Google+ Followers

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Haiku - the contemporary view by Modern Haiku

Volume 42.2 Summer 2011 cover art

Deborah Adams, "Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus,Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 2010," digital photograph.

for information on submissions and competitions, background and such, got to Modern Haiku's home page at

Definitions—what we’re looking for

Haiku is a brief verse that epitomizes a single moment. It uses the juxtaposition of two concrete images, often a universal condition of nature and a particular aspect of human experience, in a way that prompts the reader to make an insightful connection between the two. The best haiku allude to the appropriate season of the year. Good haiku avoid subjectivity; intrusions of the poet’s ego, views, or values; and displays of intellect, wit, and facility with words.

The above is a normative definition, and haiku of various kinds not squaring with this definition can be easily found, even in the pages of our journal.

Senryu is a verse in the haiku form that focuses on human nature. Although Modern Haiku has a best-senryu-of-issue award, separate sections for haiku and senryu have been discontinued because we find it is impossible to draw a sharp line between the two in English-language verse.

The editors of Modern Haiku use the term "haiku" inclusively (and loosely) for both haiku and senyru and consider both for publication on an equal footing.

Haikai is a Japanese term for the popular light verse that flourished in the 16th century in reaction to the elevated Japanese court poetry. The term was especially associated with haikai no renga, a composition of linked verses in haikai style. In English, haikai has now come to signify the whole genre of composition that includes haiku, senryu, haibun, and haiga. In Latin America and Europe haikai (orhaicai, etc.) often means "haiku," the verse as well as the genre.

Hokku is the original name for the Japanese verse form now almost universally called haiku, both in Japan and abroad. Except in specific literary or historical contexts, the term is not used in English.

Haibun is a prose poem that uses embedded haiku to enhance the composition’s overall resonance and effect. Modern Haiku publishes several haibun in each issue. The following principles guide the editors in choosing among haibun submissions: (1) Each verse should be able to stand on it own as a haiku, without reference to the prose; (2) The prose should be composed in haikai style—that is, with an eye to brevity, objectivity, and non-intellectualization; (3) The haiku and the prose should stand in the same relationship to one another as do the two parts of the haiku—that is, one part should not repeat, explain, or continue the other, rather the juxtaposition of the two should lead the reader to experience added insight or resonance. Haibun are generally, but not necessarily, titled.

is a work combining a graphic image (originally sumi-e, brush painting with black ink) with a haiku in the same relationship as the two parts of a haibun (see above); in particular, the graphic should not merely be an illustration of the haiku, nor the haiku a caption for the image. The best haiga use the same medium for the haiku and the graphic. Photo haiga are very popular these days, but not with our editors. Haiga generally do not need a title. Modern Haiku typically publishes four haiga in each issue in the Poetry Gallery section.

Renku is the modern name for renga (or haikai no renga), a chain of interlocked verses produced by several poets, usually as a sort of literary party game. Modern Haiku does not generally publish renku or other linked-verse forms.

Tanka is the modern name for waka, the traditional courtly poetry of Japan, written in 5–7–5–7–7–syllable groups and often dealing with themes of love, etc.Modern Haiku does not publish tanka.
• • •

Modern Haiku publication policies and considerations—haiku & senryu

Syllable and line count are not vital in contemporary English-language haiku—in particular in our journal. We find, in fact, that few poets are able to write effective haiku in the "traditional" 5–7–5–syllable format.

Titles, notes. English-language haiku generally do not need titles or head notes. If you wish to label your haiku, you should be sure there is a very good reason for doing so and that the title is more than merely a cheat, an extra "fourth line." The same is true of explanatory notes or footnotes: if your verse contains material that needs explanation, it is safe to assume that it is inadequately communicating to its intended audience—i.e., it is a failed haiku.

Dedications. Modern Haiku tries to avoid including a dedication with a haiku on the grounds that it tends to divert attention and sap energy from the haiku.

Locations & dates.
Similarly, we try to avoid including a location or date (e.g., a line reading "Aunt Jenny’s backyard, May 1978") with haiku for the same reasons we are suspicious of titles, notes, and dedications.

Foreign languages. Modern Haiku is keen to publish haiku in languages other than English provided that the work was originally composed in the foreign language and that it is accompanied by an English translation (our editors can often help with the translations). Back translations (that is, an author’s original English-language work translated into another language) and translations into third languages are generally not of interest.

Modern Haiku welcomes haiku sequences, but we do not generally publish renku, rengay, or other multi-authored linked verse.

In memoriams. Our journal no longer publishes sections of haiku submitted in memory of a recently deceased poet.
And finally, a note on pluralization: in English, "haiku" and related terms taken from Japanese are both singular and plural.

Modern Haiku prose style
We try to present the prose sections of Modern Haiku in standard American English suitable for a well-educated reader. For spelling and usage, we follow Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. We basically follow Modern Language Association (MLA) bibliographic style and refer to The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition.

Upon acceptance of material submitted by postal mail, Modern Haiku pays an author fee of $1.00 for each haiku or senryu and $2.00 for each haibun, and normally $10.00 for each haiga. Free author copies of the journal are not provided.

For essays and longer reviews the journal pays an $5.00 per printed page or part thereof. Free author copies are not provided, but for prose pieces and haiga a PDF offprint with the published work will be provided by e-mail upon request.

Modern Haiku Gift Fund. The editors have established this Fund to provide subscriptions to the journal to poets in the U.S. and elsewhere who may not be able to afford it on their own. Poets submitting their work to MH may indicate, if they wish, that their author fees should be diverted to the Fund. Nominations for recipients of these free subscriptions are always welcome.


West Australian haiku groups can be reached through

No comments: