On Standing Still: Introduction to Standing Still

This is the introduction, cowritten with Ruth Yarrow, to the 2011 Haiku North America conference anthology, titled Standing Still (Sammamish, Washington: Press Here, 2011). The conference took place from August 3 to 7, 2011, at Seattle Center, at the foot of the Space Needle, in Seattle, Washington. This biennial conference started in 1991, so the 2011 HNA conference was its twentieth anniversary. You can also read selected poems from this book.

 

city passersby
stare at haiku poets

standing still

 

                —Marilyn Hazelton

 

This book’s title poem surely provides readers with immediate humor, but there’s more to it than merely that. Sometimes we stand still because we’ve noticed something, such as a blade of grass swaying in and out of shadow, a bee’s yellow pollen left on a picnic table, or the reflection of a sunset’s embers on skyscraper windows. So we pause to appreciate these moments. We also pause to register our observations in poetry. Haiku has been described as recording the essence of a moment keenly perceived, so naturally the poems we write begin with keen perception. That’s really why we stand still, not just to write, but to truly see.

        Though we may be used to people staring at us while we’re absorbed by even the most ordinary experience, we have sometimes put ourselves into a literary ghetto by not self-confidently sharing our haiku through publications and events that feature mostly longer poetry. Perhaps our assertiveness in the creative act could be extended to sharing our work in wider literary circles.

        The 2011 conference theme of “Fifty Years of Haiku” reminds us that it has been five solid decades that English-language haiku has flourished in North America, with the first haiku journal having started in 1963. This theme also connects us to the location of the 2011 conference at Seattle Center, at the foot of Space Needle, which opened for the World’s Fair in 1962. With fifty years of creativity and increasing numbers of poets and poems to celebrate, the Haiku North America conference demonstrates that haiku poets do not stand still in their development and appreciation for this rewarding genre of poetry.

        This is the eleventh biennial Haiku North America conference anthology. The first anthology presented poems in alphabetical order by each poet’s first name, and we continue that tradition here. We’re nearly all on a first-name basis, which is one of the many pleasures of actively participating in an enthusiastic worldwide haiku community. In the poems that follow, we invite you to stand still with each of your fellow poets to share in the moments that moved them.

 

        Michael Dylan Welch

        Ruth Yarrow


Haiku by the editors from this anthology:


        a show of hands
        in the jury room . . .
        winter light

                Michael Dylan Welch


        sketching wild orchids—
        slowly I sense
        their sweet smell

                Ruth Yarrow