s labor could hope to do. In our ensuing discussions we exchanged views on several difficulties facing such a conception, but agreed that if it were possible, it just might be a really valuable resource.
And then in 2007, on a ferry carrying us from mainland Japan to the fabulous island of Yakushima, Richard Gilbert impressed upon me the need for a single place where people might go for haiku instruction, information, scheduled events, and much more. Being a scholar, his interest was primarily academic, and his model was the Naropa Institute in Colorado, where he had studied. Why can’t haiku have something like that, he mused.
What I felt to be the common thread of these discussions, and many more besides, was the lack of a central place where haiku people can find things out. Haiku, in my opinion, has done a very poor job of archiving itself, and catching up will only become more difficult.
So the very first mission of The Haiku Foundation is: to archive the achievements of English-language haiku’s first century of existence. To this end THF is working to create a variety of tools that will give every reader and scholar access to the work which is our history. Online today you will find a large and growing bibliography of books of English-language haiku. This will be updated periodically, and you can help us by letting us know about your new books. Information on how to supply this information can be found on the Haiku Bibliography page.
We are working towards the collection and placement of a physical library for haiku books. We have, through donations, already amassed nearly 6000 volumes, and are in discussions with several institutions about establishing this library. We would welcome your contributions, and you can find out how to send us your books on the Resources page.
For those who might be limited by geography from accessing such a collection, we are preparing an online virtual library of haiku books. We will need volunteers to help realize this goals, and if you would like to participate you can find out how on the Resources page.
And there are other projects which we have not yet taken up but which we would like to see come to be—we could start with Ernie Berry’s hope for a collection of prize-winning poems. If you have an idea for a project and would like to see how it might fit into The Haiku Foundation’s architecture, we encourage you to contact us by using the Contact page.
Just as we feel the need to do a better job at looking back at what English-language haiku has achieved to date, we also realize there is much work to be done. The general culture still doesn’t really know what haiku is. Opportunities for haiku poets to publish through mainstream channels remain slim. Even amongst ourselves there is great disparity to what is perceived to be of value, and why. There is almost no academic interest in haiku, which is perceived to be lacking in depth and creative challenge. Major awards in poetry never go to haiku poets, nor does scholarship or grant money.
We can content ourselves by saying it’s okay, we like it here in our own little world. And for many that will be sufficient. But for those who conceive of haiku as something larger, this is a stifling circumstance. And it should be evident that the only way this will change is if we do the changing.
So the second mission of The Haiku Foundation is to expand the possibilities for haiku in our culture. To this end we have several projects in mind, as described on the Resources page. For one, we have established Juxtapositions, a peer-reviewed academic journal, so that scholars who have had an inclination to write something about haiku but abandoned that idea because there would be nowhere to publish such an article will now have the opportunity to pursue it. We would like to add an academic conference to this over time.
We also are looking for mainstream partners to collaborate with us on haiku contests and awards, creating a greater outreach and awareness of what haiku actually is and does. We will be working towards a series of online tutorials to help those who are new to haiku to discover some of the elements that comprise a well-wrought poem. Again, we welcome your ideas on how we can make haiku a more viable enterprise for poets in the 21st Century.
And that brings me to the most important point: The Haiku Foundation is basically a volunteer organization. It will be exactly what you conceive it to be. It must be a product of the concerted energies of all people who care about haiku. This means that it is our goal to have a dialogue with all haiku poets, new or experienced, published or not, to help us realize a future that serves all of us. You cannot let a few people do everything, because then the organization will be the product of only a few minds. If we all give what is within us to contribute, The Haiku Foundation will be a much richer, capacious, long-lived and fulfilling experience for everyone.
There are many ways to contribute. Most precious and appreciated will be your time. The more people engaged in fulfilling the Foundation’s missions, the more readily will they be achieved, and the more we will have the luxury and privilege of considering beyond our first thoughts. I hope you will consider volunteering your service to a Haiku Foundation project that interests you, as described on our Participate page.
Besides your time, we will welcome your other contributions of books, equipment and resources. Donations from poets with access to facilities are especially appreciated, as we will want to gather to share our work and inspire one another. And of course we welcome your financial contributions as well. Things still cost money, even in haiku land. Our Donation page makes it easy to make a financial contribution to the Foundation.
This brings us to the present, and what I hope is a delightful experience for you. Please explore the site, see what stimulates you, what makes you want to do more with your haiku, and more with haiku in general. Tell us what we’re doing right. Tell us what you’d like to see us do. And tell us what we’re doing poorly. We want and need the feedback if we are to grow and meet your needs as they change.
In closing I want to thank those who have given their time, vision and energy to helping us get started. Scott Metz is our Blogmaster, and I expect you will enjoy his energy and love for the genre. Likewise for Allan Burns, who will provide a weekly feature called Montage, which compares the work of different, often disparate, poets in accordance with a theme or technique which links them. Charlie Trumbull’s exhaustive research is well-known, no doubt, to nearly all of you. The featured artists will show you a side of their talents that perhaps you haven’t seen, and help broaden the dialogue with their alternative language. All of this is made possible through the technical expertise and generous gift of time from our Web administrator, Dave Russo. Likewise, the fulfillment of this from idea to organization could only be done through the toil and beneficence of the Foundation Associates and the Board of Directors. I hope you have much reason and inclination to thank them over the upcoming months and years.
I’ve kept you far too long already. Welcome to The Haiku Foundation. We look forward to a long conversation with you.
The Haiku Foundation