The yearly pamphlet Akita – the Land of Poetry『詩の国秋田第６号』, whose 6th volume is posted as an e-pamphlet, features haiku special from the English haiku submitted to the 3rd Japan-Russia Haiku Contest in 2014.
A great number of haiku fans willingly sent their haiku in English to the contest from 46 countries including Japan.
Lastly, we would like to present to you the news of the latest book by Alexander Dolin, Professor of Japanese Literature and Civilization Studies at Akita International University, Japan.
Professor Dolin is one of the judges in this contest, who wishes you to get more interested in haiku through his book.
Here is part of “From the Editor of the English Edition” by William Lee.
In the final stages of the editing of this volume, during which I was sitting at my computer for many hours each day, I would sometimes take a break, whether it was just to sit outside on the back porch of my house or to walk down to the river that runs by the campus where I teach. Absorbed as I was in the world of tanka and haiku, I was naturally inclined to put these moments of relaxation and contemplation into traditional form. Although it was only September, on the Canadian prairie where I live, the typical signs of fall were already apparent. At the risk of embarrassing myself, here are a couple of haiku and tanka I wrote during those days.
I sat outside this evening
but not for long –
Where has summer gone?
with its leaves half gone
the old elm tree
looks even older still
blue and green,
yellow and gold –
with these colors I am blessed
this autumn day
on the Red River
While I make no claims as to the quality of these “poems,” I will admit that imagining, writing, and rewriting them was a stimulating and enjoyable exercise. Part of that process, moreover, involved an ongoing reflection on the nature of the genres. Looking at my poems, for example, I would ask myself: “Is this really a tanka?” “If I change this word, will my haiku be more haiku-like?” Leaving aside the whole question of what it means to try to reproduce these traditional Japanese forms in English, the point I would like to make is that, although the forms are easy to access and almost anyone, by sticking to a few simple rules, can produce a passable poem, the activity is always accompanied by an awareness of the genre and its traditions. And if that is the case for an amateur like me, how much more so was it for the many poets and critics surveyed in this volume who sought to define, refine, or reinvigorate their particular genres.
Professor Dolin ends this book by expressing his doubts whether there can still be objective standards for evaluation when writing in a traditional poetic form has become a mass, international movement, as is the case with haiku today. I myself am not sure we have to worry about that and am more inclined to celebrate rather than lament haiku’s democratization. For while its easy access means that anyone can be a poet, any serious engagement with form will inevitably lead back to tradition, which is where all normative values and criteria are to be found.
Winnipeg, September 2014
We are now holding the 4th Japan-Russia Haiku Contest.
Readers are invited to send haiku about “lake” to Hidenori Hiruta at the Akita
International Haiku Network by e-mail to (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You have two more days to write haiku. The deadline is June 30.
By Hidenori Hiruta