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1st Annual New Mexico Haiku Festival, Española, New Mexico (1999)

The 1st Annual New Mexico Haiku Festival was held on April 11, 1999, at El Convento Museum and Gallery, Plaza de Española, Española, New Mexico. The event, organized by William J. Higginson, Penny Harter, and Elizabeth Searle Lamb, all of Santa Fe, N.M., featured readings and panel discussions by a dozen poets.


The Northern New Mexico Community Theatre presented the 1st Annual New Mexico Haiku on April 11, 1999, at El Convento Museum and Gallery, Plaza de Española, Española, New Mexico. The event, organized by William J. Higginson, Penny Harter, and Elizabeth Searle Lamb, all of Santa Fe, N.M., featured readings and panel discussions by a dozen poets. The event was sponsored by the City of Española Lodgers’ Tax, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and the New Mexico Arts Commission. The wording “1st Annual” in the title proved to be optimistic, however; there was no second festival.

The printed program for the event contained the following notes by Higginson:

Haiku and related literary forms originated in Japan in the Tokugawa era (1601–1867). Together, they are called haikai, which means roughly “amusing.” 

The founder of haikai as we know it today was Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694), who was a master of haikai no renga (linked-poetry in the haikai style), and whom we remember for many excellent hokku, now called “haiku” worldwide. He was also the originator of haibun, a style of refined, light prose, often studded with haiku verses.

Bashō gave the poetry of his time a seriousness and depth that rivaled those of earlier court poetry, while focusing on the everyday experience of common people for subject matter. 

After Basho’s death, linked poetry gradually declined, and two strands of short poems emerged: haiku that focus on the depth seen in everyday life with a special observance of the seasonal cycles in nature, and senryu that portray human foibles and often ignore the rest of nature altogether. In Japan, where the two share the same metrical form (5–7–5 Japanese “sounds”), a particular poet tends to write one or the other. Poets writing in other languages often ignore the differences between haiku and senryu and freely write either as the spirit moves them—usually in 17 or fewer syllables. 

Today there is a worldwide revival of linked poetry in the Bashō style, now usually called renku, and many people are learning how to work together to write these collaborative longer poems composed of individual short, haiku-like stanzas. 

The festival consisted of two parts with a 15-minute intermission. In the first part, each poet read haiku or senryu for five minutes. After the intermission, the poets read again for a few minutes, either individually or in collaboration with each other. The work presented included not only haiku and senryu, but also haibun and renku.

The order of poets in the reading of individual haiku was as follows (the cited haiku are taken from the festival program where they appeared under the rubric “Poet’s Choice”):

  • Don Eulert of Santa Ysabel, California, the founding coeditor in 1963 of American Haiku, the first magazine in America devoted to haiku, and the author of several books of poetry
picking bird-pecked figs
    I leave two perfect ones
          for you to find1
  • Elizabeth Searle Lamb of Santa Fe, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, a past-president of that organization, and an editor of the HSA journal, Frogpond, for eight years
in the old adobe
a small carved santo
turned to the wall2
  • Dennis H. Dutton of El Rito, N.M., a former editor of Shaman’s Drum Journal: A Journal of Experiential Shamanism and Spiritual Healing and a past president of the New Mexico chapter of PEN USA Center West
Desert waterhole
a yellow finch dips its beak
in the puma track.3
  • Charles Trumbull, grew up in Las Vegas, N.M., now living in Illinois, and the editor of the Haiku Society of America Newsletter
mountain twilight
the pealing of one church bell
from all directions4
  • Noor Singh Khalsa of Santa Cruz, N.M., a member of Española’s Sikh community and a pioneer in publishing haiku on the Internet
dusk
ravens
change trees5
  • Thomas Fitzsimmons of Santa Fe, a poet, translator, editor, and publisher (Katydid Books)
   elegant
under the silvery aspen
   —rattlesnake6
  • Marian Olson of Santa Fe, a longtime haijin (haiku poet), gourmet cook, and the author of several books
falling to her knees
in the wild poppies
city tourist
  • Amalio Madueño of Taos, N.M., the former director of the Poetry Center of New Mexico, and a past-president of the Taos World Poetry Bout Association
Cold canyon hot springs
Steam around my ears
I am floating clouds
  • Daniel Sogen of Santa Fe, a tea master, calligrapher, actor, and book artist as well as a haijin
I drink tea
with my friend
it is enough
  • William J. Higginson of Santa Fe, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, a past president of the organization, and the author of The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku, as well as several other books
light-hearted
at the very thought:
apricot blossoms7
  • Penny Harter of Santa Fe, also a past president of the Haiku Society of America, and the author of many acclaimed books of poetry including Lizard Light (1998)
spiral of gnats
from branch to branch—
rain-wet pine8
  • Not listed on the formal program, which was compiled in advance, was the participation of Jane Reichhold of Gualala, California, a leading haikai poet, editor, and critic. This New Mexico haiku of hers is taken from her A Dictionary of Haiku:
player piano
at the Ghost Ranch
a visitor9

The festival concluded with a reception in the inner courtyard of El Convento. Several of the poets on the program offered books for sale during the reception.

SOURCES / FURTHER READING

  • Eulert, Don. Field: A Haiku Circle. Gualala, Calif.: AHA Books, 1998.
  • “The First Annual New Mexico Haiku Festival” program handout. 1999.
  • Fitzsimmons, Thomas. The Old Ones Laugh: A Round Dozen on the Occasion of his 73rd. Santa Fe, N.M.: Katydid Books, Limited edition, 1999. Art by Karen H.-Fitzsimmons.
  • “The Full Moon: Kasen Renku,” 1st Place in the 1993 Renga Contest. Frogpond 17:1 (Spring 1994). Verses by Karen Tasaka, William J. Higginson (coordinator), Gloria Maria Staiano, Victoria Frigo, Daniel Sogen, Elizabeth Searle Lamb, Penny Harter, and Woodson Taylor.
  • Harter, Penny. Lizard Light: Poems from the Earth. Santa Fe, N.M.: Sherman Asher Publishing, 1998.
  • Higginson, William J., with Penny Harter. The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1985.
  • Lamb, Elizabeth Searle. Across the Windharp: Collected and New Haiku. Edited by Miriam Sagan. Albuquerque, N.M.: La Alameda Press, 1999.
  • Madueño, Amalio. El Mirador. Ranchos de Taos, N.M.: Ranchos Press, ©2001. Mexican American poetry.
  • Olson, Marian. Songs of the Chicken Yard. Rexburg, Idaho: Honeybrook Press, 1992. 79 haiku.
  • Reichhold, Jane. A Dictionary of Haiku: Second Edition 1993–2013. Gualala, Calif.: AHA Books, 2nd edition, 2013.
  • Trumbull, Charles. Unbroken Snow: Haiku for the Winter. [Evanston, Ill.: Deep North Press, 1999]. Trifold pamphlet.


Author: Charles Trumbull

Adapted from “The First Annual New Mexico Haiku Festival” program handout


Notes

  1. From Don Eulert, Field: A Haiku Circle (1998), #220. []
  2. First published in Cicada 5:1 (1981). []
  3. Awarded 3rd Place in the 4th Shiki Internet Haiku Contest 1998. []
  4. Previously published as “medieval village: / the pealing of one church bell / from all directions” on the Haiku Light website, March 1999. []
  5. First published in Acorn 1 (Fall 1998). []
  6. First published in Modern Haiku 24:3 (Fall 1993), 14. []
  7. First published in Suimei (April 1997). []
  8. First published in “Three Haiku,” Haiku Canada Review 1:1 (February 2007), 18. []
  9. Reichhold, Jane. A Dictionary of Haiku Second Edition 1993–2013. Gualala, Calif.: AHA Books, 2nd edition, 2013. []
Updated on September 4, 2023