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Modern Haiku – Summer 2009

Modern Haiku received 308 entries from 79 poets in 5 countries for its 2009 Spiess Contest! Haiku (and senryu, essentially haiku with human images, rather than images drawn exclusively from nature) appears to be as popular as ever.

spare and quiet
308 hopeful
explosions of meaning

Modern Haiku received 308 entries from 79 poets in 5 countries for its 2009 Spiess Contest! Haiku (and senryu, essentially haiku with human images, rather than images drawn exclusively from nature) appears to be as popular as ever. In an era that suffers, often, from lack of restraint, the attachment to these economical forms is surprising and refreshing. In addition to many lovely haiku and senryu (in various line configurations and rhythmic patterns, and several languages other than English, along with their translations), Modern Haiku also features haibun (a hybrid form that combines prose and haiku), critical essays, a personal essay (“Correspondent’s Report”), a poetry gallery (visual arts), reviews, a briefly noted column (a listing and short description of new books) and letters from readers (called “juxtapositions”).

Many of the haiku are traditional in imagery, such as William Scott Galasso’s:

crows and gulls
in the same blue sky
not contending

Others, like this example from Robert Moyer:

dusty tchotchke
left by an employee
no one remembers

and this one from Deborah P. Kolofji:

last persimmon
the real estate agent
suggests a lower price

are unconventional and decidedly contemporary.

All are adept at evoking an atmosphere or image that captures a mood, idea, or space much larger than the three brief lines (or long, single line, which is the form of several of the poems) from which they arise – which is the strength, beauty, and challenge of haiku.

The essays are quite marvelous, including Margaret Chula’s consideration of haiku written in US internment camps; Hiroaki Sato’s lengthy exploration of Basho’s “The Sea Darkens”; and David Lanoue’s analysis of the work of Fay Aoyagi. David Burleigh’s essay about traveling to Matsyuama, Japan, for the 4th Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Awards is part personal essay/part critical essay and makes for instructive and pleasurable reading.

This issue of the magazine also includes a tribute to Croatian haiku poet Darko Plažanin who died (at age 52) in Sagreb this past January, featuring translations of two astoundingly fine examples of the art, originally published in Haiku World (1996) and as part of the 4th International Association of Haiku Contest (2002):

after the storm
a boy wipes the sky
from the table

and

only the wind
can step across
the minefield

It is impossible, on reading these poems, to underestimate the relevancy, power, and potential of modern haiku, the form or the journal.
[www.modernhaiku.org]

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