Introduction to Tracing the Fern

First published in Tracing the Fern, the 2005 Haiku North America conference anthology, which I edited with Billie Wilson, and which I published with my press, Press Here. Unlike nearly all previous HNA anthologies, this one featured two poems by each attendee who submitted poems. The book’s title comes from the following poem by Penny Harter:


after love

she traces the ferns

in the window’s frost


My haiku from this volume appears at the end, after the introduction (Billie did not have a poem included). See the Press Here page for this book. You can also read selected poems from Tracing the Fern.

“Every scene, even the commonest, is wonderful, if only one can detach oneself, casting off all memory of use and custom, and behold it (as it were) for the first time; in its right, authentic colours; without making comparisons. The [writer] should cherish and burnish this faculty of seeing crudely, simply, artlessly, ignorantly; of seeing like a baby or a lunatic, who lives each moment by itself.” —Arnold Bennett


In late September of 2005 [September 21 through 25], haiku poets from many states, provinces, and several countries gathered for the eighth biennial Haiku North America conference, this time held in Port Townsend, Washington, located on the northeastern tip of the beautiful Olympic Peninsula. Amid the surrounding glacier-carved mountains and the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the following questions shaped this stimulating long weekend of events:

        Can English-language haiku be authentic relative to Japanese haiku? What is or isn’t “authentic” in the poem relative to actual experience? Is the actual experience even necessary, or can an authentic haiku be made up? What is the role of the imagination and memory in haiku? Is immediate experience somehow more authentic than long-past but still-vivid memory? Can truth, even in haiku, sometimes be stranger than fiction, and thus seem to be not authentic? Can fiction, even in haiku, sometimes be more authentic than the “truth”? What is “truth,” and what is the relationship of art to truth? Does haiku have a different relationship to truth than other arts?

        Any contemplation of these issues is certain to hone one’s appreciation for genuine haiku, and we encourage you to find the authentic in the poems selected for this collection—poems that, as with previous Haiku North America conference anthologies, are arranged by each poet’s first name.

        This book’s title reminds us that the carefully chosen words of a memorable haiku are often like tracings of nature—so real that the reader is compelled to participate in the experience that inspired or informed the poem. In each of the haiku and senryu that follow, we hope you enjoy the participation.


        Michael Dylan Welch

        Billie Wilson



My two poems from this anthology:


afternoon hike—

the pussy willows dwindling

from my handful


there, under the awning,

the man who stole

my parking space