How often does Haiku Northwest meet?
We meet monthly, usually on the fourth Thursday evening of the month, usually at the Bellevue Regional Library in Bellevue, Washington, just east of Seattle. Because library meeting rooms are not always available (especially in the spring), we sometimes meet elsewhere, so we encourage you to join our email list to receive meeting announcements and reminders. Our Events page on this site also gives basic location information, but email reminders provide the most up-to-date and complete details.
How do I join Haiku Northwest?
If you’d like to join our email list, send an email message with your request to Angela Terry at email@example.com. That’s all there is to joining Haiku Northwest! We have no membership dues, and anyone is always welcome to join any of our events. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced poet, you are welcome to join us. Haiku Northwest is a regional group of the Haiku Society of America, but you do not need to be a member of the HSA to be a member of Haiku Northwest. You’ll find that joining the HSA has many benefits, though, so please consider joining.
What are Haiku Northwest meetings like?
Our meetings focus mainly on the sharing and critiquing of haiku offered on sheets of paper that members pass around and read aloud. We usually include our names on the poems, so the discussion is not anonymous, except for occasional special workshops. Our workshopping focus helps us improve our poetry as we share and comment on our writing. If it’s your first time, you are welcome to just observe and listen, or to chime in as the spirit moves. Poets of all experience levels are always welcome, and our regular meetings are always free.
What else happens are your meetings?
We typically have a featured reader, who reads for about five minutes, usually one of our local members, but sometimes a visiting poet, who is usually given up to ten minutes to read. We also share news and announcements, and then have as many rounds of reading and critiquing of attendee poems as time allows. We make sure to get to every poet. Each poet typically brings a sheet of about five or more haiku or senryu (occasionally tanka or a haibun) to distribute to the group (usually fifteen copies is sufficient). Occasionally, someone brings cookies or some other snack, or we share a bit of personal news. The group started in 1988, and for many years we met at the home of founder Francine Porad (who passed away in 2006), and the group’s meetings retain that comfortable and friendly living-room feeling. Now and then we spend some time planning or discussing various events, but we try to keep the primary focus on sharing, discussing, and improving our poems. We sit in a circle together and are a friendly and welcoming group!
Do you have special events or other activities in addition to monthly meetings?
Yes, often. Twice a year, the Seattle-area haiku group meets with the Port Townsend haiku group for a weekend activity, often involving writing haiku outdoors, and an afternoon of sharing, performing, and discussion. We have also hosted national meetings of the Haiku Society of America, supported one Haiku North America conference, and performed our haiku on local radio and at Folklife, Aki Matsuri, Arts in Nature, and other local festivals. Starting in 2008, we’ve had very popular annual weekend haiku retreats in Seabeck, Washington, at the Seabeck Conference Center. We occasionally have activities at the Seattle Japanese Garden, and our members offer workshops or give haiku readings at many venues throughout Seattle and the Puget Sound area.
Does Haiku Northwest represent any particular type or style of haiku?
Haiku Northwest is the Washington state region of the Haiku Society of America. The HSA welcomes poets writing all styles and approaches to haiku, as does Haiku Northwest. Most of our members focus, in the haiku tradition, on objective sensory imagery that employs a seasonal reference (kigo in Japanese) and a two-part juxtapositional structure (equivalent to a kireji, or cutting word). Because of differences between English and Japanese, we are aware that seventeen syllables in a 5-7-5 pattern in English tends to produce a poem that is longer than a Japanese haiku, and may suffer from padding or chopping to fit a sound pattern that works well in Japanese but not necessarily in English, despite popular belief (the 5-7-5 syllable pattern for haiku in English may be best understood as an urban myth). Thus we tend to focus on haiku as a one-breath seasonal poem whose two parts create energy through implication. If these traditions are unfamiliar to you, we invite you to come to our meetings to learn as we have learned. Each of us took our turn learning these traditions, and also explored how to develop our own unique voices in the art of haiku. We have also worked to go beyond tradition, to take haiku in new directions that fit our personal muses. For more information about haiku, many useful essays on haiku appear at Graceguts.
Can you recommend some good books to read about haiku?
The standard books for anyone wishing to learn to write haiku in English are William J. Higginson’s The Haiku Handbook (McGraw-Hill, 1985; Kodansha, 1989; 25th anniversary edition, Kodansha, 2010) and Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology (W. W. Norton, 1999, third edition). These books are readily available in libraries and bookstores. Ask any of our members for additional book recommendations. We also recommend subscribing to journals such as Frogpond (which comes with membership in the Haiku Society of America), Modern Haiku, and other haiku journals. To explore an extensive list of haiku-related journals in English, please visit the Haiku Society of America’s A Guide to Publications.
How did Haiku Northwest begin?
Organized English-language haiku activity in Washington State first took place mostly in Bellingham, with Edna Purviance’s leadership of her Haiku Appreciation Club in the late 1970s. Edna published several books, mostly notably Aware by Betty Drevniok, who was a cofounder in 1977 of Haiku Canada. In February of 1984, Seattle poet George Klacsanzky started editing Haiku Zasshi Zo. The first poem in that first issue was by Francine Porad:
Francine continued to be a regular contributor to the journal, and the quality of her haiku quickly improved, but George Klacsanzky remained the center of Seattle-area haiku activity for at least three or four years, leading "Haiku Hikes," sponsoring haiku contests, sharing haiku news, and putting on other irregular events related to haiku. He also held several haiku meetings in the Seattle area. It’s not clear how long these meetings persisted, but the first of his bimonthly meetings was in August of 1986, and they were a direct precursor to Haiku Northwest. In 1987, Francine Porad took over the publication of Brussels Sprout from Alexis Rotella, and in the Summer/Fall 1988 issue of Haiku Zasshi Zo (probably its final issue), the following announcement appeared on page 53:
This meeting started the group that became known as Haiku Northwest, and it was attended by poets from British Columbia (including anne mckay, Anna Vakar, and Beth Jankola) and Washington State. That first meeting on September 15 was on a Thursday night, and the group has continued to meet on Thursday evenings ever since. At first, meetings took place every couple of months, then monthly, and soon came to be held at Francine’s home on Mercer Island, the setting of which was a key factor in developing the close friendships among members (Francine laid down a strong social foundation for the group). Haiku Northwest also embraced Oregon poets, and together both states became an official region of the Haiku Society of America circa 1993 or 1994, when Francine was president of the Haiku Society of America (Mary Fran Meer was the first regional coordinator). Oregon split off to be its own HSA region in 2008, but both states continue to be active in attending haiku events together.
Do any other haiku groups meet in Washington State?
Yes, Washington is rich in haiku activity—and history. To read a brief overview of haiku in Washington state, please visit the HSA’s Washington State regional page. While Haiku Northwest is the largest and oldest English-language group (started in 1988), the Port Townsend Haiku Group has been active since 1992. This group meets monthly, and also has a subgroup that focuses on renku. For more information, please contact Christopher Herold. Also active, on Vashon Island, is the Mondays at Three haiku group, which also decorates Hiway Haiku (you can see another picture of one of the signs on cofounder Helen Russell’s page and read more about the origin of Hiway Haiku at Kajira Wyn Berry’s site). For more information about haiku on Vashon Island, please contact Ann Spiers. In addition, the Bellingham Haiku Group was started in 2009, and meets monthly. For more information, contact Seren Fargo. A group also formed in 2011 in Tacoma, led by Carmen Sterba. Prior haiku history in the region includes the enormous influence of the Beat poets, especially Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder, who famously honed their spiritual awareness and poetic chops while manning fire lookouts atop Northwest mountain peaks (Snyder, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen were also graduates of Portland’s Reed College). Edna Purviance promoted haiku in Bellingham in the 70s, running the Haiku Appreciation Club there, and published the journals Portals for three years, also publishing a book of her own haiku in 1979, titled The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife, as well as Betty Drevniok’s landmark book Aware: A Haiku Primer in 1980. The Seattle area also enjoyed the journal Haiku Zasshi Zo, published by George Klacsanzky in the 1980s. And Haiku Northwest founder Francine Porad published the widely respected quarterly haiku journal Brussels Sprout from 1987 to 1995, as well as numerous haiku books from her own press, Vandina Press. In addition, for many years, Christopher Herold published The Heron’s Nest in both online and print forms, in Port Townsend. Washington State is also home to several Japanese-language haiku, senryu, and tanka groups, in and around Seattle and Tacoma, such as the Rainier Haiku Ginsha (begun in 1934), the Hokubei Senryu Ginsha (begun in 1946), and the Hokubei Senryu Gosenkai (begun in 1929). A Japanese-language senryu group in Yakima, in fact, is said to have been the first senryu group in America (around 1910 or 1912). While many of these Japanese-language poetry groups disbanded or were disrupted during World War II, several still continue to this day. Thanks to the prominent influence of nature in Washington State, from its majestic glacier-covered mountains and expansive forests to its islands and extensive tidal waterways, haiku has enjoyed fertile ground in this area. It is therefore no wonder that the Washington region of the Haiku Society of America enjoys the highest per capita membership of the Haiku Society of America, more than any other region in the society.
I have more questions. Who should I contact for help?
Please send an email message to Angela Terry (Haiku Northwest president) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Dylan Welch (webmaster) at WelchM@aol.com. Any member present at one of our regular meetings would also be able to help. Please do come to one of our meetings and help to make Haiku Northwest what you want it to be. Hope to see you soon!
—Michael Dylan Welch, 2009, 2010