The Haiku North America conference began in 1991, in California, and has been held every two years since then, taking place in San Francisco twice, and then in Toronto, Portland (Oregon), Chicago, Boston, New York City, Port Townsend (Washington), Winston-Salem, and Ottawa. And now it’s in Seattle. We are pleased to have you here in the Emerald City, a city where 37.4 percent of its residents hold a college degree, which is the highest percentage of any major city in the United States. Seattle also tops the country in number of bookstores per 10,000 people. We’re an educated, literary bunch. And Washington State leads the country, too, in having the highest per capita number of haiku poets who are members of the Haiku Society of America out of all HSA regions in the country. This place warms to haiku! I’m sure there’s a correlation between education, bookstores, and this area’s love and support for haiku—and our proximity to islands, forests, oceans, and mountains doesn’t hurt either.
This year, HNA celebrates its twentieth anniversary. But our conference theme is “Fifty Years of Haiku,” which acknowledges the five decades that haiku has flourished in North America. It also celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair and the building of the Seattle Center and Space Needle where we are holding our conference. As we look back at what we have accomplished in the last fifty years, it is only so we can move forward with confidence, vigor, and creativity in our haiku. We are standing on the shoulders of giants. As a result, we have a better, more-distant view into the future. Our 2011 conference anthology is titled Standing Still, in recognition of the haiku poet’s ability to stand still and deeply notice his or her surroundings, whether natural or urban. Yet not a single haiku poet attending Haiku North America this weekend ever stands still with his or her poetry. Rather, we are always seeking fresh subjects, fresh ways to write, and always more knowledge on how to write haiku better. That, indeed, is one of the key reasons we’re here—to learn more about haiku from our fellow poets, among them some of the leading writers in English-language haiku today.
But another goal is much less academic—simply to enjoy each others’ company. We are here to celebrate old friendships, and to make new ones. One of the richest pleasures of the haiku community is how closely knit we all are and how events like Haiku North America are a gathering of the tribes. We are pleased to welcome you to our worldwide kinship, and especially to Seattle. In words attributed to Chief Sealth, for whom this city is named, “Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished.” This weekend, as we make new memories with each other amid the mountains and sound, let us remember that this is sacred ground—and dedicate our haiku to hallowing the world around us.
Michael Dylan Welch
HNA Conference Director