“It is good people who make good places.”
—Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
The ancient Romans had a name for it, genius loci, the prevailing spirit of place. As haiku poets gathering for the seventeenth biennial Haiku North America conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, we are acutely aware of place, in our poems and in our lives. And we convene in a place that holds a remarkable history exemplified by this book’s photographs by John E. Hancock. Ohio is home to the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, some of which are the world’s largest earthen enclosures. They were built at least 1,600 years ago by what is now called the Hopewell culture, and stand today as remarkable feats of soil engineering, markers of celestial observation, and homes to cross-cultural trade, worship, ritual, and social gathering.
Perhaps Haiku North America is the same, not in scale, history, or significance, but in sharing similar purposes. We gather for this conference to celebrate the theme of “city and soil,” in awareness of the urban and rural landscape around us. We gather for a poetic sort of worship, and for cultural trade, ritual, and social gathering. We celebrate the spirit of place in many of our poems—the places we come from, the places we visit, and places of the heart. As we come together in this diverse and fertile land, we celebrate the beauty and richness of our surroundings and embrace the spirit of place.
Ohio, known as “the heart of it all,” is a remarkable state that offers a tapestry of landscapes and cultures. From its bustling cities of Cleveland, Columbus, and our gracious host, Cincinnati, to the expansive farmlands and rolling hills that connect them, we find ourselves immersed in a world where cityscapes and soil intertwine. Ohio’s soil speaks of generations past and present, carrying the legacy of the Shawnee, Potawatomi, Delaware, Miami, Peoria, Seneca, Wyandotte, Ojibwe, Cherokee, and other Indigenous peoples whose ancestral and contemporary territories have shaped this land.
As poets from various states, provinces, countries, and walks of life, we are reminded of the power of haiku to connect us in our shared humanity. This book’s poems, ordered alphabetically by first names as a testament to our desire for closeness and camaraderie, serve as glimpses into the world around us. They invite us to pause, observe, and find the extraordinary within the ordinary.
Just as Ohio experiences its four distinct seasons, sometimes within a single day, our haiku capture the essence of the changing world and the diversity of human experience. Through the rhythm of these poems, we seek to evoke emotions, spark connections, and inspire a deeper appreciation for the present moment. Haiku not only speak of place but also help us find our place in the world.
Here’s to the good people who make all the good places around us. In this anthology, we celebrate the mosaic of voices, perspectives, and haiku traditions that enrich our gathering. Each poem testifies to the depth and breadth of haiku as an art form. As you delve into the pages of Earthworks, may you find a renewed sense of wonder in the beauty of place, and a renewed or newly found kinship in exploring places of the heart.
Michael Dylan Welch and Julie Schwerin