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Dear Haiku Lovers:

Thank you all for your continuing support. The Haiku Foundation has grown incredibly fast, and has far outpaced our expectations. What began as a few ideas for projects that we felt would help people find their way into and through haiku—libraries, resources, archives and the like—has quickly morphed into a host of fun projects to the delight of anyone who loves the genre. Daily haiku, books of the week, National Haiku Poetry Day (and more on that later)—none of these programs was even the remotest thought to us when we began.

Once a year we ask that you help us meet our financial challenges to continue this work. We reserve the period from Thanksgiving through St. Nicholas Day, the time our culture has set aside to note our many blessings and give thanks. We are grateful for the opportunity to do this work, and look forward to continuing it. But it really does depend on you—as audience, as participants, as underwriters. As an additional incentive, the Foundation is once again fortunate enough to have an angel who will match funds—every dollar you contribute means two for us.

And, during this period we try to let you know some of what we’ve been up to by releasing samples of our work over the previous 12 months. You’ll find a list of our planned releases below.

A final note: it is a wonderful thing to support haiku with a financial contribution, but it is even greater to give back with your time and energy. The Haiku Foundation would be very glad of your help in a number of projects that we have in the works. If you have the time and the inclination to do more for haiku, please contact us. We’ll be happy to have you join us.

Once again, thanks for all, and we wish you a most happy holiday season.

Take care.

Jim Kacian
President, The Haiku Foundation

  • November 27: The Haiku Foundation gives a final reckoning of Pilgrims’ Stride, the first installment of The Renku Sessions. Renku leader John Stevenson takes stock of what we’ve accomplished, and announces our next participatory sessions.
  • November 28: The Haiku Foundation announces a new feature: Bookstories.
  • November 29: A Haiku Foundation announces HaikuLife, our new video presentation format for use during our expanded haiku holiday, International Haiku Poetry Day.
  • November 30: The release of a new Haiku Foundation Digital Library collection, The Haiku Foundation Online Digital Essay Collection, from Digital Librarian Garry Eaton. Easily find and link to all the best essays on haiku available on the web from one place.
  • December 1: New installments of our ever-popular Book of the Week and Per Diem features.
  • December 2: The release of previously unpublished The Ticket-Taker’s Shadow, a manuscript by Cor van den Heuvel, from the van den Heuvel Archives.
  • December 3: A Haiku Foundation Interview with beloved poet Tom Clausen, originator of the concept for our Book of the Week feature.
  • December 4: The Haiku Foundation, after more than a year of consultation and refinement, introduces an important new document and feature for haiku poets: the Assignment of Copyright script, which we hope will be an important tool to aid poets in maintaining rights to their work and preserving their legacies in the years to come.
  • December 5: A second installment of our new feature, Bookstories, and a gallery of Haiku Videos from Around the World.
  • December 6: A Haiku Foundation Reading by the Paideia School of Atlanta, Georgia, under the direction of Tom Painting.

We hope you enjoy our presentations, and look forward both to your comments and your contributions.

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The Renku Sessions, inaugurated in 2014 through the capable ministrations of renku leader John Stevenson, has proved to be one of the most popular features on our site, not only in terms of views, but also participation. Stevenson takes a final accounting of the project today. And “Pilgrims’ Stride” officially enters the Renku Archives with this summation.

But the resulting 36-stanza poem is but one of many styles of renku, and in 2015 we plan to visit a couple others. Beginning in January we will offer

    • a 12-stanza version led by Sandra Simpson

and beginning in April

    • a 22-stanza version led by Linda Papanicolaou.

We hope you will be inspired to take part in both.

Please consider making a donation to The Haiku Foundation during our Fundraising Drive, November 27 – December 6. During this time only, every dollar you contribute is matched by an anonymous patron. Your money goes twice as far, and helps the Foundation continue its important work. Thank you.

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The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride Wrap

by John Stevenson on November 27, 2014

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renkuchainWelcome to The Renku Sessions. Renku is a participatory literary game, following a set of rules that are implemented by the leader of the session. If you would like to learn more about renku go here. And if you would like to see a sample of a complete renku go here.

First and last, I thank all of the poets who have played the game. This includes everyone who made offers, whether or not your work is included in the finished kasen renku. It is your spirit of creativity and your willingness to collaborate that constitute the value of this process.

Thanks are also due to The Haiku Foundation for the idea of a renku feature and especially to Dave Russo and Jim Kacian for showing me how to use the technical apparatus for creating the weekly postings.

I have had two main tasks here. One is obvious; serving as your guide in this renku session. The other may be less obvious. As the inaugurator of this feature, which will continue with other leaders, I have attempted to establish a model that would work this time and also serve as a basic model for future sessions.

There have been some special challenges. An open, public, and international forum is a near antithesis to the setting in which renku was first developed and practiced. In order to fairly present some semblance of a renku session on-line and with an open and fluid group, I have had to perform both the traditional role of sabaki and also the role of pioneer. To succeed as a pioneer, one must adapt to new realities. Some of the new (to me) realities of leading a renku session under the present circumstances include:

* The fact that the group consists of an unknown number of people
* That people can participate with various degrees of anonymity
* That people can participate intermittently and, therefore, be unaware of what may have been discussed in their absence
* That the group consists of people with extreme differences in past experience and present motivation for participation
* That the session is designed for thirty six weeks (originally, a kasen renku would be completed in a single session, generally in less than a day)
* That the session does not take place face-to-face, so the penchant of internet communication to foster false impressions and misunderstandings is a factor and the opportunity to evaluate the clarity (or lack of clarity) in one’s instructions by reading individual faces and body language is lost.

For those who are new to renku I would like to emphasize that what has taken place in these sessions is as characteristic of the internet as it is of renku.

So, what would renku be like in a pre-internet or non-internet setting? First, there would be a known number of participants, whether in a room together or linked by mail. And, because of that, there would be a different sense of community. The participants would have individually been given and have accepted some form of invitation to participate. While the basis for this can vary, the one universally underlying principle is mutual respect.

I use a party metaphor often in describing renku. The difference between a renku-style party and an internet party is the difference between a party with carefully chosen guests who the host/hostess expects will delight in each other’s company and a party thrown while the parents are away, where there is no telling who or how many will show up and where there is a possibility that the house will be trashed. Our challenge has been to try to represent the character of the first kind of party in a setting that promotes the latter. With your extraordinary help, I think we have succeeded in establishing a good precedent here.

A few observations about renku, in general:

* The point of writing a renku is the experience of collaboration. This consists of two types: collaboration with one’s immediate partners and collaboration with renku writers of the past.

* The written result of a renku session is best appreciated by those who have had the experience of writing renku. It is likely to register as mere non-sequitur to other readers.

* Renku involves adherence to a set of rules. It has been around for centuries and there are many variations on the rules. It is helpful if initial collective decisions can be made about which set of rules are in play and if a balance is sought between perfect adherence to rules and the natural tendency of poets to experiment with and alter existing forms.

A few observations about renku on the internet:

* The fabulous opportunity of working with a world-wide set of poets requires some adjustments. For instance, kigo (season words or phrases) that are related to calendar dates create a problem since the same date occurs in different seasons in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. Christmas, for instance, is a winter event in the north and a summer event in the south.

* An international renku requires some negotiation over which images lose or retain their local resonance with a world-wide set of participants.

* Special consideration should be given to participants for whom the language of the renku (English in this instance) is a second language.

* All participants should be willing to learn about phenomena that may seem “exotic” to their existing frames of reference.

A few observations about my personal experience with this renku session:

* The most important task, as I see it, is setting and maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect.

* In order to promote this atmosphere of mutual respect, it is everyone’s task to avoid, insofar as possible, embarrassing other participants.

* The opportunity for inclusiveness is both a primary asset and a special challenge of this format.

* Since a very long commitment of time is required, special efforts are required in order to maintain focus. I am personally a quick study. With similar partners, I would complete a kasen renku in hours rather than months. One might presume that more time would make the composition easier. And for some people, that is no doubt the case. But for my part, I found it harder than a more spontaneous, or at least a more instantaneous, process might have been. And it’s always good to keep in mind that no one is going to take months to read the finished renku!

* One objective benefit of this experience has been the opportunity to become acquainted with new renku partners. I am currently writing with partners that I met in the course of “Pilgrims’ Stride” and look forward to the possibility of writing with others among you in the future. I hope that many of you may also benefit in this way, with new renku partners.

So, finally, thank you. Thank you. It has been an honor and truly a pleasure to work with you.


Nominations Open for the Touchstone Book Award for 2014

by Bruce Feingold on November 25, 2014

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Nominations are now open for the Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2014. This award is bestowed annually on published collections or works of scholarship that represent significant contributions to English-language haiku. A panel of six poets and editors will select the winners.

Please see the Touchstone Distinguished Books Award page for submission details, an archive of past winners, and everything else related to this award. Follow the instructions on that page carefully.

We look forward to hearing about your favorite books for 2014!

Bruce Feingold
Touchstone Awards Coordinator



Nominations Open for the Touchstone Poem Award for 2014

by Bruce Feingold on November 25, 2014

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The dogwoods are turning a bright red in my garden, and we’re already half-way through autumn. With a month or so left in the year, nominations for the Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems are now open.

It’s time now to reflect on your favorite English-language haiku published during 2014. You can nominate two poems for the award, only one of which can be your own work. These are awards, not contests. We want to recognize some of the best haiku published in 2014. Our goal is to hand our panel of judges a broad selection of haiku that represents the most compelling work published this year.

As in past years, we will ask journal editors to send us English-language haiku they published during the award year. We also invite individuals–you!–to use the online submission form on the Touchstone Poem Awards page to submit your nominations for the award. That page is your best source for deadlines, the submission form, an archive of past winners, and everything else related to this award. Please follow the guidelines carefully and use the online submission form.

We look forward to seeing your favorite haiku!

Bruce Feingold
Touchstone Awards Coordinator