a lost introduction

note from the editor

This is the draft introduction of the unreleased first print issue of haijinx written by Mark Brooks in 2003. This contains a general statement of purpose of haijinx from its creator that was deliberately not included in the web issues.

The details of the print issue below are accurate and some contents will be posted to the web. The first item, Hiroaki Sato’s translation of Mizuhara Shûôshi’s “Truth in Literature, Truth in Nature“, has already been posted.

Mark Brooks, March 2010

Welcome to the first print issue of haijinx, a journal that focuses on the role of humor in haikai. haijinx was founded in the year 2001 by Mark Brooks with an initial team of Carmen Sterba, Alan Summers, Serge Tomé, and Kuniharu Shimizu. The team has been expanded to include Paul Miller, Linda Robeck, and Billie Wilson. As individuals, the team has been published in journals around the world, had their work translated into many languages, and won numerous awards for their haikai.

Ah, but what is haikai? Broadly speaking, haikai includes haiku; renku (haiku-like linked verse); haibun (haiku-like prose that is often combined with haiku); and haiga (illustrated haiku). Although senryû (satirical poetry in the same rhythm as haiku) are sometimes classified as haikai, we do not publish senryû.

Indeed, clarifying this split between haiku and senryû is one of the primary goals of haijinx. The “hai” in haiku is “playful” or “humorous” and we wish to highlight this particular feature. There is simply no hai in haiku without some sense of humor, lightness, or playfulness. We are not alone in this belief. Famed translator R.H. Blyth, in Haiku, Volume One: Eastern Culture (The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1949), defines several key characteristics of haiku. Humor is first on that list. Akito Arima, the past president of the Haiku International Association, writes in the preface to A Hidden Pond (Kadokawa Shoten, Japan, 1997) that “[t]he universal character of haiku may be due to the fact that they always contain a sense of humor, as well as scenes of nature and daily life, things appreciated by anybody.” This list of primarily Japanese experts could go on.

Unfortunately, the prevailing opinion of the haiku community outside of Japan is that if haiku is humorous, then it is senryû. This is shown by a recent survey of editors and poets in Modern Haiku where only then-editor Robert Spiess mentioned humor at all. The Haiku Society of America mentions humor in its definition of senryû, but not in its definition of haiku.

This consensus of non-Japanese haiku experts leads to both an over-emphasis on content and an artificial restriction of that content away from human nature and humor. Furthermore, it contributes to a rift between what is considered haiku in Japanese and what is considered haiku in other languages.

On another front, there are poets with little knowledge of haiku beyond an introduction in high school or earlier. They tend to believe that words grouped into five, seven, and five English syllables become haiku automatically. The two other formal attributes of haiku written in Japanese, kigo (loosely translated as seasonal phrase) and kire (loosely translated as cut), if known, are often not addressed. Content is oversimplified when addressed at all. This consensus of people taught haiku in public school, outside of Japan, leads to an over-emphasis on syllables, typically to the complete exclusion of other formal attributes and issues of content. This turns haiku into a counting game.

Most experts today agree that the formal attribute of a 5-7-5 rhythm is only valid in Japanese. In English, to simulate it, haiku are typically written in three lines, the middle one longer than the others. This approach, rooted in the knowledge that Japanese is a moraic language and English is not, has developed over decades of experimentation and is now well accepted.

haijinx attempts to find a balance between content and form within haiku and within haikai in general. The haiku you find here will vary in content, but they will typically have some sort of humor, no matter how slight. This humor will be constructive, rather than satiric or destructive. The haiku will typically be in three lines, the middle longer than the others. The haiku will typically contain kigo and kire. haijinx also attempts to be an instrument of the global haikai culture. In our view it is as simplistic to attempt to wrest “English-language haiku” away from haiku and haikai in general as it is to limit “true haiku” to those composed in Japanese. You will find haiku written in English, Japanese, French, Serbian, and German in this issue. English versions are created with the input of the author. Combined, the main haiku sections of this issue contain over 150 poems by 73 poets from around the world. Dozens are illustrated, some in color. These are simply some of the best haiku being published for the English-reading public today.

Every issue of haijinx also contains spotlights on four of the best haiku poets in the world, including brief biographies, the poet’s comments on humor and haikai, and a selection of their best work. The poets spotlighted in this issue are john crook (UK), Takatoshi Gotoh (Japan), Visnja McMaster (Croatia), and Michael Dylan Welch (USA). There are regular columns in haijinx. Editor Paul Miller discuses some of his favorite haiku. Editor-in-chief Mark Brooks compares a modern haiku with one written by Bashô. William J. Higginson, author of The Haiku Handbook and Haiku World, introduces a new column on renku.

This issue also contains reviews of recent books on haikai. Randy Brooks examines Jane Reichhold’s new how-to book, Writing and Enjoying Haiku. Mark Brooks reviews the first line, the latest Red Moon Anthology, the annual of “English-language” haiku. Finally, Robert Gilliland shares his thoughts on The Poetics of Japanese Verse by Kôji Kawamoto.

The centerpiece of the issue is the work of Mizuhara Shûôshi (1892-1981). Shûôshi, a haiku poet and theorist, sparked a haiku revival in Japan when he broke from the conservative Hototogisu in 1931 with his essay “Truth in Nature, Truth in Literature”. Although often quoted, this important theoretical essay has never been completely translated into English before this issue of haijinx. Award-winning translator Hiroaki Sato adds his own incisive commentary and notes as well as a translation of a contemporaneous response from a conservative, Sûjû.

Sato’s work is supplemented with commentary from William J. Higginson and a roundtable discussion involving haiku poets and editors from around the world.

And that’s not all from Shûôshi. There are 50 of Shûôshi’s haiku, many of them available for the first time in English. These English versions are primarily the work of Australian Dhugal Lindsay, Mark Brooks, and others.

Lindsay, an active haiku poet living in Japan, received the 2002 Nakaniida Grand Haiku Award for the best debut collection of haiku written in Japanese. His haiku lineage, master to master, includes Shûôshi. He researched and provided all of the Japanese versions of Shûôshi’s haiku found in this issue.

Welcome to the Shûôshi issue of haijinx, our first print issue. For further reading enjoyment, the first four issues remain at our web site. Subscriptions to haijinx are set below the retail cost and include bulk mail delivery within the United States. We hope you subscribe and become both a supporter and an active participant in the global haikai culture.

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New Moon
New Moon

The moon is 1 day old
Joe's
bored? want to have fun with Issa?
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Slapp Happy from Live In Japan (2001) and originally from Casablanca Moon (1974)

or maybe some Bashô on a banjo?
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Allen Ginsberg from First Blues

or perhaps Roberta Beary performed a cappella?
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Fleur-de-Lisa previews "Fireflies"
from The Unworn Necklace