A Report on Haiku Chicago (1995)

Published in Woodnotes #27, Winter 1995, page 44. For a longer report summarizing this landmark event, see also Haiku Chicago: The Gift of Haiku.

Over a hundred people attended the various events of the Haiku Chicago conference held at the Chicago Cultural Center, 20–21 October 1995. Sponsored by the Haiku Society of America and the Haiku International Association in Tokyo, and chiefly organized by Lee Gurga and William J. Higginson, Haiku Chicago was an unqualified success. Presentations on various subjects were given by Americans Jerry Kilbride, Randy Brooks, Penny Harter, Barbara Ressler, Robert Spiess, Jerry Ball, George Swede, Michael Dylan Welch [my presentation was on organic form as an alternative to syllabic form and free form in haiku], Lidia Rozmus, Nick Avis, and Phil Fass. Japanese presenters included Fuyuo Usaki, Mizue Yamada, Ryusai Takeshita, and Yatsuka Ishihara. Featured readers of poetry or haibun were Peggy Willis Lyles, Virgil Hutton, Geraldine C. Little, Margaret Chula, Bill Pauly, Bruce Ross, Francine Porad, Kenneth C. Liebman, Kiyoko Tokutomi, Dee Evetts, Rebecca Rust, Lee Gurga, Joyce Walker Currier, Cor van den Heuvel, and Virginia Brady Young. The weekend also included a haiku walk in nearby Grant Park (despite the wind and rain), and a kukai, or haiku symposium, where eight judges each chose three favorite haiku written on the previous day’s walk. An open haiku reading was also held at the nearby Harold Washington Library Center, with over 110 people crowding the room. To close the weekend, a banquet took place at the Ramada Congress Hotel, where most attendees were staying. T-shirts were also available, and the haiku book fair was a great success too. While only a much longer report could begin to do justice to describing this important event and the significant topics raised and discussed, it is worth proposing that Haiku Chicago will probably be remembered as a milestone in American haiku. Many thanks to all the organizers, the tireless translators, and all those who gave talks or came to listen. One immediate outcome of this event is the recent formation of a new haiku group in the Chicago area!



In the Haiku Chicago kukai, one of my poems was chosen by Robert Spiess as a second-prize winner. Spiess later published the poem in Modern Haiku 29:2, Summer 1998, page 20. Here’s the poem, written 20 October 1995, in Grant Park, Chicago:


Chicago skyline—

a nest at the apex

of a yellowing tree


Here, too, is a translation into Portuguese by Rosa Clement, from her site “A Revista do Haijin” (“Haijin’s Magazine”):


horizonte de Chicago—

um ninho no topo

de uma árvore amarelando


The Haiku Chicago conference was also where much key discussion and lobbying for the creation of the American Haiku Archives took place. I had created a flyer promoting the archive, which was distributed to most attendees (especially Haiku Society of America members), and I, Jerry Kilbride, and perhaps others had many private conversations with people there to drum up HSA support of the archives. This effort paid off, because one of the first acts of the incoming HSA officers in January 1996, a few months after this conference, was to officially commit the archives of the Haiku Society of America to the American Haiku Archives in Sacramento, California, which was officially founded at an inuaguration event on 12 July 1996.

 —31 October, 11 November 2009