Welcome to Haiku North America 2009

The following are notes from which I extemporized a speech that I presented on 5 August 2009 on the opening night of the 2009 Haiku North America conference at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Not previously published. See my Report on Haiku North America 2009.

I'm asking attendees at the 2009 HNA conference to raise their hands if they've attended particular HNA conferences in the past.

Some practical hints on making the most of this conference:

The famed and sometimes debaucherous Burning Man festival has a policy of “no observers—participants only.” We should consider that, too. Ask yourself how you can contribute in some way to this conference, whether by asking the right question that’s on everyone’s mind, by helping someone who’s new, or doing something creative such as holding an impromptu haiku reading in the lobby or out on the street. What can you do to be more than just an observer?

        We are fortunate to have this conference be so well organized by Terry Ann Carter, Claudia Coutu Radmore, and Guy Simser, along with their posse of volunteers. To conclude, I’d like to quote a few words by Jim Kacian that appeared on the back cover of the 2007 Haiku North America conference anthology. He wrote that, “Of the small handful of regular occasions that nurture the English-language haiku community, Haiku North America is certainly preeminent: intellectually diverse, socially expansive, emotionally gratifying, it provides more than any other single experience the sense that haiku is a literary force to be reckoned with and capable of work that matters in the rest of the world.” So here we are, about to embark on the tenth Haiku North America conference. What will you make of the next few days of haiku celebration to help make it matter in the rest of the world?

        At this time, Terry Ann Carter and her committee will add their words of welcome.


After Terry Ann’s comments, we then had a reading of Into Our Words, the 2009 HNA conference anthology that I edited with Grant D. Savage.


Garry Gay’s idea for the conference that became Haiku North America first came to him in 1990, and it was my pleasure to work with Garry to make that first conference happen in California in 1991. At the 2009 conference, Garry reminded me that HNA never would have happened again after that first conference if I hadn't bugged him about it. I had forgotten until he reminded me, but he had originally envisioned HNA as a one-time event, and it was me who made it happen again and become a biennial event. He told me that in 1992 I started saying that we should do it again, and so we planned the second conference for 1993, thus giving rise to the once-every-two-years tradition. It’s amazing to me that twenty years of Haiku North America conferences have come and gone. The scholarship, interaction, and socializing that have taken place at HNA—and the subsequent publication of many essays from HNA in the leading haiku journals—have surely changed the landscape of English-language haiku. While neither Garry nor I have been able to attend all ten of the conferences, we've been to nearly all of them, and have been intimately involved in the planning and vision for most conferences. We hope the tradition continues for many decades to come as a warm and invigorating gathering of the haiku tribes.

—21 December 2009