A message from Garry Gay and Michael Dylan Welch, Haiku North America founders and advisory board co-chairs. Michael presented this short speech in June of 2001 at the 2001 HNA conference at the Boston Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. Not previously published.
Greetings to all attendees and speakers of Haiku North America. This is the sixth HNA conference held since the event was founded in 1991, and we wish this year’s event every success as it celebrates the full variety of North American haiku—and beyond.
It has taken many people to bring HNA to its tenth anniversary, and it is worth acknowledging a few of them. The event was founded in California in 1991 where the original organizers were Garry Gay, Michael Dylan Welch, Jerry Ball, David Wright, Christopher Herold, and Paul O. Williams. The first HNA took place at Los Positas College in Livermore, near San Francisco. In 1993, again at Los Positas College, the conference was again organized by Garry Gay, Michael Welch, Jerry Ball, and David Wright, along with Ebba Story and Marianne Monaco. Each year after 1993, Michael Dylan Welch and Garry Gay have placed the conference in a new location, and a new team of organizers has worked tirelessly to make each conference happen. In 1995, Keith Southward, Marshall Hryciuk, and George Swede put on the third HNA conference, at Ryerson Polytechnic in Toronto, thus recognizing the tremendous contribution Canada has made to haiku on this continent. The 1997 conference took place at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, and was organized by Ce Rosenow, Margaret Chula, and Cherie Hunter Day. Then, in 1999, growing into an even bigger event, HNA landed at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, near Chicago, and was organized by Charles Trumbull, Joseph Kirschner, Sara Brant, and Lidia Rozmus. Now, in 2001, to start haiku’s second century on this continent, we are privileged to have the conference here at the Boston Conservatory.
The current Haiku North America advisory board, formed in 1999, has also discussed plans for HNA to help shape its future. The board, co-chaired by Garry Gay and Michael Dylan Welch, includes Sara Brant, Randy Brooks, Raffael de Gruttola, Jim Kacian, Howard Lee Kilby, Andrea Missias, John Stevenson, and Charles Trumbull. [This advisory board was later superseded by a board of directors when Haiku North America gained nonprofit status in 2005.]
Each HNA conference has been a tremendous undertaking, and each organizing committee deserves a great deal of thanks and praise. Many others have also helped the organizing committees of each HNA conference, and they deserve our thanks also. But today, we wish to offer special thanks, as boundlessly as possible, to the current HNA organizing committee in Boston: Raffael de Gruttola, Judson Evans, and Karen Klein.
As each HNA conference takes place, it evolves and grows, and also takes on the flavor of the host location and the interests of its organizing committee. At its core, though, the conference’s purpose continues to be to celebrate North American haiku through a festive gathering of poets, theorists, and admirers of haiku and related arts. As you have witnessed, it features poetry, presentations, performances, workshops, discussion, and camaraderie without affiliation to any single organization or school of haiku theory. Thus HNA is intended as a meeting of all haiku tribes, an event that does not belong to the Haiku Society of America or Haiku Canada or any other regional or national haiku group, but, ultimately, to all of us. It welcomes various perspectives, and seeks to provide dynamic opportunities for discussion and interaction. The conference’s future will depend on those who are willing to do the work to make it happen, and we hope for a bright future. At the very least, we can be proud of past events and especially proud of the present conference, which is the largest yet.
Haiku North America has truly created unity among the various societies and haiku organizations. We have all found a place where we can meet each other to share and celebrate the appeal of haiku and related poetry. Each passing conference builds upon the foundation of the one before. This conference brings dignity, enjoyment, and important scholarly advancements to haiku with its lectures, presentations, socialization, readings, debate, and even criticism. Many of the greatest poets of the haiku genre are sitting with you in this room today. You have seen their names in print and now you have the pleasure of putting faces to those names. We hope you will look around and savor the moment. After all, most of us live for moments of special awareness, and, right now, you are in that moment. Continue to have a great conference!