Problems and Challenges of International Haiku

The following essay was originally written for a panel discussion by the same title that I organized for the first Haiku Pacific Rim conference on 2 November 2002 at California State University Long Beach in Long Beach, California. I’m forgetting who all the panelists were, but I know they included at least me and Steven D. Carter, and perhaps Jerry Ball. The problems and challenges of international haiku (at least as I saw them then) seem not to have changed much in the many years since I first wrote this paper, although worldwide interest in haiku certainly seems to have grown. My gratitude especially to William J. Higginson for comments on this paper, among others who are acknowledged at the end. See also the discussion handout text at the end, which includes mission statements from three leading international haiku organizations. I also have a record of a short spoken introduction I had prepared for this paper in 2002, as follows: “One day a few weeks ago, when I was working on this paper, I told my wife that it was nearly done but that I still needed to polish it. She had an incredulous look on her face. ‘Pull shit?’ she asked. Sometimes, with all the theorization surrounding haiku, it may sometimes feel like we’re pulling shit. But I hope today’s discussion will prove more fruitful than that. I consider the paper I’m about to share to be a draft—a feeling out of ideas—and I hope our discussion after this paper might refine, correct, and expand these ideas. Thus I look forward to everyone’s collaboration.” Previously unpublished. See also “The Matsuyama Declaration: An Annotated Analysis.”


Poets the world over have encountered haiku. Or, if they haven’t already, they surely soon will. The growing interest in haiku and the cross-cultural explosion fostered by the Internet in the last decade has helped to revolutionize haiku, not necessarily in changing its aesthetics but in bringing new writers and cultures to haiku, haiku to new poets and cultures, and in better connecting all people with an interest in this shortest genre of world poetry. Ten years ago the Haiku Society of America newsletter listed only a few regional, national, and international haiku events each quarter. Now, the newsletter is much thicker and more selective, and monthly haiku activity is more than anyone could possibly keep up with, thanks to critical masses of poets excelling at haiku in various regions, nationally and internationally, and thanks also, presumably, to the Internet. The information revolution has moved beyond computers, too, to affect all haiku poets and organizations to foster greater international haiku awareness and understanding. International haiku has become an increasingly important genre of poetry that may be defined as haiku literature that is written, read, and understood by a worldwide audience. Yet by what globally applicable standards are these poems to be written? By what standards are they to be understood and appreciated? The problems and challenges of international haiku are great, but they are not insurmountable.
        The sea change in global haiku interaction has taken place in small steps, as simply as one poem at a time. This piecemeal process of globalizing haiku, however, has created poetic challenges on a global scale. International haiku faces several dilemmas, and they are worth itemizing and considering in order to improve quality, participation, and understanding in haiku activities worldwide.

The Question of Quality versus Participation

One dilemma is that international haiku can support quality (which is selective) or participation (which is not selective). It is difficult, though perhaps not impossible, to support both harmoniously. If both are possible, surely one stance will be emphasized over the other, and readers will want to give some thought to which stance is favoured by whatever journal or anthology or website they happen to be reading. The problem of seeking quality is that it raises the question of whose idea of quality is to be followed. Is a particular journal after a “yuki-teikei” haiku (strict formal structure with a defined season word), or perhaps more loose? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to defining haiku and what makes for good “quality” in haiku. Ultimately, a key question for international haiku is “What is haiku?” And who’s to decide, especially considering all the differences in cultures and languages around the world, and the necessary transmogrifications haiku seemingly must go through to fit or adapt to each language and culture? Perhaps haiku cannot help but being different things in different places, or different languages, with each context giving rise to a different amalgam of perceptions of what a haiku should be, influenced by climate, geography, history, language, culture, and of course the more prominent or outspoken writers or critics of haiku in each region or context. A simple example of differences, as I’ve seen it, is that nearly all French-language haiku are centered on the page, whereas English-language haiku tend to be left-justified. Is one better than the other? Are these just trends or fashions that have little meaning or little difference in quality? One also has the challenge, in international haiku, of resolving the Eastern master–student relationship with the masterless Western notion of democratic self-determination. The problem of seeking participation is that weaknesses in quality are sometimes overlooked for the sake of encouragement and inclusion (after all, a master wants to encourage his or her students in order to keep being paid for being their teacher). This is even more of a problem at this time when some countries and cultures are still new to haiku. Some membership journals (national and international) suffer in quality while promoting participation, leaving beginning readers with insufficient guidance regarding the quality of the poems included. This approach gives every participant a democratic voice, but risks the problem of beginners thinking that a publication’s inclusion of weaker haiku is an endorsement of those poems when it is not. And they may not even know which poems are weaker anyway. Yet this approach is not without its benefits, one of them being that it trusts all participants to make their own decisions regarding quality, which is a way of teaching readers to take greater responsibility for deciding whether a poem is effective or not. Yet still, a chief problem facing international haiku, in addition to the challenge of crossing language and cultural barriers, lies in finding a balance between the seemingly irreconcilable goals of quality versus participation. Local and national haiku organizations face this problem, too, of course, but the implications are greater in international haiku, I believe, because the potential for misunderstanding and cultural rifts is greater. Quite simply, haiku are written differently in different countries, or one trend might prevail more in one country than it does in the other, and it’s very hard to resolve all these differences across numerous international boundaries. Even within English-speaking countries around the world, it can be hard to resolve different understandings of seasonal references, for example. At the very least, if readers of international journals or anthologies are aware of some of these issues, they can more carefully assess the poems they read in these contexts.

Crossing Language and Cultural Barriers

A second problem facing international haiku is the aforementioned barriers of language and culture. Numerous translators and scholars have done a fine job in presenting and explicating Japanese haiku for the English-speaking world, and recent publications in Japan such as Emiko Miyashita’s The New Pond (Hokumei-sha, 2002) and Haiku, Tanka, Senryu: Internationalization of Japanese Poems (Chugainippohsha, 2002), edited by Kazuo Hayakawa, Hatsue Kawamura, and Ikuyo Yoshimura, have presented English-language haiku to the Japanese. One attraction of international haiku is the opportunity—and sometimes the necessity—to learn more about a different culture, though the very difference in culture can make understanding the poetry difficult. We have all encountered a haiku from another country that seemed impenetrable. We may have to accept the fact that some haiku will never make full sense in a different culture—and this goes for haiku translated into Japanese as well as from it. But other poems, sometimes with explanation, can be made clear. The challenge is to determine the right degree of explanation, when used, so as not to over-explicate such poems. But of course a larger question remains, and it’s certainly one that comes up in Japan as well as elsewhere, and that’s whether haiku can be written at all in languages other than Japanese. Some observers say no. And they’re not just Japanese. And some of the Japanese refer to “haiku” written abroad with those quotation marks, as if to suggest that they are “haiku” as perceived by foreigners, and not “real” haiku. Another way of conveying what may be disdain for foreign haiku is for the Japanese to use the kanji for “haiku” (俳句) when referring to Japanese haiku and to use the katakana for “haiku” (ハイク) for non-Japanese haiku attempts. Katakana is the Japanese script used to sound out foreign words, so the choice of one set of characters over another immediately suggests that it’s “not Japanese” and is perhaps thereby denigrated. But the opposite viewpoint is that of course haiku can be written in any language, with the essence of haiku easily carried from one culture to another (such as the brief moment of personal experience, a two-part juxtapositional structure of images, and seasonal reference, among other techniques—these seem hardly limited to just Japanese). This viewpoint would seem to find validation in the organization of such groups as Japan’s Haiku International Association and other worldwide haiku groups, such as the World Haiku Club and the World Haiku Association, both of which have had Japanese founders or cofounders.

The Tendency Towards Homogenization

A third problem in international haiku is one of homogenization. It is natural for poets in any part of the world to gravitate to poems that, though written elsewhere, might be written in the prevailing style of their own region. Yet too often, I think, haiku poets in Japan or Europe are puzzled by a greatly different style of haiku in, say, America or Australia—or vice versa. As a consequence of feeling puzzled, a tendency occurs to reject what is different or what we do not understand, and thus we subconsciously promote homogenization in our own region—moving towards a promotion of what’s written in one’s own region that’s different from what’s written elsewhere. This tendency may result in a sort of regionalization that may seem like the opposite of homogenization, with each region’s haiku being different from other regions, rather than homogenized with other regions. That can be both a good and bad thing. Indeed, if there’s a tendency towards homogenization (all haiku around the world becoming alike), the opposite is also true, with a tendency to avoid regionalization, which might be good in that it emphasizes each region’s distinctiveness, but also potentially bad if it diffuses or fractures what haiku is. In any case, a sort of homogenization still takes place within particular regions, and this seems unhelpful. We owe it to ourselves to take two countermeasures: to make the effort to understand rather than dismiss types of haiku that may initially puzzle us from other parts of the world—to see below the surface, especially the surface of translations—and to avoid the tendency towards global homogenization in order to gain acceptance or appreciation for our writing. Haiku that are too regional also have their problems, of course, but to lose the rich colours of regional and national styles and subjects would be unfortunate. As British Haiku Society President David Cobb has said to me, “The centripetal force in ‘world haiku’ actually runs counter to the force now felt in ‘local or regional haiku,’ which is centrifugal—an encouragement of exploration, innovation, and diversity.” Perhaps it is good for regional and international haiku to balance each other, but never to the extent that the force of one rejects the force of the other, for without the balance, modern haiku might well fly apart. A related challenge is that, if we seek to write for an “international” audience (an approach that may promote homogenization), then we seem to claim to know what that audience is. Yet, returning again to comments from David Cobb, he has said that it is fine “if one is internationally understood, but not a good idea to aim at it.” The risk is that, in seeking safety, one’s haiku may become bland.

The Applicability of Season Words

A fourth problem with haiku internationalization is the matter of season words and the difficulty of making them globally applicable to haiku. William J. Higginson, with his books The Haiku Seasons and Haiku World (both Kodansha, 1996), has done a tremendous service for English-language and worldwide haiku by attempting to address this issue—and I believe succeeding admirably. But we continue to face problems in the great variability of seasonal phenomenon. The dry grass that occurs in summer in California is a winter occurrence elsewhere in the United States, so even within a single country season words are a challenge. They are an even greater problem across international boundaries. Regional events may be suitable season words in local contexts, as with Obon or Tanabata in Japan, Remembrance Day in England or Canada, the Fourth of July in the United States, or Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, and we may know some of these events sufficiently well to understand them and for them to work effectively as season words, even though they’re not native to us. But lesser-known events and especially natural phenomenon may be unclear. How are we to understand and appreciate these sorts of poems? Avoiding such topics would merely promote homogenization in the haiku genre, and that instinctively feels damaging. Are we to footnote our poems, even though the scaffolding of footnotes seems anathema to the aesthetic comprehension of the poetic moment? (Footnotes can be vital in understanding haiku from another language, where double meanings and allusions might not be translatable, but we surely don’t want them in our own English-language haiku.) I believe a solution may be to at least be conscious of an international audience for one’s published haiku—and such consciousness requires sympathy for and knowledge of other cultures that can be gained by travel, by corresponding with poets internationally, and by reading as much poetry and other literature of other countries as possible. This is a tall order, and one must guard against pandering to one’s audience, whatever you perceive it to be, but with haiku internationalization, haiku is making ever greater demands.

The Applicability of Form and Cutting Words

A fifth challenge with international haiku is the age-old question of form and related matters of craft such as cutting words and suitable equivalents in English. Pronouncements such as the Matsuyama Declaration have attempted to address these issues. Haiku may have a form of 5-7-5 sounds (mora) in Japanese, traditionally, but what should the form be in other languages? The consensus among the leading poets and scholars (as opposed to often ill-informed though well-meaning haiku beginners, some of whom may be school teachers with influence beyond their knowledge base) overwhelmingly favours a free or organic approach to form rather than a set syllable count, at least in English. But as new devotees to haiku enter the genre, they continue to perpetuate this question, and perhaps it is best understood as a rite of passage—to start learning the 5-7-5 roots of haiku tradition (whether this is appropriate or not in English or not), and then to attempt other structures or strategies that have turned out to be more appropriate for haiku beyond Japan’s shores. Issues of craft, such as equivalents for cutting words and punctuation, are related matters that need attention—and are also sometimes contentious in the development of world haiku. For example, Japanese has kireji (cutting words) that are a spoken or written part of each haiku, whereas English uses punctuation or just breaks in syntax to indicate each cut. What we do in English is an attempted “equivalent” to what is done in Japanese, but some might argue that English simply cannot do what is done in Japanese, whereas others would say it can, but uses (of necessity) a slightly different means of getting there.

The Question of Appropriate Motives

A sixth problem facing the globalization of haiku is one of motive or agenda, and it’s worth exploring at length. If the motive for globalizing haiku is to promote world peace, for example, I believe global haiku will fail—at least as literature. Haiku is poetry, not diplomacy. As British poet Geoffrey Daniel wrote in an essay in The Art of Haiku 2000 (New Hope International), “We will do this precious form of writing no service by making inflated claims for it, and ourselves no good, if we become frozen into one way of seeing, and writing about, the world.” Haiku may have the power to promote world peace, but I believe it should be as a byproduct, not as a goal. Thus, for haiku’s sake, I question the envelopes and masthead of the Japanese journal , which say its aim is “for peace and mutual understanding.” I understand the generational viewpoint here, that these may be the views of people who lived through the war (which are shoes I haven’t walked in), but this stance does not strike me as being directly relevant to haiku, but a motive outside haiku. World peace is laudable in itself, naturally, and difficult to criticize without seeming to be a warmonger or to seem to oppose peace, but such a goal, if associated with haiku, risks subordinating haiku and making it less of the pure genre of poetry—world poetry—it might be.
        W. B. Yeats once said that “All literature created out of a conscious political aim in the long run creates weakness by creating a habit of unthinking obedience. Literature created for its own sake, for some eternal spiritual need, can be used for politics. Dante is said to have unified Italy. The more unconscious the creation, the more powerful.” David Cobb, speaking at the Global Haiku Festival at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, in April of 2000, mentioned a claim made around 1860 that polka music would promote world peace, but that now nobody dances the polka. Of course, this is a generalization, in that of course some people do still dance the polka, but this music and dance has hardly been the promoter of worldwide peace as had once been hoped. Claims such as promoting “universal brotherhood” or “world peace” through haiku are too polemical for haiku. Any haiku with an agenda, even social-consciousness haiku, risks a distortion of the genre. Cobb has said that these “tall claims [for haiku] actually prejudice haiku’s chances.” William J. Higginson has written to me that “turning art toward non-art aims is commonplace, and not to be denied as a useful employment for art, so long as that does not become its primary justification.” Moreover, as Cobb has emphasized, “The essence of haiku is to show things as they are, not how they might be—and ‘world peace’ is a case of ‘might be.’” In Frogpond (XXVI:1, 2003), Jim Kacian wrote of a Japanese contest anthology entitled The Report of the 36th A-Bomb Memorial Day Haiku Meeting that “this judgment of value in haiku illustrates the very great gap between art in the service of an idea, and art for art’s sake, and why that gap exists” (page 83).
        Emiko Miyashita, another prominent catalyst for the international cross-pollination of haiku, has told me that “people in Japan are likely to think peace can be achieved by going back to and sympathizing with nature, and are not likely to think that peace is something one has to fight for.” She says that, “What we learned from World War II was that fighting cannot bring peace on earth.” Thus a return to nature, facilitated by haiku, may explain why some Japanese poets, especially those who lived through the war, such as Yoshiko Yoshino or Kōko Katō, speak so strongly of world peace in relation to haiku. As World War II–era poets pass away, perhaps this prominent linkage of haiku to the promotion of world peace might fade. But it is certainly conspicuous now, and finding the balance between unrelated motive and poetic purity—art for art’s sake—is at present a significant challenge facing international haiku. Even Japanese airports have signs that say “May peace prevail on earth,” whereas American or European or other airports tend not to have such signs. If signs such as this arise out of guilt over the war, or out of horror over its atrocities, perhaps Americans and others should have more of these feelings, too. These feelings, however, should be independent of haiku.
        As for haiku, this genre of poetry may be seen by some as a replacement for fighting as a means to promote world peace. But as I and others have said, if this is its aim, then haiku can easily degenerate into propaganda. As the late Robert Spiess wrote in one of his speculations in the Autumn 2002 issue of Modern Haiku, “Haiku are no vehicle for preachment or propaganda, even of the noblest kind. They must have appropriate form, freshness of detail, integrity of tone, and especially, relevance to human experience, often involving our relation to outer nature.” Indeed, making our poems relevant to human experience is the challenge with haiku. With world haiku, the challenge is greater because on a global scale human experience is more varied. Furthermore, no missionary ardour should be allowed to pollute haiku globalization. Better to let people be attracted to haiku if they want to be, and better to promote haiku by attraction than proselytization, especially if that proselytization is distorted by an inappropriate motive. And better, too, to promote haiku and not something with haiku. So again, a balance is needed—and not easily found. A better motive, I believe, is to promote improved cross-cultural understanding or simply friendship rather than world peace. This is at least more realistic. But even here, these ideals are better as a byproduct of international haiku, not goals.
        To some degree, I think, we believe nature to be peaceful, and may feel that haiku, because it is so often about nature, will therefore foster world peace. This is something Emiko Miyashita suggests about the Japanese approach to peace. The truth is that nature is sometimes ruthlessly violent, yet how often do we write about nature’s dark side? On this matter I recall a poem by Shūji Miya (1911–1986), here in Makoto Ueda’s translation from Modern Japanese Tanka (Columbia University Press, 1996):

                jojoni jojoni kokoro ni narishi omoi hitotsu shizenzai naru heiwa wa arazu

                slowly inside me
                a thought has hardened
                into a belief
                world peace will never
                be nature’s gift

        I do not know any story behind this poem, but in the context of haiku globalization, I am left with the feeling that nature and poetry, including haiku, are best pursued for their own sake, without the distortion of propaganda.
        In recent years, books and anthologies of war haiku have been published in various countries, notably Croatia. In the lesser collections, notably not Croatia’s, some of the poems have veered into the polemical, as in Patrick Blanche writing that “men are crazy about making war,” or Thomas Hemestege writing “tell Death about the dreams of all dying men” (both from Martin Berner’s Sommergras—Summer Grasses [Minimart-Verlag, 1999]). Better to write war haiku without dogma, without taking sides—and without overtly promoting peace over war, as does Lenard Moore:

                midday heat
                soldiers on both sides
                roll up their sleeves

        Likewise, the Japanese haiku masters have written about the dark side of nature and of human nature; they have not excluded topics of war, from Bashō’s “summer grasses— / all that remains / of warriors’ dreams” all the way to the present. At the close of the nineteenth century, Shiki was assigned as a war correspondent in China. In April of 1895, he wrote no polemical poems against the war (as far as I know), but poems such as the following, in Burton Watson’s translation from Masaoka Shiki: Selected Poems (Columbia University Press, 1997):

                nashi saku ya ikusa no ato no kuzure-ie

                Pears in bloom—
                a wrecked house
                left from the battle

Shiki makes no overt comment on the ills of war, but simply implies that the home’s occupants have left or perhaps have died or been killed, yet still the pears bloom. Though the family that lived there is not able to enjoy the pear blossoms, nature still flowers—and maybe, too, nature still triumphs over war. The purpose is to show this nature, in all its indomitable continuity. Even when this beauty is in contrast to war, and thus may have the reverberation of promoting peace, it is still the aim of haiku to show what is, not what might be.
        In 1995, the University of Hawai’i Press published Heiwa: Peace Poetry in English and Japanese, a collection of haiku and tanka on the theme of peace. Poetry can certainly be written on this theme, and sometimes very well, but world peace is a potential human aim, not haiku’s aim. Haiku, again, is poetry, not propaganda. Or, as Paul O. Williams has written in The Nick of Time: Essays on Haiku Aesthetics (Press Here, 2001), once haiku “becomes a slogan, or a blow struck for justice, the purpose has moved outside the poem, and the poem is made to serve it.” He also says that “haiku must be self-contained,” and that “Its purpose lies within itself.” Even friendship between haiku poets should not be a motive if one is intent on writing haiku as literature. Let friendship merely be a byproduct instead.
        So where do these issues leave international haiku, including groups such as the Haiku International Association (founded in 1989), the World Haiku Club (founded in 1998), or the World Haiku Association (founded in 2000? For these groups, one goal is to focus on poetry, finding the balance between quality and participation while avoiding propaganda and sloganeering. The greater challenge is indeed motive. If the group motive is peace, or something other than poetry, then I believe the poetry suffers. Even if the motive is cross-cultural understanding, the haiku may still also suffer. Only when the motive is to promote haiku itself, I believe, does haiku best benefit. Other benefits may follow, but let them follow.

The Challenge of the Internet’s Democracy

A seventh problem facing international haiku—and all haiku, even without an international influence—is the democracy of the Internet. Or rather, the problem isn’t the Internet’s democracy, but ignorance and misinformation that too often pollutes the Internet as a result of its democracy. While the increasing democracy of haiku worldwide is laudable, its democracy on the Internet is less so because too many voices are uninformed yet heard on an equal plain to those that are more reliable. This is because, on the Internet, the burden of selectivity and editing shifts from editors and publishers, who are mostly professionally reliable, to readers, who may be less well equipped to assess the material in front of them, or may not even realize that they need to assess it or question its reliability. With the easy proliferation of unedited and sometimes uninformed Web sites about haiku online, the reader must take on an increased responsibility to assess the material he or she encounters. While skepticism is worthwhile in reviewing all information, skepticism is particularly necessary with Internet commentary. Since haiku internationalization is significantly fueled by the Internet, haiku poets online—especially those new to haiku—must be vigilant in assessing the history, aesthetics, and opinions they encounter online regarding haiku, as well as the quality of the haiku themselves.

Conclusion

In January of 2001 (and again in October of 2002), I was fortunate to be a guest of Asahi University, Ikuyo Yoshimura, and her Evergreen haiku group in Gifu, Japan. On my first visit, I enjoyed a splendid day of sharing haiku at the university, and visiting the Bashō museum in nearby Ogaki. We also visited Ogaki Castle, and though we reached the castle just after closing time, Professor Yoshimura prevailed on the ticket-seller to let us in, particularly so a curious gaijin could see the castle and enjoy the view from the top. Sharing this moment with members of the Evergreen group and later posing for pictures while mimicking the formal statues in the castle grounds is a treasured memory of my visit with my new poet-friends. It is at times like this where haiku truly becomes international, I believe, for it is here, in sharing a common experience, that haiku poets can come together as friends, writing poetry to the best of their ability. Our kukai earlier in the day was briefly interrupted by a small earthquake, but even then, visiting from San Francisco, it was something I could share with the poets in Gifu. And this, ultimately, is what international haiku is all about—sharing experience, sharing poetry, and, as a side benefit, sharing friendship. These are benefits unto themselves, but such benefits are separate from haiku as literature.


Acknowledgments: For commentary and assistance on this paper, I wish to thank Steven D. Carter, David Cobb, Lee Gurga, William J. Higginson, Emiko Miyashita, and Ikuyo Yoshimura.

Problems and Challenges of International Haiku: Discussion Handout

A panel discussion led by Michael Dylan Welch at Haiku Pacific Rim
2 November 2002, Long Beach, California

After defining what “international haiku” is, the following problems and challenges of international haiku can then begin to be assessed:
  1. Quality versus participation in haiku journals and other haiku activities, and the effect of the master/student relationship versus democratic self-determination.
  2. Crossing language and cultural barriers with haiku.
  3. The tendency of international haiku towards homogenization, and the question of writing, understanding, and appreciating regional versus international subjects.
  4. Applicability of season words on a global scale.
  5. The appropriateness of a fixed form versus a free or organic form, plus matters of cutting words and their appropriate equivalents.
  6. The question of motives of haiku organizations and poets in international haiku.
  7. The democracy of the Internet versus the value of disciplined apprenticeship.
  8. Other problems and challenges?
Given the preceding outline of problems and challenges facing international haiku, it may be worth examining the aims and missions of such groups as the Haiku International Association, the World Haiku Club, and the World Haiku Association. Their mission statements are as follows:

Haiku International Association Statement of Mission
(founded in 1989)

The Haiku International Association was established in December 1989 in order to respond to haiku’s worldwide popularity and to promote friendship and exchanges with haiku lovers overseas.

(originally from http://www.haiku-hia.com/kouryu_en.html; now see http://www.haiku-hia.com/about_en/organization.html, which provides the following text)

Since its introduction to Europe and America at the beginning of the 20th century haiku has spread all over the world. People in many nations are writing haiku in their own languages and a growing number are studying haiku. The Haiku International Association was established with the goals of fostering friendship and communication among those writing haiku and lovers of Japanese culture everywhere as well as to promote haiku and haiku culture. Our association was established by the three major haiku associations in Japan: Modern Haiku Association, Association of Haiku Poets, and Association of Japanese Classical Haiku.

Mission Statement of the World Haiku Club (founded in 1998)

The World Haiku Club is a non-profit-making organisation, established for the purpose of creating a world-wide network of haiku poets through which to help disseminate and develop haiku, and also to raise standards and quality of the genre. The WHC seeks to establish a synthesis between tradition and innovation (“fueki-ryuko”) as well as a balance between different schools of thought. Therefore, WHC is a broad church not siding with any specific organisation nor supporting any single poet. WHC maintains friendly and co-operative relationships with other like-minded organisations and individuals, united with them in the common goal of celebrating and developing the world haiku movement.
        The WHC aims at maintaining free, civil, friendly and creative culture in our search for permanent poetic values (“fuga-no-makoto”), where the motto is “the maximum freedom of poetic expression within the framework of minimum restrictions”.
        However, the WHC, as an organisation solely concerned with the creation and appreciation of haiku and related genres, is non-political, non-religious and non-faction and aims at avoiding all manners of prejudice. Any movements or propaganda activities in these areas are not allowed. Also, abuse of any sort is forbidden, including personal attacks and counter-attacks, blatant self-aggrandisement, unacceptable bad manners and language, or any form of negative haiku politics. WHC operates on levels which transcend national, regional or individual organisation levels.
        As we study, re-examine and uphold the proven values of the past, our main focus is on the future, stimulating creative experiments, innovations and search for new horizons in haiku and related genres. In this light, WHC celebrates diversity, promotes individualism and local initiatives and champions new talent, while at the same time honouring universal commonality and achievements of the established poets.
        In this spirit, our driving force is manifested in the two mottoes: “Challenging Conventions” and “Charting Our Future.”


The Mission of the World Haiku Association (founded in 2000)

  1. To recognize and encourage international standards for excellence in haiku without losing appreciation for local and cultural norms.
  2. To organize and carry out a system of haiku education to appreciate and understand these standards and norms.
  3. To provide a forum where poets from many and diverse ethnic, religious, national, economic, political and sexual orientations may publish without prejudice or censure.
  4. To promote haiku in all languages, and to promote translation practices which will further the sharing of haiku, while acknowledging the use of English as the current international language of haiku.
  5. To hold meetings, contests, publications and correspondence to create and promote a sense of community throughout the whole of the haiku world.
  6. To act as a resource center, providing books, instruction and resources to communities which are unable to gather their own.
The means to realize these goals include international conferences; the publication of books (several volumes, including a history of world haiku, a keyword saijiki and a world haiku anthology are in preparation); and the creation of a website where poets from all nations, languages and cultures can share their work with poets from other traditions.