The Matsuyama Declaration:
An Annotated Analysis

The following is an annotated analysis of the Matsuyama Declaration, issued in 1999, which sought to guide the internationalization of haiku literature in the twenty-first century. It also established the Shiki Prize, an award of approximately $50,000, plus smaller awards, which were given every two years in Matsuyama, Japan, but seem not to have been awarded since 2008. This declaration was drafted in July of 1999 by Arima Akito, Haga Tōru, Ueda Makoto, Soh Sakon, Kaneko Tohta, and Jean Jacques Origas (Japanese names given with surname first), and announced in September of 1999 at the Shimanami Kaido 99 International Haiku Convention. For more background on this document, see the Matsuyama Declaration entry on Wikipedia. This document appears at several locations online, but the definitive version, including both Japanese and English, is available at the Fukiosho site. Mundo Poesía also hosts a Spanish translation. My annotations of this declaration, in the form of footnotes, were written in June of 2016, and provide a variety of comments and reactions (amounting to more than 10,000 words—more than double the length of the declaration itself). I invite you to read each footnote as you go along by opening the footnotes in a separate window. In some cases my comments raise questions, especially near the end, for which I would be very grateful for answers. I also hope that this declaration’s lofty goals might be resurrected and sustained by its original stakeholders and any other interested parties, especially in funding its biennial awards and other research and promotion goals. My annotations are previously unpublished. See also “Problems and Challenges of International Haiku.”       +       +       +

Matsuyama Declaration

Haiku is part of world literature.[1] Haiku is opening itself to various peoples of the world. This short, 17-syllable poetic form[2] is now on the verge[3] of broadening the possibilities of a rich array of poetic forms in the world.

1. Matsuyama—The Place

Haikai poetry flourished more in Matsuyama than in any other fief during the Edo Period (1603–1868). From the early days the people of the Matsuyama domain, especially Okudaira Okyo, sought entertainment from haikai. As a member of the “inner circle” of the Tokugawa shogunate, the city enjoyed peace and was blessed with a temperate climate. Ohara Kiju, a poet, who like Okyo was active from the late Edo to the Meiji Period, and who was to become Masaoka Shiki’s haikai teacher, formed the haikai society, “Meieisha” in his capacity as a disciple of Baishitsu. Following the poetic style of the traditional school, the society engaged itself in activities such as the launching of what became the third oldest monthly poetry publication, “Masago no Shirabe”; thus, haikai poetry enjoyed great popularity until Shiki’s day.[4]

        Japan’s modern haiku (17-syllable poetry[5]) originated in Matsuyama mainly through the effort of Masaoka Shiki. Shiki, who was born into a samurai family in the Matsuyama fief, was unable to fulfill his political aspirations due to the unfortunate circumstances that resulted from the Meiji Restoration (1868) when the Tosa fief gained control of Matsuyama. Shiki could not give up politics. From an early age, Shiki had learned the basics of kangaku (Sinology) and kanshi (Chinese poetry translated into Japanese) from his grandfather Ohara Kanzan, and Kawahigashi Seikei, the father of Kawahigashi Hekigodo. After various attempts in politics, philosophy, art, and fiction writing, he found his mission in haiku. Like kanshi, or Chinese poetry, haiku was a fixed-verse form, and a familiar genre to most people. Plunging himself into an environment where none of the elite scholars of his day paid any attention to haiku,[6] he attempted to gain the blessing of the Gods of literature by synthesizing the past achievements of haikai[7] and modernizing it by scientific approach.[8]

        In addition to Shiki, Matsuyama boasts of producing other leading haiku poets. Chief among them are Takahama Kyoshi, Kawahigashi Hekigodo, Nakamura Kusatao, and Ishida Hakyo, and others who represent the contemporary haiku world. As if to compete with this orthodox school, from the Nanyo region of Shikoku there was also the sudden emergence of Tomisawa Kakio, Shiba Fukio, and Takahashi Shinkichi, the poet who is referred to as Japan’s first Dadaist. It is truly astonishing that they all had very close relations with Matsuyama, and contributed to the development and enrichment of modern haiku. The rich haiku foundation that they succeeded in building for Matsuyama is truly astonishing.[9]

2. The Spread of Haiku Throughout the World

Japan’s traditional poetry came into contact with world poetry through translations of hymns and biblical poetry. Works of translations, such as “Shintaishisho” (1883) by Toyama Shoichi et al, and “Omokage” by Mori Ogai helped to establish the kind of poetry popular in the West. Although Shiki himself promoted the reform of haiku and tanka, he also expressed an interest in Shintaishi (new style poetry) and held Shintaishi study groups. He was especially interested in the distinctiveness of rhyme in Western poetry and compiled a ‘rhyme dictionary’ in order to introduce rhymes into Japanese poetry.[10] From the beginning Shiki had his eyes fixed on the rest of the world and taught the contemporary Japanese the importance of rhyming in poetry. Just as Japanese Shi-ika (poetry) was influenced greatly by Western poetry, haiku has had great influence on the world of poetry in the West. Haiku was originally introduced to the West at the turn of the century[11] by Basil Hall Chamberlain and Paul Louis Couched.[12] When poets such as Ezra Pound[13] and Paul Eluard exhibited a deep interest, haiku quickly gained attention. For example, Paul Claudel, one-time French ambassador to Japan, Yves Bonnefoy, Philippe Jaccottet, America’s Richard Wright and Allen Ginsberg,[14] Germany’s Rainer Maria Rilke, Italy’s Guiseppe Ungaretti and Octavio Paz, Nobel Prize winner from Mexico, and other such great poets all incorporated the spirit of haiku in their poetry.[15]

        For example, in “Natural History,” Renard used adept similes in his simple verse about “Butterflies.” He wrote, “This two folded love letter is looking for the flower’s address.” He described a “snake” in one line thereby giving it a haiku flavor.[16] Octavio Paz wrote a three-line haiku-like poem: “Every time the child throws it, the top just falls, on the center of the earth.”[17] Rilke’s poem beginning with “Rose, oh pure contradiction,” which he willed as his epitaph, was also a kind of haiku.[18] There was a high level of interest in haiku in French literary circles as well. The New France Review, edited by Jean Poland, influenced a generation of French writers. In 1920, shortly after its founding, the journal featured a special issue on haiku which caused quite a stir in the French poetry world.[19]

3. Why Did Haiku Spread Throughout the World? The Heart of Haiku

Western poetry is rich and has various styles. Some are very short, but others are very long, using several hundred lines. Furthermore, their forms could not be clearly defined because of their huge diversity.[20] Haiku, on the other hand, is a complete and independent poem with just 17 syllables.[21] This was shocking to Western readers.[22] Haiku is not the kind of poetry where logical conclusion is expected to offer the reader a definite poetical answer. In other words, haiku transcends logic.[23] For example, even if Matsuo Bashō’s


aki chikaki

kokoro no yoru ya

yojoo han

autumn is approaching

hearts nestle close in the four

and a half tatami mat room[24]



mata yorisowan

kono hashira

wintering over . . .

I’ll sit close

by this pillar again[25]


hiyahiya to

kabe o fumaete

hirune kana

the wall is cool

against my feet

an afternoon nap[26]

were translated into English as above, and attempts were made to explain them logically, they could not be fully explained. Each translation is totally different. In haiku, a thing of wonder is expressed as it is. Haiku is grasped with all 5 senses, not by logic.[27] Things which logic could not explain might be expressed in haiku. In order to jump over the gap between logic and the senses, unique Japanese rhetorical techniques such as “kireji” and “kigo” were invented.[28] Haiku is thought of as a “gift from nature.” This is based on the Japanese view that “nature is not something that people should confront, but rather something that people should merge with.”[29] Also, the Japanese view of life is to “project human life into nature.” As the tanka of today breaks away from the tradition of nature and the sensitivity to seasons that had been embraced in ancient waka,[30] haiku has inherited that tradition, and has let it become even more pronounced. From the waka of ancient Japan to the tanka of today, the tradition of nature and the sensitivity to seasons have continued and become even more pronounced in haiku.[31]

        In other words, haiku reminds its readers that men as living beings exist in nature, hence it suggests to them that they should live a symbiotic and sympathetic life together with other creatures in nature.[32] When they are disposed in this way, they will be endowed not with a heart that is enclosed within itself, but with a heart that is open to all others.[33]

        Furthermore, haiku is poetry of the common people. Haiku was born among the common people, was perfected by the common people and has returned to the common people.[34] In addition, it allows the writer to write about any subject in daily life.[35] Thus, it is not strange that haiku has continued to greatly increase the number of its followers and gain popularity; a very rare phenomenon in modern times.

        First of all, haiku is easy to write. When we write haiku in Japanese, if we line up 5, 7 and 5 syllables[36] and insert a kigo (season word) the result is haiku-like.[37] And haiku fills every writer with rapture.[38]

        Secondly, haiku originates from haikai, which is a group-oriented literary art and structurally it requires others. Groups who have the shared interests in evaluating and creating haikai are called “Renju.”[39] So a haiku poet takes a creative method different from the typical modern poet who writes poetry in isolation.[40]

        In short, this democratic nature of haiku made a fresh impact on the poets of the world and came to be accepted by them as something they could possibly make use of.[41]

4. The Problems of Teikei (fixed form) and Kigo (season words)

A common issue that always comes up in discussions of international haiku, is how to deal with the fixed-form of 5-7-5 syllables and kigo in other languages and cultures.

        First of all, the 5-7-5 rhythm is unique to the Japanese language, and even if other languages were to use this rhythm, it is obvious that it would not guarantee the same effect.[42] Teikei is not about the matter of syllable count or accent, but the matter of the way poetic expression could be heightened through tension when the writer wants it.[43] In the case of Japanese poetry, the best method to increase poetic tension was the 5-7-5 syllable form.[44]

        In addition, the techniques and rhetoric that are used in this fixed form are also innately Japanese.[45] There are many types of haiku. For example, there are haiku that express a reality that is instantly perceived, and haiku that uses kireji (words that are cut for a surrealistic effect) to construct another world[46] as formative arts. An example of the former is Takahama Kyoshi’s



hi atarinagara


a paulownia leaf

in the sunlight




shizukani hane no

ochini keri

a feather shuttlecock

gently falling—

Higashiyama hill



daikon no ha no

hayasa kana

a daikon leaf

flowing away

how swift

Yamaguchi Seishi’s


natsukusa ya[48]

kikansha no sharin

kite tomaru

summer grass

the locomotive’s wheels

come to a halt[49]


pisutoru ga

puuru no kataki

mo ni hibiki

a shot of the pistol

echoes over

the hard surface of the pool

and examples of the latter are:

Hashi Kanseki’s


kaidan ga

nakute namako no

higure kana

no stairs . . .

a sea-slug

in the dusk

Nagata Kooi’s


shounen ya

rokujuunen go no

haru no gotoshi

a young boy . . .

like spring

sixty years from now[50]

It might be difficult for a non-Japanese to understand them because the kireji does not exist in other languages.[51] Thus, forcing the fixed-form of Japanese haiku and accompanying techniques on other languages is nonsense.[52]

        Next is the issue of kigo (season words). As mentioned earlier, Japanese haiku is “gift from nature” and in Japan seasons and nature are closely related. Hence, kigo is indivisibly linked to haiku.[53] While it is extremely important to describe nature by perceiving the relationship between nature and human beings based on the haiku insight,[54] it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of kigo. In other words, when we discuss haiku from a global perspective, the contents of haiku will have closer relation with each country’s local characteristics.[55]

        Therefore, when haiku spreads to the rest of the world, it is important to treat it as a short-formed poem and to take methods suitable to each language.[56] For a poem to be recognized worldwide as haiku, it must be short-formed and have an essential spirit of haiku.[57]

        We believe in the possibility of the birth of new techniques such as fixed-form and the kireji that are characteristics of a particular language and that are appropriate for expressing the spirit of haiku. For example, the French sonnet began as a long poem, but when Tachihara Michizo introduced it to Japan, he shortened it and succeeded in producing a Japanese-style sonnet.[58] Western poets can do the same thing with haiku. Today, it is common in the West to write haiku as a three-line poem. It creates a different space from the Japanese haiku that is written in one vertical line, which visually allows for instantaneous unconscious perception.[59] But what is wrong with changing the number of lines if the writing style is appropriate to that particular language?[60] In other words “teikei” means to find out “the inner order of the language” and for the poetry, that could be universal.[61]

        The fact that haiku is, in essence, symbolic poetry that has stopped being long-winded and talkative is recognized worldwide.[62] Kigo is an accumulation of a long tradition of poetic sensibility that has continued to grow since the birth of waka.[63] Globally speaking, it is a “keyword that possesses a symbolic meaning unique to that particular culture.”[64] Surely all cultures are certain to possess symbolic keywords that are unique to them,[65] and which have been nurtured throughout their history. In this context, haiku can be described as being a universal poem whose essential part is expressed by “symbolism.”[66] We can also point out that the recent trend of modern Japanese haiku that attempts to refine itself as a symbolic poem,[67] are in line with this global direction.

        In the case of Japan, Renju,[68] as already explained, had contributed much to the acceptability of “commonly shared words” such as kigo.[69] This points toward the possibility of using non-kigo in the same way as kigo,[70] if those non-kogo[71] are words that are commonly shared by that community. Even when a non-Japanese poet writes a haiku in a non-Japanese language, and even when he does so as an individual poet in isolation, he will not be able to ignore the usefulness of the “commonly shared words” which, because of their symbiotic[72] function, have much to convey.

5. The “Shadows” and “Echoes” in the Works of the Leading Poets of the World

In the 21st century, Eastern silence may be regarded more important.[73] Claudel brought the French language closest to silence in his poem the sound of water

on water

the shadow of a leaf

on the leaf

while Ozaki Hōsai expressed the loneliness of man in the very short haiku


seki o shite mo


even if I cough,

I am alone

Edgar Allen Poe stated that “long poems are contradictions in terms.” When the poem is short, the reader must be able to understand the silence.[74]

        From a universal standpoint, haiku is a symbolic poem, but the meanings of the symbols are completely different in each cultural context.[75] For example, Yosa Buson symbolized sorrow in a wild rose by saying,


urei tsutsu

oka ni noboreba



going up to the hill

wild roses



kokyo no michi ni

nitaru kana

wild roses

the path is like

my home town’s


michi taete

ka ni semari saku

ibara kana

the path ends

the fragrance draws near

wild roses

But in “Wild Rose,” Goethe simply poeticized a maiden. In the West, “lilac” symbolized resistance, but in Japan this flower did not symbolize any such idea.[76] The clear image presented in Bashō’s haiku,


kare-eda ni

karasu no tomari keri

aki no kure

on a bare branch

a crow perches

in the autumn twilight

This haiku is praised in the West for exemplifying the preconceived concept of the Japanese esthetic.[77]


araumi ya

sado ni yokotau

ama no gawa

rough sea

the Milky Way is crossing over

to Sado

This haiku, on the other hand, is very difficult to understand unless one knows the history of Sado Island.[78] However, communication between different cultures through haiku symbols between different cultures have already started. In haiku, an object is concretely expressed as a symbol.[79] The symbol is suggestive enough to allow non-Japanese poets to understand,[80] and use it in their own poem.

        In Bashō’s poems we find surrealistic works[81] such as


kumo no mine

ikutsu kuzure te

tsuki no yama

So many cumulus clouds

crumbling into

a moon-crowned mountain.


shizukasa ya

iwa ni shimiiru

semi no koe


cicadas’ cry penetrating

the rocks


ishiyama no

ishiyori shiroshi

aki no kaze

the rocks are whiter

than the stones of the Ishiyama Temple . . .

autumn wind


umi kurete

kamo no koe

honoka ni shiroshi

sea at dusk

the sound of wild ducks

slightly white

We have modern[82] works by Nomura Toshiro such as


shimo hakishi

houki shibaraku shite


a while

after sweeping the frost

the broom fell

Bashō’s “kumo no mine ikutsu kuzure te tsuki no yama” offers a typical example of sophisticated symbols. The cumulus cloud is life, man and light, while the moon-crowned mountain symbolizes death, woman and shadow.[83] The haiku describes “cumulus clouds” on a summer day crumbling as time goes by. That scene changes to that of the moon-crowned mountain in the autumn evening. This is a highly symbolic haiku. Toshiro’s work, on the other hand, is simply about a broom that falls. But after the broom swept the limpid frost, it falls in a stopping motion and a mystic tranquility arises from this everyday scene. These excellent haiku are both on the border between abstract and concrete expressions. This creates a mystical quality.[84] Good haiku presents life bursting with energy, while transcending life and death. Imoto Noichi advocated the irony of haiku, but Shiki boldly went beyond irony on to nonsense or Dadaism[85] in his haiku


keito no

juushi-go hon mo

arinu beshi


must be fourteen

or fifteen there

Surrealism was heralded at the start of the century in France, but could it be that the Japanese have long had a natural proclivity for surrealism?[86]

6. Trends Toward Internationalization, Universalization and Localization of Haiku

The conclusion of the Second World War brought a breath of fresh air into Japanese literature.[87] We still vividly recall the revitalization of haiku in reaction to Kuwabara Takeo’s “Discourse on Haiku as a Secondary Art.” The discourse viewed haiku as not being based on the idea of modern individualism. But, in fact, this is the very strength of haiku. Since Shiki, has modern individualism taken hold in haiku? If we look at the haiku tradition of group composition, it would be difficult to say “yes.” It is still a matter for debate. We would like to define haiku as an ultra-modern poem that has the best of both, which will rise above the tragedy of the modern times.

        As mentioned earlier, in haiku we find the special quality of rising above the self-awareness of the Western-type modern individualism and reaching a realm where we connect ourselves with nature.[88] This special quality gives us the possibility of opening to the world through haiku. In this sense, haiku has a sheer objective character. If nature were destroyed, haiku would take note of the destruction in a dispassionate manner or direct this reality towards its inner self and the virtual world where we can frolic in the mountains and streams on a sunny day. In either case, haiku and nature are one and the same.[89] Perhaps haiku, nature and people all share the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Therefore, when we talk about the destruction of the natural environment, we should not regard ourselves as protecting nature, but cultivate the awareness of being a part of nature. Since this is the basic characteristic of haiku,[90] it will have an important role in environmental issues.

        In any case, with the rapid destruction of the natural environment these days, the act of composing haiku gives a perfect opportunity to reconsider the relationship between people and nature. We look to the various poetries of the world to give us the power to heal people’s anguish, to recover harmony and return to a symbiotic relationship with nature.[91]

        We think this short, universal poetic form called haiku should be spread even wider throughout the world.[92] Haiku has undervalued its own strength in the past. As we have argued so far, haiku is qualified to revive the various poetries of the world (including Japanese tanka and contemporary Western-style poetry) in the 21st century.

        The key to Japanese haiku reform is in the universalization of haiku.[93]

        We look forward to seeing movements and new poetic activities that will place haiku and its conceptual framework at the forefront of avant garde poetry of the world.[94] In this sense, haiku has a progressive presence. We look forward to the time when haiku will take off to an unknown destination somewhere in the world where it will be a forerunner of fresh, innovative poetry.[95]

7. Let’s Give Poetry Back to the People . . . A World Poetry Revolution in the 21st Century

It has been about 100 years since the death of Shiki, who ignited the haiku reform movement. Precedents for the declaration which we propose here are Shimazaki Toson’s preface to his poetry collection of about 100 years ago in which Toson stated that “The age of new poetry has finally come” and the Surrealism Manifesto of Andres Bulton[96] that appeared about 75 years ago.[97] But it has been a long time since we have witnessed the birth of this kind of new poetic manifesto. In the world of Japanese haiku also, there has recently been a demand for reform and for an end to a prolonged state of stagnancy.[98]

        In this declaration, we have concentrated on the essential universality[99] of haiku that has been present since the days of Shiki’s reform. By taking into account the circumstances in which haiku spread to the world in the past, we have made projections about its future possibilities globally. In the context of universalization of haiku we think it should be presented to the poets all over the world to work with the application of fixed-form and season words.[100] We wish to openly welcome those poems from all over the world that possess the haiku spirit.[101] By making use if a traditional fixed form of poetry, the Japanese have succeeded in applying a grammar unique[102] to the Japanese language, such as kireji, and condensing the poem to 17 syllables. We feel that in all languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Arabic and Spanish, we can find ways to condense diction for the purpose of poetic expression. We also believe that an understanding of the value of silence will greatly contribute to the broadening of poetic space in each language.[103] We hope that the poets of the world will share the achievements of the Japanese haiku masters[104] with us and that they will take part in this poetic movement to resolutely pursue ways to condense their own language.

        The 21st century is just around the corner.[105] The haiku world of Japan is filled with countless haiku groups, poets and societies. Haiku continues to live on by simply reproducing the haiku we Japanese have inherited from our ancestors.

        On the other hand, modern poetry has endured various trials and tribulations and is sometimes on the brink of stagnation in various parts of the world. Some devoted poets of the world have yearned for haiku, this short poem that is at the forefront of world poetry[106] and offers the highest level of completeness. Haiku provides a means for these poets to break free of this situation. The only way we can return haiku or poetry to the common people[107] is by responding to the wishes of these poets.

        We wish to rise above the current situation of the Japanese haiku world where haiku is at once in prosperity and in stagnation[108] at the end of the century. With all earnestness, we watch the growing global awareness of haiku. We announce the Matsuyama Declaration to poets all over the world from this extraordinary site, Matsuyama, where Shiki ignited the haiku reform a century ago by describing it as the “Poetry by the Defeated.” Our purpose is to once again pave the way for new possibilities in poetry.

        Haiku welcomes the world as it faces outward towards the world.[109]

The Matsuyama Declaration of 12 September, 1999 is a statement made by the following people:

Explanatory Note:

The original document, written in Japanese, reflects the erudition and depth of thought of the men listed above. As with translating haiku, it has proved to be a very difficult task to perfectly render its profound contents into English. However, in an effort to present it to the international community, we have prepared this provisional translation.[115]

Nishimura Gania, Tanaka Kimiyo, Ruth Vergin

Matsuyama Declaration (Proposal)

We hereby make the following proposals[116] based on the Matsuyama Declaration.

Establishment of the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Research Center

In Matsuyama, the original site of the haiku reform movement, we shall establish an International Haiku Research Center in order in facilitate research, writing, training, publication, awarding prizes and disseminating information, etc. to contribute to the development of haiku as poetry of the world.[117]

Following is a list of specific activities:[118]

Establishment of the International Haiku Award ‘Masaoka Shiki Prize’[119]

To promote the haiku spirit in world poetry, an International Haiku Award will be set up at the International Haiku Research Center,[120] for poets worldwide.

The specific agenda is as follows.[121]


[1] This statement is itself a major declaration. Here we have a team of mostly Japanese poets, recognized as worldwide authorities, acknowledging haiku to be not just Japanese literature but a world literature. Some Japanese poets do not share this perspective, referring to foreign haiku in quotation marks, as “haiku,” as if it’s not the real thing. Or they may refer to foreign haiku by using the katakana (ハイク) rather than the usual kanji (俳句) as a way, so it would seem, of suggesting disdain or at least an “otherness” of haiku not written in Japanese (katakana is the Japanese script used to sound out foreign words, which suggests that these “haiku” are “not Japanese” and as a result are seemingly denigrated). In this context, then, the opening statement here is embracing, an acknowledgment that world haiku might not be “other” after all. However, one might also speculate that this declaration, like the 1989 formation of the Haiku International Association before it (formed by Japan’s Modern Haiku Association, Association of Haiku Poets, and Association of Japanese Classical Haiku) was a way to take ownership of worldwide haiku, as if to keep it from entirely escaping Japanese influence.

[2] We must take this reference to syllables as meaning the seventeen sounds counted in Japanese haiku, because studies and practice have shown that seventeen syllables in English produce a significantly longer poem, because of many differences in language. Japanese haiku do not count syllables at all, but mora, or sounds (one syllable might have more than one mora). In this sense, it is unfortunate that the word “syllable” is used here, as it perpetuates misunderstandings. Nevertheless, a later reference in this document makes it clear that “syllables” is indeed in reference to haiku in Japanese, not elsewhere in the world. In addition, the question of form in various languages is dealt with specifically later in the document.

[3] I’m not sure why haiku at this time was seen on the “verge” of broadening world poetry. Rather, it seems to me that it already had, or it wouldn’t be thought of as already being “world literature.” What I take this statement to mean is that haiku is seen as presenting great potential to influence all kinds of poetry around the world.

[4] Information about Matsuyama is helpful in explaining why the document was drafted in this location, and may also seek to establish authority for the declarations it offers. Matsuyama can certainly be seen as perhaps the major Japanese influence on haiku poetry worldwide, especially through the reforms of Masaoka Shiki shortly after the Meiji Restoration at the end of the nineteenth century, as explained in the following paragraph.

[5] This reference is clearly regarding haiku in Japanese, even though they count sounds rather than what Westerners would call syllables. For example, the word “haiku” itself has two syllables, but three mora.

[6] This is a useful historical detail, because we may too easily forget that in Shiki’s day haiku had fallen into the backwaters of literature, brackish waters that Shiki stirred up in dramatic effect, making this poetry more accessible to the masses, yet also deeper and more refined to the literati.

[7] Shiki wrote extensive essays on Bashō and Buson, in particular, generally knocking Bashō down a few notches (although he later took a more supportive stance), and extolling the pictorial and imagistic virtues of Buson. In this manner Shiki built a foundation for his reforms, which included the naming of this literature as haiku (it was previously known as hokku).

[8] Donald Keene’s biography of Shiki, The Winter Sun Shines In (Columbia, 2013) refers to Shiki’s “vast project” (140) of systematically classifying all haiku published from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. This would seem to be the “scientific” approach referred to here. Otherwise, I’m unsure what this reference might mean.

[9] We are given further evidence for the influence both in Japan and worldwide for the city of Matsuyama, giving additional credibility to this document because it was crafted in this location.

[10] The truth is that rhyme is very easy in Japanese, because near all words end in the five vowels. In his biography of Shiki, Donald Keene says that because they are so easy in Japanese poetry, “rhymes easily pass unnoticed” (149). Nevertheless, this is an example of how Shiki was heavily influenced by the West, and sought to explore numerous possibilities of Western verse and how they might influence poetry in Japanese (haiku and otherwise).

[11] Meaning, of course, the beginning of the twentieth century.

[12] This is a typo, surely meaning Paul-Louis Couchoud. See, where it says Couchoud “became well known as an adapter of Japanese haiku into French.”

[13] It seems unfortunate that more couldn’t have been said about Imagism, and Pound’s use of haiku in cementing his ideas of this major period of modern Western poetry. Indeed, I would say haiku had more influence on Western poetry through Imagism than through any other period of modernism or post-modernism. However, perhaps this omission reflects a Japanese awareness of larger trends, or maybe the omission means nothing and is purely an accident.

[14] Jack Kerouac could also have been mentioned here, and was perhaps a greater influence on the development of haiku in English than Ginsberg (and certainly Richard Wright).

[15] It would be a major challenge to collect, translate, and study the haiku of all these poets, and additional poets from around the world who might be mentioned with them. I am unfamiliar, for example, with haiku written by Jaccottet and Ungaretti, and know almost nothing about Claudel’s explorations of haiku. And if Rilke, like so many poets, wrote poems that were merely short or had a haiku flavour to them, is that really enough? Is it trying to claim an affinity that isn’t really there? What is most useful in this list, nevertheless, is the demonstration of worldwide interest in haiku by major literary figures. It would have been of interest to include Australian and African examples, and perhaps Middle Eastern and Indian poets. Tomas Tranströmer and Rabindranath Tagore seem to be particularly glaring omissions.

[16] We must note that haiku is a one-line form in Japanese, written vertically. For this reason, some Western poets and translators assert that haiku in English and other Western languages should also be in a single line, albeit horizontally.

[17] I’m not sure why it was necessary to refer to this poem as being merely “haiku-like.” Paz is known to have written many haiku, and to have labeled them as such.

[18] One wonders if this is a stretch, as if haiku needed the endorsement of major Western writers. I don’t believe it has ever needed such validation, except perhaps in the eyes of those who too readily dismiss it.

[19] A historical detail that is worth exploration, and perhaps translation into English.

[20] This seems like an odd thing to say, because hundreds of Western forms have indeed been clearly defined. Think just of the sonnet, the triolet, the pantoum, the ghazal, or the limerick. The attempt here, I think, is to draw a contrast between whatever forms are “undefined” in the West with the “clearly defined” form of haiku, as if to suggest that this difference was a reason why haiku became of such interest around the world, but I believe the argument begins with a false premise. However, haiku offers great clarity and simplicity that may well be the source of its attraction in contrast to the complexity of certain other poetry forms around the world. There’s nothing wrong with the diversity of poetry from all corners of the world, of course, but haiku actually added to that diversity, making the diversity more complicated rather than simpler.

[21] There’s that syllable thing again. Sigh.

[22] I think the “shock” might be defined as coming not just from the brevity of haiku but its assertiveness that this brevity was enough.

[23] I see this as a bit of a generalization. Sometimes, in fact, readers can put the relationship of the two parts in a haiku together like a syllogism, and apprehend them very nicely with logic. In fact, the “intuition” that many readers feel is at work in haiku is to some degree logical deduction. The relationship of one part of the haiku with its juxtaposed part can indeed lead to the leap of deduction that something else is intended or implied, or at the very least that an emotion is suggested. Nevertheless, many haiku defy simple logical deduction, exploring juxtapositions that require the feeling of one’s way through the images.

[24] I find this to be an awkward translation, especially with the line break after “four.” For a moment one might even wonder if it’s a typo, and thus feel snagged and distracted, before one reads the third line. The poem might be more efficiently translated as “approaching autumn— / hearts nestle close / in the tatami room.” The reference just to “tatami” leans on the reader to know the size of a tatami mat (and that a tatami is a mat), and intuit the size of the room from the reference to hearts nestling closely. The original poem’s explicit reference to the size of a “four and a half” tatami room underscores the close physical proximity presented in this poem, and my revision loses that explicitness, but I believe it is still implied. However, if one wanted to retain that detail, saying “approaching autumn— / hearts nestle close / in the four-and-a-half tatami mat room” makes for a cumbersome last line. Perhaps one could reverse the last two lines: “approaching autumn— / in the four-and-a-half tatami mat room / hearts nestle close” (but oh, that’s a cloying last line). My concern with the translation underscores the point of why this poem is even cited, of course, in that the poem cannot be adequately translated or explained. Moreover, it cannot be understood purely by logic, especially if “a thing of wonder is expressed as it is,” as the commentary after these poems explains.

[25] One way to apprehend “wintering over” is as a reference to a bird that spends the winter in a particular location, despite the cold. Or at least that’s what one could start with. The poem does not merely say that winter is over, but that the task of staying in a particular place for the winter is now over, which adds much more meaning to the poem. Although one can take the phrase to refer to birds, it could just as easily apply to humans. Another way to apprehend the poem is to interpret “wintering over” idiomatically in the sense of “spending the winter,” or “staying over” for the winter. In this sense winter is about to start or in mid force rather than ending. Either way, we may have no idea why in this context the poet would need to sit next to a pillar (and why “this” pillar?), except perhaps as a source of warmth, so again, we cannot figure this poem out with logic.

[26] The next paragraph is about to make the point that a poem like this is apprehended with our five senses, and indeed this is a deeply sensory poem. We can feel how hot it must be if a cool wall provides such relief. I would say, though, that we do figure this out with logic, not merely the five senses.

[27] I will have to slightly disagree here. Yes, haiku are experienced through the five senses, and that is indeed its chief dwelling place. But we can also apply logic to some haiku, even if not all. So it seems unnecessary to dismiss the role of logic in haiku. As the rest of this paragraph acknowledges, however, the two-part structure created with the use of kireji does facilitate and encourage the use of logic.

[28] I can see how kireji can help readers jump the gap (or rather, kireji create the gap that readers can jump), but I’m not sure how kigo could do this. And of course, kigo weren’t “invented,” but merely classified using terms that already existed before haiku. But what is meant here, of course, is that these “techniques” were invented or developed for haiku. They provide compression and implication that help to make haiku much more complex than its surface simplicity would suggest. Here I feel compelled to whip out my favourite Roland Barthes quotation, from Empire of Signs: “Haiku has this rather fantasmagorical property: that we always suppose we can write such things easily.”

[29] As much as the Japanese are said to value nature, it’s appalling how badly they mistreat it. The Japanese tend to love the “nature” of a manicured garden more than truly wild nature, and much trashing of wild spaces has happened in Japan, in far worse proportions than in North America, for example. That might be a factor of having so many millions of people crammed into such a relatively small space, made even smaller by the extent of less hospitable mountainous terrain in Japan, but that should still be no excuse for the abuses of nature so common in Japan. As “natural” as Japanese gardens look, they are just as “planned” and manicured as the gardens at Versailles, even though the organic asymmetry of Japanese gardens looks vastly different from formal gardens of the West.

[30] I wasn’t aware that waka or tanka had broken away from this tradition, but I will agree that haiku has certainly embraced it, as indicated by the highly detailed codification of season words in Japanese haiku. Some saijiki collections in Japanese are apparently as big as whole encyclopedias. Such codified seasonal references are not a formal part of the waka tradition, which may be the point here, but I don’t think they ever were. However, the point to distinguish here is that haiku codifies seasonal references as kigo, whereas waka and tanka did not, even though they frequently still used references to the seasons and to other aspects of nature.

[31] This sentence seems to contradict the previous one, which said that tanka had “broken away” from seasonal sensitivity. I agree that seasonal reference is more pronounced in haiku than in tanka, though.

[32] I have always thought that haiku’s real focus was not nature but the seasons. Of course, seasonal references will embrace nature most of the time, and that’s wonderful, but the real goal is to tap into the ephemeral cycles of life, and the cylces of the earth. Nevertheless, where would haiku be without nature?

[33] I am happy to gravitate towards this message. Indeed, a haiku focusing outside the self, that is, including a focus towards nature, can appeal more directly and more thoroughly to others. It is a sharing of the heart. I also see haiku as an act of vulnerability, saying, for a moment, that “this matters to me,” and wondering if it might also matter to the reader. This sort of vulnerability cannot happen if we do not open our hearts to others.

[34] One wonders where it might have gone if haiku needed to “return” to the common people. Don’t tell me the academics got a hold of it!

[35] This may seem like an innocuous claim, but I would suggest that it is somewhat contentious with some readers. Would Bashō write about mobile phones and personal computers if he were alive today? Of course he would, just as we can—and that’s the claim made here. But there are some haiku purists who choose to maintain what they think of as a “pre-Shiki aesthetic,” limiting themselves to “nature” and only the most ordinary and basic of human inventions, like doors and houses and kimonos. But that seems as trapped in time as the Amish, riding their horse-drawn buggies and avoiding electricity because that was the “tradition” of their culture. It feels quaint, and more of a novelty than being logically defensible. There is no doubt some value in trying to write the pure-nature poem, or in trying to confine one’s self to the pre-Shiki aesthetic, such as one may understand it, but I see no need to stop there.

[36] Again, “syllables” in Japanese, not English.

[37] Why no mention of kireji? The heart of haiku is really juxtaposition, the adding together of two things, of making 1 + 1 equal 3, of making each haiku greater than the sum of its two parts. This is the magic of haiku, the source of haiku’s rapture.

[38] One hopes, too, that it fills readers with rapture too. It may well be a mark of success in haiku when the poem transfers this energy from the writer to the reader.

[39] It might be easy to assume that the linked, collaborative form of “renku” is intended here, but that’s not the case. Nevertheless, the term is not well defined here, so some readers may be a little puzzled here, since searches for “renju” don’t seem relevant to the discussion at hand. But there is a meaning for the term that isn’t apparent in those searches (see another comment on renju, coming later). It would have been useful to have explained this term better in this declaration itself. Nevertheless, it’s important to note here that haiku are written for others, not just in isolation, and are meant to communicate, sometimes using an elaborate interplay of context and allusion to get the job done. Of course, this is again not limited to the Japanese, but the point here is that haiku (and especially haikai and renga before it) in Japan has largely been a social activity.

[40] The social and performative aspects of haiku in Japanese seem to be underappreciated by Western poets. In Japanese culture, the group has always been more important than the individual, and there’s no need for Westerners to abandon their innate preference for individuality, but it helps for Westerners to understand the group mentality of the Japanese. As they put it, “the nail that sticks up is pounded down.”

[41] The democracy of haiku was the stance I emphasized in my introduction to Fire in the Treetops, the twenty-fifth anniversary anthology of the Haiku North America conference. William J. Higginson also underscored the democratic nature of haiku in his keynote address to the very first HNA conference (my introduction borrowed its title from Higginson’s talk). It is probably this democracy, more than anything else, that has made haiku so successful around the world. It is democratic because it is so accessible by anyone, in any language, in any culture. Any stance that suggests that haiku can be written only in Japanese strikes be as abominable, and even naïve and insulting to the millions of people around the world who have enjoyed writing this poetry in their nature tongues. The weaknesses of lesser attempts should not be perceived as denigrating the achievements of the best haiku poets in any language.

[42] Well, gee, I wouldn’t say it’s unique to Japanese. Extremely common and natural, sure, but it cannot be “unique.” One can write in such a pattern (whether counting sounds, beats, syllables, words, or whatever) in any language. What is useful here, of course, is the claim that the effect is perhaps different, or at least unpredictable.

[43] This is an interesting assertion, one that I’m drawn to. On a superficial level, “teikei” is understood as referring to a fixed form (meaning go-shichi-go, or 5-7-5). But here the claim is that teikei is after tension, whatever that may mean, perhaps the friction between subject matter and the size of the bucket one chooses to put it in. Because 5-7-5 is so natural and common in Japanese, though, I’m not sure how its use might have something to do with creating poetic tension, so I wish this idea had been fleshed out in greater detail.

[44] To say it has been “best” is of course a subjective judgment. It’s certainly the norm, and the Japanese are all about following the norm (as mentioned before, “the nail that sticks up is pounded down”), yet there are rebels in Japan who choose to write haiku in a completely free form, with greatly varying syllable counts. Think of Santōka, Ippekiru, and Takayanagi. However, perhaps a set form in Japanese may be seen as “best” because, in a Darwinian sense, trial and error has kept landing on that pattern because it is so natural and easy in Japanese.

[45] Well, hmmm. Are they innately Japanese? Does this mean to suggest that they are possible only in Japanese? Are we back to referring to foreign haiku in quotation marks as if it’s not the real thing?

[46] Constructing “another world” relates to what I mean when I say that a good haiku is like 1 + 1 equal 3.

[47] It is worth noting, in passing, that the image of the paulownia leaf with its berries, as used on the crest for the Prime Minister of Japan, appears in a pattern of five, seven, and five, sprouting from three leaves. I think too of E. E. Cummings’ famous poem “l(a,” which equates loneliness to a falling leaf. Shibishi, or loneliness, is the essence of autumn haiku. I note, too, that the paulownia leaf is also represented in some crests with a 3-5-3 pattern of berries. This may not give license to variety in Japanese haiku form, but it might be pleasing to think so.

[48] This poem has a kireji (“ya”), so I’m not sure why it’s used an example of instantly perceived reality instead of the “other world” created by using kireji.

[49] This is one of my favourite haiku in modern Japanese.

[50] It’s democratic that this declaration should present both kinds of haiku, and of course support them both—a reality instantly perceived, and other worlds created with kireji. But I would also suggest that these are not opposites, or shouldn’t be perceived as such. A poem with a kireji could still be instantly perceived, and directly so.

[51] Well, here’s a point that is both utterly true and simple, yet also contentious. Kireji are, of course, purely Japanese. They don’t exist in English or other languages. That’s why we are obliged to use an equivalent to kireji in English and other languages. But the equivalent does exist, and certainly the effects of our equivalent uses exist also, which is ultimately what matters most.

[52] I am somewhat okay with the conclusion here, but not with the logic. Seasonal references exist in any language, as do the effects of our equivalents for kireji—that is, to use two grammatically independent parts in a haiku, perhaps emphasized with the use of punctuation at the point of juxtaposition. I agree wholeheartedly that 5-7-5 need not apply in English, a topic I’ve written about extensively, but I disagree that it’s not necessary for haiku outside of Japan to employ season words or a two-part structure, let alone to call this “nonsense.” Might season words be optional? Sure. And maybe it depends on each individual poem. Likewise, a two-part structure may work well in most haiku but might not be necessary in all of them, in English. The key word in this sentence, though, is that of “forcing” these techniques on other languages. I’m okay with calling that nonsense. But it is not nonsense to still expect haiku in any language, as the traditional norm, to make use of season words and juxtaposition. Each language should be free to develop its own haiku sensitivities. However, I do still think it’s perfectly possible for any language to employ seasonal reference and a two-part structure (and going after the effects these techniques are trying to produce). This can be done in any language. The statement here should not be construed to mean that these techniques should be avoided in non-Japanese languages, or that they are unnecessary; rather, they simply shouldn’t be forced onto other languages, certainly not in any blind and unthinking fashion.

[53] Let us make the distinction that the term “kigo” applies to haiku in Japanese, and that in English we can say “season word,” as we need not adopt foreign jargon when we have a perfectly serviceable term in English. This distinction may enable narrow-minded interpreters to assert that mere “season words” in the West don’t carry the cultural and allusive weight of “kigo” in Japan, and that may well be the case, but I believe that’s only because the Japanese have been at it longer. Our season words will gain that resonance over time.

[54] Oh that more Westerners would realize the truth of this statement in haiku. For me, haiku is not just a “nature” poem, but a poem that explores the connection between human nature and nature, through the seasons and the five senses. Pure-nature haiku often leave me feeling cold. Maybe that’s just personal preference, but I get much more out of haiku that draw a connection to human nature through natural or seasonal imagery. I am glad that the Haiku Society of America definition directly calls for the connection on nature to human nature in haiku. If there isn’t that human component, then what’s the haiku for? This human component could take the form of explicit reference to humans in the poem (think of Buson stepping on his dead wife’s comb, and how that was fittingly chilling for autumn), or the human connection could be implied through emotion or at least the implied human observer. One could argue that the supposedly “pure” nature poem always has a human observer, but that seems to me the most superficial way to “humanize” any haiku. More power to those who limit themselves to the pure-nature haiku, but for my money I want something that connects the natural with the human (for the moment I am setting aside the debate that the human is part of nature, where a house built by a human can be seen as equally “natural” as a nest built by a bird). This is why it is “extremely important to describe nature by perceiving the relationship between nature and human beings.”

[55] Where this discussion is headed is in the direction of defending “keywords” as a global alternative to kigo or season words. I’ve never been convinced that the notion of “keywords” made much sense, but quite aside from that, I see no problem with the reliance in any language on seasonal reference in haiku—meaning that there’s nothing wrong with season words, and that they don’t need to replaced (if that’s even possible) by so-called keywords. But more about keywords later.

[56] I readily agree that every language needs to refine its own haiku techniques, beginning with Japanese techniques as a model. The claim here is that haiku needs to be itself in each language. The “spirit” of haiku can translate into any language, but I would say that this can include season words, and they don’t need to be discarded in favour of the nebulous notion of keywords. The problem is that “keywords” could, in theory, be anything, which thus makes them undefined and too general and broad. Season words, however, are much more specific, with rich overtones with the cycle of life.

[57] Okay, we have two important claims here, which speak to the very definition of haiku, without getting into the details of kigo and kireji. Short-formed. Well, how long (or short) is a piece of string? Short relative to what? We’re in subjective territory here, which is fine, but let’s recognize that it’s subjective. We mean really short, of course, not the “shortness” of a sonnet in comparison with an epic. But even “really short” is subjective. We know from context that about seventeen or fewer syllables or sounds is what we mean, in any language, typically in three lines outside Japan. But what about the spirit of haiku? What does that mean? We’re very subjective here too. Brevity is the spirit of haiku, but that’s already been pinned to the wall by the reference to “short-formed.” What else is the spirit of haiku? What is essential to haiku in any language? I think the notion of the essential is the answer to what the spirit of haiku might be, but it’s still mightily subjective, and opinions vary greatly as to what’s essential. Should any of us dictate what’s essential? Some pundits have tried. At the very first Haiku North America conference, in 1991, I was a panelist addressing this subject—what is essential to haiku? A Japanese haiku magazine even wrote to me afterwards to ask if I could provide them with my answers, or a summary of answers from the panelists, which I recall included William J. Higginson, David Wright, and Geraldine Little, and a couple of others. But all of our remarks were extemporaneous and we made no recording. But I’m sure we all said what had been said before, and what would be said afterwards. For me, the essentials of haiku are brevity, chiefly objective images, a two-part juxtapositional structure (and moreover, an emotional effect produced by this structure), and a seasonal grounding of some kind. And all of this should connect nature to human nature in some way. A good haiku resolves vulnerability. A good haiku says this is what it’s like to be human. A good haiku shares the humanity of one person with another through the images and experiences of everyday life. If there’s to be any manifesto of haiku here, it revolves around this question, I think: What is essential in haiku? Whether one calls this the haiku “spirit” or not doesn’t really matter to me (and sometimes the notion of haiku having a “spirit” can be cloying and overly precious), but it works for some people. The issue is that what is essential can differ greatly for so many people. My approach to it is to think in terms of targets, to say that a poem is a haiku when it hits a preponderance of the many possible targets. If it misses too many of the targets, or misses some of the main ones too widely, then the poem is no longer a haiku—there are limits to haiku, of course. But this notion of targets also means not every haiku has to hit all the targets, which empowers the poem, and the poet, to omit a season word in one poem while employing them in most other poems. If it’s an indoor poem, it might actually be inauthentic to include a reference to cherry blossoms or what have you. Sometimes all you need is an empty elevator opening and closing, with all the inherent mystery of who pushed the button and why that person changed his or her mind—if indeed it was a person. The essential in haiku will always be elusive, of course, but it’s that very elusiveness that keeps it interesting, that keeps it larger than any one poet can possible ever contain.

[58] It would be interesting to know more about the so-called “Japanese” sonnet. I wouldn’t expect it to have iambic pentameter, since that would be next to impossible to sustain in the Japanese language. But should we expect it to have fourteen lines, and a volta or turn somewhere in the poem whether in the last four or two lines? And what about rhyme? As mentioned earlier, rhyme is so easy in Japanese that it goes essentially unnoticed. So perhaps one could rhyme, the same way J-pop songs rhyme, but it wouldn’t be much of an accomplishment. So that’s an aspect of sonnets, in Japanese, that is simply going to differ (the value or effect of the rhyme, if there’s any rhyme at all). In any event, even in English the sonnet has morphed to take other forms that aren’t limited to the Shakespearean/Elizabethan and Petrarchan/Italian models. The American “sonnet” can certainly be variable. Yet one hopes that there’s still something of the “sonnet spirit” in all of these variations. I would venture to say, though, that “spirit” is more important to haiku than it is to other forms of poetry, and that, I think, is because haiku, unlike the sonnet, is more of a mode of thinking, a mode of seeing, and not just a mode of writing. Haiku is a way of life. But who leads a sonnet way of life, or a limerick way of life?

[59] Well, shucks, I think the three-line form in the West can just as easily allow for “instantaneous unconscious perception.” It’s a tall claim to think only the single line of Japanese haiku can do this. Visually, in fact, I would say the eye could take in three short lines, close together in one “spot” of vision, more readily than when having to scan from the beginning to the end of a relatively long single line of text.

[60] There’s nothing at all wrong with changing the number of lines, but the claim here begs the question. What is “appropriate” for any language? It would seem to me that any language could present haiku in one line, or in three. These are the most logical alternatives, derived from the one-line appearance in Japanese, and the fact that the 5-7-5 pattern produces three “parts,” even while the format also has a two-part structure laid over these three “parts.” Ultimately, though, it’s really more of a fashion or a trend, isn’t it? As Edith Shiffert has said, there are no rules in haiku, only fashions. We’re used to haiku being in one or three lines in English, so that’s the norm. But that’s a useful thing, in that other variations play against that norm, and can enable the poem to stand out or create intriguing effects by using some other number of lines or by scattering words down the page.

[61] Oh how I want to triple-underline this statement. One doesn’t have to write 5-7-5 in English. Teikei is indeed the art of finding the inner order of language. This is none other than organic form, which is the way I approach haiku as an alternative to counting syllables. It’s much harder, too to find that inner order of language than to follow some superficial and arbitrary outer or external order by counting syllables. What matters more—what you’re saying or how you’re saying it? Does the bucket matter more than what you’re carrying with it? Not for me it doesn’t. Consider this passage to be tripled-underlined. In red.

[62] This idea is presented as a given here, and I’m not sure why. Is haiku really a “symbolic” poetry? In The Empire of Signs, Roland Barthes would have us believe the opposite, that haiku is just what is, and shouldn’t symbolize anything. I’m not comfortable with that limitation of haiku, mind you, but I’m also not comfortable with the sweeping assumption that all haiku are symbolic. How? Well, they’re made of words, and all words are symbolic, in that the word “cat” is not itself a cat, but represents an animal we know to be a cat. The map is not the territory. But aside from that, once you get past that metalevel, are haiku symbolic? All of them? Is the genre itself meant to be symbolic? Is that the “spirit” of haiku? I don’t think so. Rather, haiku can be symbolic, and that may sometimes be the source of its resonance, but I don’t think haiku have to be symbolic, so I’m not really agreeing with the reference here to haiku being symbolic. It’s not that simple. Nor is it that complex.

[63] This tradition is growing in other languages too. It’s not just limited to Japanese. The Japanese have just had a head start, at least with haiku.

[64] Okay, we’re getting into some subtle distinctions here. The point here is that kigo are keywords. Well yes, in a generic sense, they are key (important) words in haiku. But things are going to go in a different direction here, with the assertion of the notion of “keywords” as a term that means something more than just the most important words in the poem. Hold on for the ride. But let it start with the agreeable notion that kigo are (possibly) unique to a particular culture. I say “possibly” because there are plenty of kigo or season words that apply to multiple countries. It’s not just Japan that has cherry blossoms and snowfalls. In any event, this sentence at least helps to clarify the meaning of “symbolic,” in that Japanese kigo do carry a symbolic layer to them through allusion and cultural reference. Think of the word Chappaquiddick. The typical Japanese person might have no associations with that word, but Americans of a certain age will of course associate it with U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, and his negligence that caused the death of Mary Jo Kopechne when he crashed his car apparently while drunk. The allusion is not so much to this accident as it is to the way a politician, or perhaps a rich and famous one, can skate out of trouble as if they’re above the law. That’s a lot to pack into a single place name, but it’s an effective Western example that illustrates how place names and kigo carry rich associations in Japanese haiku. But English is hardly deficient in that manner, as “Chappaquiddick” demonstrates. So we can see how the language of haiku, or at least parts of it, can be symbolic.

[65] I continue to be bothered by the word “unique” in this manifesto. These words don’t have to be unique to any one culture, just as Japan doesn’t have a stranglehold on season words. The point, I think, is for certain words to have a cultural richness in a particular culture, regardless of whether they’re “unique” to that culture.

[66] Fair enough, but I wouldn’t limit haiku to this idea. A haiku can also succeed without symbolism or allusion. It all depends on the poem. Symbolism, and demonstrated here by allusion (among other methods), is not necessary for all haiku.

[67] I wish I knew what is meant here by “recent trends.” This seems to contradict the explanation of symbolism anyway, since haiku in Japanese have had allusion and richly heritaged place-name references for centuries.

[68] This is clearly not talking about renku, and thus not a typo. But readers may still be unclear as to what is meant by “renju,” especially when this manifesto seems to make so little attempt to explain it, which is unfortunate. In Traces of Dreams, Haruo Shirane refers to renju as “sympathetic poetic partners.” At, Gabi Greve quotes Yagi Kametaro (from his book Messages from Matsuyama) as saying that “Unlike Western poets, haikuists have never presumed that their efforts would reach a nationwide audience” (let alone an international one), and that, “All through its history, haiku has been a literature of a limited group (called ‘renju’) who were familiar with the local names of their area and enjoyed using them in their haiku.” If haiku has traditionally been for a limited and informed audience, that would seem to run counter to haiku being a world literature. However, if we think of each region developing its own allusions, its own cultural contexts, then it stands to reason that every haiku group is its own renju, and that haiku need only be written for that limited audience. But that begs the question of what is “universal” in haiku. Writers know from experience that it’s the use of the particular that resonates as universal, and this seems especially true for haiku. I think of James Joyce, who said, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.” Or as fellow Irish novelist George Moore said, “Art must be parochial in the beginning to be cosmopolitan in the end.” Not every particular detail will work, but for the most part the particular is worth trusting. Yet haiku at any level (regional, national, or international) still benefits from its audience knowing what to look for (such as the two-part structure and seasonal reference). If the audience knows the literature, it will know that any reference to a pond or a frog is going to invoke Bashō. The larger point here is that haiku are written to share and to communicate, and one must therefore think of one’s audience, or potential audience, in order to respect what will resonate with them. This consideration may create friction with the idea of being oneself, letting the haiku chips fall where they may, but at the very least it seems beneficial to find a balance between overly catering to the audience, in too selfless a way, and overly catering to one’s self, in a way that’s too self-involved.

[69] We’re taking another turn towards “keywords” here. The point now offered is that kigo are a subset of keywords. Fair enough, but as we’ll see later, I don’t think that amounts to much. So what? Later, keywords will be offered as an alternative to season words, but I really don’t think that’s necessary. Any language can develop its own tradition of season words. In fact, all languages already have. What may not be developed yet is the intricate set of allusions to other poems that have used particular season words. That’s an extra richness that Japanese haiku have, because of the three-century head start they have on Western haiku (if not more than that). And of course we’ll never catch up entirely. But I do think we’ll come very close, and that will be close enough, because we just need to develop allusive richness for ourselves, on our own terms, and don’t need to compare ourselves endlessly with Japan. It doesn’t even matter whether we’ll ever “catch up” or not. And English hardly has any deficiencies when compared with Japanese—just a few differences, which also include strengths that Japanese lacks.

[70] Here’s the first leap towards the notion of “keywords” that doesn’t work for me. I will agree on one level, in that any word could carry allusion and symbolism, and that these are good in haiku. However, the central focus of haiku is seasonal reference, and the notion of “keywords” seems only to dilute that seasonal focus by looking at the broader idea of “symbolizing” something, or alluding to it. So in this sense, “Chappaquiddick” is a “keyword,” because of its rich cultural associations, at least to Americans, but it doesn’t function as a seasonal reference (if you happen to know that the incident occurred in July, you might associate it with summer, but that’s not really the thrust of the cultural reference, nor what people remember about it, and is really beside the point—it’s not a seasonal reference). The notion of keywords is fine if it encourages allusion and contextualization, but this should be in addition to seasonal references, not a replacement for them. I’m all for both the vertical and horizontal axes, as Haruo Shirane has presented them in Traces of Dreams, and any allusion could be part of that, as season words are, but again, nonseasonal “keywords” shouldn’t replace season words. This, to me, is the key misdirection inherent in the Matsyuama Declaration. It’s an attempt, perhaps, to empower world haiku. I like the idea of emphasizing allusion, which seems to be the heart of keywords, but it also suggests that seasonal references aren’t effective in languages other than Japanese. Now that is nonsense.

[71] Obviously this is a typo, and “non-kigo” is intended here.

[72] Is “symbiotic” perhaps a typo? Is “symbolic” meant here instead? I would tend to think so. Anyway, aren’t all basic words of any language “commonly shared”? The concept risks getting really wooly. For me, it helps to think in terms of allusion, and the rich meanings of particular words, rather than to think so broadly about all of thousands of “commonly shared” words. I think too of the notion of cultural literacy, a term coined by E. D. Hirsch, from his 1987 book by that name, which asserted that any culture has common stories and contexts that bind it together—a sort of “core knowledge” that makes us not only human, but makes humans in particular regions true citizens of that region. You just might get along with others better if you know what Star Trek is and how to make a Vulcan hand salute. Meanwhile, it’s interesting to assess cultural literacy relative to the notion of renju, or that defined group that shares common haiku knowledge. Hirsch made the entire United States his “renju.” Much of the information he says that “all Americans should know” could easily apply to other Western cultures and languages, making an even larger “renju.” In haiku terms, it seems that one could classify certain truths or contexts about haiku as applying to an international haiku “renju,” with other items of information applying to progressively smaller “renju” groups, boiling right down to a poem that might make sense only immediately after something happened in one particular room to the people who happened to be there. If there’s any goal to aim for the “universal” in haiku, it has to take the notions of “renju” and (haiku) cultural literacy into consideration. Indeed, it’s necessary and useful to be as involved as possible in the haiku community and its literature to broaden one’s “haiku literacy.”

[73] What? Wait. I’m confused. What Eastern silence? More important than what? I suppose what’s being referred to here is reticence or reserve in Japanese culture, and the tendency to say little. But a little is not nothing, which seems to be the only thing that equates with silence. Anyway, as soon as the text claims that the East (surely Japan) is “more important” because of its capacity for silence, that feels unnecessarily holier-than-thou. Is there xenophobia at work here? I hope not. Does silence have value? Of course. Does Japan have a lock on silence? Ahem, nonsense. Nevertheless, haiku is often about what is unsaid, and it’s those silences that haiku writers and readers anywhere around the world would be well advised to pay attention to.

[74] I like this idea, and perhaps the paragraph’s initial reference to silence clicks into place only here. I would agree that the shorter a poem gets, the more important is its silence—whatever it might be silent on, or what might be unsaid—or “wordless,” as D. T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, and Eric Amann have put it. Likewise, the shorter the poem, the more important is the space (ma) within and around the poem. This is not an inherently or “uniquely” Japanese virtue, however. It’s inherent to any artistic endeavor that dares to be short. The West could already do this, and already was, but of course haiku helps to point the way, showing how it can be done with poetry.

[75] Again, there’s a subtle distinction here with the term “symbolic,” as already discussed. I boil it down to allusion and cultural literacy, and the value of sharing that understanding with others in your clan, no matter how big or small that clan might be.

[76] The examples here do a good job of differentiating how the “symbols” of one culture differ from another’s.

[77] What? It is? This seems like another one of those sweeping generalizations. One could say the poem is praised for capturing a sense of autumn, and with it a sense of sadness. But a “preconceived concept of the Japanese esthetic”?!? I don’t think so. What preconception? What Japanese aesthetic? It just captures autumn through the action of the crow. As its dark wings fold, so too the darkness of autumn begins to descend upon the land, or at least on that particular tree with all its bare branches. Let us not give haiku too much credit. They won’t cure cancer or lead to world peace, either.

[78] Well, no, it isn’t difficult to understand. It’s very easy to picture. What some readers might not get is the role of Sado Island in serving as a place of exile in Japan. This is a cultural overtone that Japanese readers of haiku would more likely understand, and that Westerners initially wouldn’t, without an explanation. This is no different from most Americans automatically “getting” a Chappaquiddick reference that would have to be explained to the Japanese. However, and this is a key point, that doesn’t mean the rest of the poem can’t be understood on other levels. So no, the poem isn’t difficult to understand. Rather it may be a little harder to fully understand. Moreover, as already mentioned, this doesn’t make the poem better than Western haiku, because Western haiku can perform the same tricks in reverse.

[79] There is much emphasis on “symbol” in this manifesto, yet the intended meaning is not always clear. Yes, in haiku, an object is concretely expressed. But as a symbol? Not necessarily. It depends on the poem. Roland Barthes said that haiku signify rather than symbolize, even if one does not agree with him. He even called all of Japan an “Empire of Signs.” If there’s an allusion in some haiku, symbolism may occur, but not necessarily.

[80] Again, this feels dangerously close to suggesting that this is a one-way street. Not so. It can happen in either direction.

[81] Are they surrealistic? Clouds move into mountains. Seems ordinary enough. Crumbling is an unexpected word, but that may be the translator’s choice. Assuming the same idea is present in the Japanese, it seems like a perfectly acceptable (not surrealistic) way of saying—indeed, showing—how the crowds are dissipating around the moonlit mountain. Wonderful. The cry of cicadas penetrating into rocks? A little more abstract, yes, but perfectly understandable, especially if you’ve ever heard the incessant cries of Japanese cicadas—as if they can drill right into you. This doesn’t seem surreal to me at all. Abstraction doesn’t mean surreal. And as for the rocks and stones at Ishiyama Temple, why couldn’t the rocks literally be whiter than the stones? What’s the difference between a rock and a stone anyway? Size? I suspect there is a cultural reference at work here (and not just with the temple reference), but I’m not sure how that would make the poem surreal. Finally, the “white” sound of the ducks is merely synesthesia. Call it surreal if you like, but I find no problem with it. The technique here suggests haze or fog, at least for me, and also suggests the modern idea of “white noise.” The metaphor has so thoroughly entered the language that we no longer think of it as metaphor (what Lakoff and others have called a “dead metaphor”).

[82] I’m not sure what is meant by the term “modern” here. Does it mean merely that the poet has lived more recently than Bashō? If it means that there’s some sort of aesthetic difference, then that hasn’t been explained. Nor does it seem apparent.

[83] We’re talking about a very different kind of symbolism here now. It’s not merely allusion and cultural literacy. Rather, it’s now presented as allegory, and to me this is not typically something one should strive for in haiku. It can too easily distort the poem with an agenda (this means that), and risks not being clear (I want this to mean that, but maybe the reader doesn’t get that intent). And quite frankly, who’s to say that in this poem the moonlit mountain does symbolize death. Not necessarily, even in Japan. Sometimes mountains are just mountains. As the poet David Ignatow once said, “I should be content to look at a mountain for what it is and not as a comment on my life.” The poem may have various symbolic interpretations, but those interpretations may be highly personal.

[84] This much is fine. I would just say that if the poem gets too mystical, it risks being too self-involved, especially if any symbolic intentions aren’t reaching the reader clearly.

[85] The Shiki poem that follows has been much discussed, of course, and is certainly a challenging one, in that one cannot help but wonder why the number of fourteen or fifteen is important, and whether a general or specific number matters. But is it Dadaist? Not to me. There’s an absurdist suchness, perhaps, in accepting just what is. Call it Dadaist to value the absurdity of a seemingly random or arbitrary number if you like, but to me that’s not really Dada.

[86] I would answer this question by saying no. The examples before Shiki don’t really point to surrealism, at least not to me. Rather, they point to natural creativity with language and perception, something that can easily cross borders, cultures, and languages. In any case, what I do see here is the influence of French surrealism that has been regurgitated back to the West from the Japanese in avant-garde gendai haiku, as if it’s something new. What’s worse is that too many Westerners think it is something new, and don’t realize that it’s their own Western culture from a century ago merely coming back again.

[87] This is a biased statement, of course. I’m fine with this bias, but also recognize that not everyone would agree.

[88] Is this claim smacking of Japanese superiority, perhaps? Do the Japanese believe only they have some special rapport with nature that the heathens of the West couldn’t possibly have? Is it necessary to put down Western individualism here, as seems to be the case?

[89] Well, yes and no. I’d again assert that haiku really aims at seasonal reference, not merely nature reference. This is why a saijiki is filled with season words, not nature words. And remember that a quarter of each typical saijiki has to do with human seasonal affairs that have nothing directly to do with nature anyway.

[90] Is this really a basic characteristic of haiku, that we are part of nature? One is free to think that if one wants, but I also see no problem with not thinking that, at least as far as haiku is concerned. Nor do I think it’s useful to put haiku in subservient service to environmental issues. I’m wary of agendas in haiku. It’s one thing to report, but quite another thing to preach.

[91] Let’s not ask too much of haiku, shall we? Just let this happen, at most.

[92] Me too, but I think it’s a tall claim to say that haiku is somehow “qualified” to revive various poetries of the world, as the rest of this paragraph asserts.

[93] I think we need to define universalization. What is the difference between this and internationalization?

[94] Why the need to mention the avant-garde? Well, I know why, because several of the poets preparing the Matsuyama Declaration hang out in the avant-garde camp. So there’s a bit of a personal agenda going on here. It’s not unbiased. It’s not a purely objective point of view. Let’s at least recognize that.

[95] Fresh and innovative is not the be-all and end-all of anything. A tree is still marvelous even if it’s still the same as it ever was—unchanged from a century ago, or even a millennium ago. Whether with haiku or with other poetry, we don’t have to beat ourselves up in endlessly “making it new.” Let’s just “make it yours,” as Jane Hirshfield has said. Just be yourself. But obviously you don’t want to merely reinvent the same old wheel, either. But in between the same-old same-old and innovation purely for novelty’s sake, there lies something with substance. That substance doesn’t need to be old or new. What matters is emotional effect, resonance, and a balance of the new and the old, not just the superficial shock value of being all different and sparkly.

[96] Who is this? Surely André Breton is meant here. This is simply a typo.

[97] Here again we find evidence of current avant-garde Japanese haiku being a processing of French surrealism rather than much of anything new. Certainly not new to the West, even though some Western haiku writers don’t realize this.

[98] The perception of stagnancy may just be a straw man to help make the manifesto seem more vivid or necessary. Surely the manifesto reflects a lack of stagnancy rather than dispelling stagnancy. This declaration’s assertiveness (its bold title) has brought it attention, but what of it? Has this manifesto really been as reformative as it seems to want to be? I don’t think the notion of keywords has caught on, or even been clearly understood. And what else about this declaration has really made a difference? Aside from the notion of keywords, about the only thing I can think of is that it has recognized haiku as world literature, and that it does so from a Japanese perspective. This may seem remarkable, since it opposes a dismissal of non-Japanese haiku as inferior, but we could also view it, as already mentioned, as a way of reclaiming what was feared lost, of lassoing the pony after it has left the barn.

[99] Wouldn’t this essential universality also include kigo and kireji, or foreign adaptations or equivalents thereof? Why not? There are seasons almost everywhere, and any language can make a poem with a two-part juxtaposition. Nothing in these techniques is exclusively Japanese. This richer history of Japanese haiku should not be allowed to diminish the potential of other languages in accomplishing the exact same resonances over time.

[100] What? This assertion seems to contradict previous statements, that haiku does not need to be in any fixed form in languages other than Japanese, and can use keywords instead of season words. So I’m confused here.

[101] Define this damn spirit, please. The haiku community has too often suffered from a pie-in-the-sky sense that there’s something magical or mystical about whatever the haiku spirit is. Okay, maybe no one can define it, and they know it when they see, but the idea still risks being precious.

[102] Again, I choke a bit on this idea that it’s somehow unique. I don’t see it that way at all.

[103] I value this statement on silence, and how it can be useful to haiku and the understanding of haiku, but it’s quite different from the previous reference, which seemed to suggest that Japanese perceptions of silence were superior to Western notions.

[104] What about Western haiku masters? They deserve similar respect and study also.

[105] Of course, we all know this doesn’t really mean anything. We just write different numbers when we write down a new year. But it’s as good an excuse as any, I suppose, for assessment and rejuvenation. We like round numbers like 2000.

[106] It would be easy to glide right past this sentence and miss it. But please don’t. I think it’s important to recognize that haiku is indeed at the forefront of world poetry. Regardless of where haiku is from, what other form of poetry has captured the imagination of the world as much as haiku, or as passionately? From Dag Hammarskjöld to Haiku Herman, from the Mongolian professor to the Canadian schoolgirl, haiku is making the rounds of the world.

[107] Again, I’m not sure why this is referred to as “returning” haiku to the common people. If so, where had it gone? I don’t think it ever left the common people, or at least I sure hope not. Perhaps it would be better to bring haiku to more of the common people of the world. That would seem more to the point.

[108] What does it mean here by referring to Japanese haiku as been “at once in prosperity and in stagnation,” both at the same time?

[109] One cannot help but wonder if this statement might be suggesting that Japanese haiku welcomes the world and faces outward toward the world? Wouldn’t it be better to think of all haiku welcoming everything in the world, including Japan?

[110] I have had the privilege to meet Dr. Arima on numerous occasions, several times being his guest at a fine restaurant in Tokyo, and also when I was the keynote speaker for the 2013 Haiku International Association annual convention in Tokyo (Arima is president of the organization).

[111] I may have met Haga Tōru in Tokyo, at one haiku event or another, but I’m not certain. Perhaps I’m more familiar with his name in print than in person. See Modern Haiku review of a book by Haga that mentions the Shiki Prize described in this declaration.

[112] Another typo here. This should of course be Makoto, not Makato. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Professor Ueda numerous times, and visited him in his office when he chaired the Asian Studies department at Stanford University. He also subscribed to my haiku journal, Woodnotes, along with a few other English-language haiku journals, which he told me was because he wanted to have a sense of how haiku was being written in English, which he acknowledged in one of his books (this seems to have influenced how he chose to capitalize and punctuate his haiku translations, among other details, for example).

[113] Soh Sakon is the one contributor to the Matsuyama Declaration about whom I know almost nothing. I believe he died in 2006.

[114] I do not know much about Origas, but he apparently died in 2003.

[115] I would say the translators have done a marvelous job with challenging content.

[116] I’m not sure that it’s necessary to call these mere proposals. After all, isn’t it all supposed to be a declaration?

[117] A truly wonderful agenda.

[118] What is not clear in this ambitious list is who will do the studying of haiku poetry, and who will collect, compose, and debate this literature. How is all of this funded? What scholarships were awarded, and how? What record is there of all this proposed activity? Much of it has happened, but there seems to be no sustained attention or consistency. Perhaps that is why these activities have been called “proposals.” Wikipedia seems to have the best record of the Shiki prize, at, which indicates that they were awarded in 2000, 2002, 2004, and then in 2008, but not since then. I recall hearing that a lack of funding delayed the 2006 award until 2008, although it would be easy to speculate that deciding on appropriate recipients might also have contributed to a delay.

[119] The awarding of the Shiki prize in years subsequent to this announcement has been astonishing (an equivalent of roughly $50,000 for each main recipient, plus $5,000 for other recipients each time, plus first-class airfare and other considerations). Unfortunately, the prize has not continued regularly in recent years.

[120] Where was this “research center” established, and with what funding? And does it still exist?

[121] It would be unfair to say the Matsuyama Declaration has not lived up to its promise, for its awarding of the Shiki Prize on multiple occasions has indeed been astonishing. But it seems unfortunate, even sad, that this prize has not continued to be awarded on a regular basis. Perhaps the amount of the prize money (worth about $50,000) could be reduced to make the award more sustainable. My understanding is that prize funding, primarily through the Ehime prefecture cultural commission, or some similar organization, has not been consistently possible, which would certainly limit the activities proposed here. But as a supporter for haiku poetry, it is my fervent hope that all or at least some of this manifesto’s ambitious goals might be reinvigorated for the sake of continuing to develop the writing and appreciation of haiku poetry around the world. William J. Higginson used to be on the selection committee for the Shiki Prize, and he was always my conduit of information about this award, but since his death in 2008, I have known little more about all these good intentions and activities, let alone what might become of them next. Likewise, we can wonder about the influence of the Matsuyama Declaration on a deeper understanding of haiku around the world, in addition to its effect in establishing a research center and the prize process in Matsuyama itself. Perhaps the document’s time has come and gone. It certainly garnered attention in the haiku community for a number of years, although it’s unclear if it raised any awareness of haiku beyond the haiku community. But it’s quite a difficult achievement to sustain that awareness, both inside and outside the haiku community. Nevertheless, while it contains occasional perspectives that I do not entirely agree with, I believe the Matsuyama Declaration has been an important milestone in twentieth-century haiku, not just in Japan, but around the world.