A Report on Haiku North America 2001

First published in Mie Times (an English-language newspaper in Mie, Japan), #51, December 2001–January 2002, page 3. The length and depth of this report was constrained by space limitations available in the English-language Japanese newspaper that published it.

Every two years, North American haiku poets gather to celebrate haiku at a special conference. This event, known as Haiku North America, is a biennial conference celebrating haiku through a festive gathering of poets, theorists, and admirers of haiku and related arts. The conference features poetry, presentations, workshops, discussion, and camaraderie without affiliation to any single organization or school of haiku theory. This year’s event took place from June 28 to July 1, 2001 at the Boston Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts.

        Haiku North America is easily the largest and most anticipated regular haiku event on the continent. This year’s event was hosted by the Boston Haiku Society, and led by Raffael de Gruttola, Judson Evans, and Karen Klein. The theme was “Haiku and Beyond,” and readings and performances explored a variety of ways that haiku intersects with other arts, including music, dance, film, and photography. Attendees enjoyed numerous performances of haiku set to music, choreographed with modern and traditional dancers (including Ninja dancers from Ueno City in Mie), presented in dynamic film and video formats, or with photographs. Some performances featured piano, string quartets, electronic music, koto, or shakuhachi. In all, the attendees were entertained as well as challenged with experimental and traditional ways of presenting haiku.

        Haiku North America 2001, however, was not just performances of haiku with music, dance, and film. It also featured numerous talks, papers, workshops, readings, haiga displays, slideshows, T-shirts, a conference haiku anthology, a book fair, a silent auction of haiku books, a haiku reading by children, a visit to the nearby Museum of Fine Arts, and a ginkō walk in a botanical garden. Some of the featured presenters included William J. Higginson, Cor van den Heuvel, Haruo Shirane, Hiroaki Sato, Angelee Deodhar, Pamela Miller Ness, Ion Codrescu, Penny Harter, Alan Pizzarelli, Michael Dylan Welch, John Stevenson, vincent tripi, Rich Youmans, Arizona Zipper, Fay Aoyagi, Kaji Aso, Lee Gurga, Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross, and Margaret Chula. Speakers from Japan included Emiko Miyashita and Tadashi Kondō. Topics ranged from Mr. Higginson’s keynote address on season words to Hiroaki Sato’s assertion that English haiku should be written in a single horizontal line to best match the vertical line used in Japanese haiku. Other presentations covered haibun, haiga, tanka, sumi-e, renku, and more. More than 150 poets attended the conference from several countries, including Japan, India, Romania, England, and the Philippines. Perhaps next time, you might be able to attend as well!

        If you are interested in Paperclips, the Haiku North America conference anthology, edited by Michael Dylan Welch, Carol Purington, and Larry Kimmel, it is available for $9.00 postpaid (U.S. cash or international money order), payable to Michael D. Welch, [address removed; for information about purchasing the book, please send email]. The book contains nearly one hundred haiku in English by many HNA attendees.

        Haiku North America was founded in 1991 by Garry Gay and Michael Dylan Welch (who continue to co-chair its board of directors) along with David Wright and Jerry Ball. The first two conferences were held near San Francisco in 1991 and 1993. In 1995, the conference moved to Toronto, Canada. In 1997, the event took place in Portland, Oregon, and in 1999, it met in Evanston, Illinois, near Chicago. The next Haiku North America conference will be in New York City in June of 2003. For more information about Haiku North America, please contact Garry Gay or Michael Dylan Welch. For more information about the 2003 event, please contact Pamela Miller Ness.