1. Home
  2. Events
  3. Haiku North America 1993—Livermore, California

Haiku North America 1993—Livermore, California

The second Haiku North America conference, a biennial gathering of haiku poets and scholars, took place July 15–18, 1993, at Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif. The conference was organized by Garry Gay, Michael Dylan Welch, Jerry Ball, David Wright, Ebba Story, and Marianne Monaco. Keynote addresses were given by James W. Hackett and Jane Hirshfield. Other speakers included William J. Higginson, Penny Harter, Paul O. Williams, Alexis Rotella, Jane Reichhold, Tom Lynch, Jerry Ball, David Wright, George Swede, Geraldine Little, Francine Porad, and others. More than 90 poets from the United States, Canada, and Japan attended.


The second conference in the Haiku North America series was held July 15–18, 1993, at Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif. The event was organized by Garry GayMichael Dylan WelchJerry BallDavid WrightEbba Story, and Marianne Monaco and hosted by Las Positas College and the Pleasanton Hilton hotel. The conference included open readings, two full days of lectures and workshops, a book fair, art show, and more. Attendance was slightly higher than at the first conference (1991): more than 90 poets from the United States, Canada, and Japan attended this weekend of presentations, readings, and socializing. Sponsoring organizations included the Haiku Poets of Northern California, the Haiku Society of America, the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, Haiku Canada, Haiku Northwest, the Haiku Poets of Upstate New York, the Haiku Writers of Gualala Arts, the Boston Haiku Society, the North Carolina Haiku Society, the Western World Haiku Society, and the Japan Society of Northern California.

Two keynote addresses were given, the first by James W. Hackett, author of The Way of Haiku, and The Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems of J. W. Hackett, and the second by Jane Hirshfield, cotranslator of The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu. Other notable conference participants included William J. Higginson; Marshall Hryciuk, president of Haiku Canada; Cor van den Heuvel, editor of The Haiku Anthology; and Patricia Donegan, poet and former lecturer at Naropa Institute.

HNA 1993 Program

Thursday, July 15, 1993

Afternoon

  • Registration

Soon after registering, many attendees began sporting the conference T-shirt, with the conference logo (a sheaf of wheat) and large gray letters proclaiming “Haiku North America” on bright salmon-pink cotton.

Evening

  • The conference proper got underway in the main lecture hall at Las Positas College.
  • Garry Gay, chief conference organizer and past president of HPNC and the Haiku Society of America, officially welcomed everyone to the conference.
  • Paul O. Williams, “Haiku and Its History”

Williams, past president of the Haiku Poets of Northern California, presented an introductory lecture to bring beginning and experienced haiku poets together on common ground.

  • Jerry Ball, a professor at Las Positas College, led an open haiku reading that lasted for more than two hours.
  • Socializing continued afterward in the registration room, where snacks and drinks were available, and late into the evening at the Hilton Hotel in nearby Pleasanton.

Friday, July 16, 1993

Morning

  • Jane Hirshfield, “The Natural World as a Carrier of Meaning in Poetry,” the first of two keynote addresses.

Hirshfield suggested that certain objects and events in the natural world can be understood to carry an intrinsic metaphorical or indicative meaning in much nature poetry, including haiku and tanka, being written today. The talk was the keynote for a theme for the HNA conference: haiku in the context of longer poetry.

Ball cautioned haiku writers against the use of gimmicks in writing haiku and opting for the most direct expression of deep feeling and keen insight.

  • Patricia Donegan and David Wright gave a workshop on teaching haiku, exploring the varieties of pedagogy necessary for the successful presentation of haiku to naturally capable neophytes. 
  • Michael Dylan Welch lectured on the art of punctuation in haiku with an extensive handout of examples of punctuation sorted by category, including haiku examples.
  • Ty Hadman had been scheduled to speak on “Hispanic Haiku” but he was unable to attend.

Afternoon

  • Paul O. Williams, “Problems of Metaphor in Haiku”

Williams’s topic was the use and misuse of metaphor in classical and modern haiku and making comparisons to metaphoric traditions in Western poetry.

  • William J. Higginson, “The New International Haiku”

In this workshop Higginson discussed the range of approaches to haiku in various countries.

  • Jane Hirshfield led a workshop on writing tanka. 
  • Francine Porad, “Psychological Responses to Haiku”

Porad made reference to primal motifs of understanding and the distinctiveness of people-centered haiku where psychological responses are central.

Evening

  • Penny Harter, “From Haiku to Longer Poems”

In this workshop attendees were invited to expand one or more of their haiku into a longer poem.

  • Tom Lynch, “What’s American about American Haiku? Or, Do I Have to Like Sushi to Write Haiku?”

Lynch promoted aspects of haiku specific to American sensibilities and mentioned transcendentalist and shamanistic precedents.

  • Lequita Vance, “Broadening the Pond: Seeing Haiku into Mainstream Poetry”

A report on Vance’s efforts to make haiku more accepted and acceptable to editors of nonhaiku poetry publications.

  • Hiroaki Sato had been scheduled to speak at this time also but regrettably could not attend. In his place, John Wills was scheduled to speak on subtlety in haiku, but he had to cancel owing to illness.
  • June Hopper Hymas and Christopher Herold, moderators, and David Wright, Michael Dylan Welch, Geraldine C. Little, William J. Higginson, and Jerry Ball, panelists, discussing “What Is Essential to English Haiku?”

A discussion among panelists David Wright, Michael Dylan Welch, Geraldine C. Little, William J. Higginson, and Jerry Ball.

  • The presidents of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society and of the Haiku Poets of Northern California moderated the forum discussion. After brief position statements from David Wright, Michael Dylan WelchGeraldine C. Little, William J. Higginson, and Jerry Ball, the audience posed questions and offered their own opinions on what makes up the core of haiku. 

Saturday, July 17, 1993

Morning

  • James W. Hackett, “That Art Thou: A Zen Way of Haiku,” a keynote presentation

Hackett shared portions of his manuscript and spoke on the value of the here and now in haiku and the Zen perspective that he felt informs many of the best haiku. 

  • William J. Higginson repeated his “New International Haiku” workshop.
  • Bruce Ross, “Simplicity, Timelessness, and Silence: The Transference of Japanese Haiku into English-Language Haiku”

This talk was essentially the introduction to Ross’s newly published anthology, Haiku Moment.

  • Lorraine Ellis Harr was scheduled to speak on “What Haiku Can Mean to the Future,” but she was not able to attend.
  • Following a two-hour break and a catered lunch, 69 conference attendees gathered in a courtyard of Las Positas College for a group portrait by photographer Debbie Mullen.

Afternoon

  • George Swede, “Haiku in the Mid-21st Century”

The Canadian poet offered speculations on the development of haiku in the next 50 years, based on statistics compiled from long-established haiku publications. He suggested that the haiku community needs one or more “elite” anthologies that present only a few of the very finest haiku in English as standards to follow. 

  • Jane Reichhold spoke on tanka and the emotions and ritual involved in the process of creating tanka poems. This topic focused on place in haiku in the context of longer poetry.
  • Ebba Story moderated an open reading of haiku; most poets chose to read anonymously.
  • Penny Harter repeated her “From Haiku to Longer Poems” workshop.
  • Geraldine C. Little spoke on “Composing Haiku Sequences,” which at times can be akin to longer poems.
  • Kazuo Satō was scheduled to give his Japanese perspective on haiku developments in English, but he too was unable to attend the conference.
  • Nick Avis spoke on the spatial arrangement of words and lines in haiku, which sometimes can be an effective alternative to punctuation.
  • “North American Haiku Organizations,” a forum.

Following an introduction by Garry Gay, presidents or representatives of various haiku organizations each spoke briefly about their group.

Evening

  • Haiku Banquet at the Pleasanton Hilton.
  • George Klacsanzky organized a late-night open-mic haiku reading at a nearby coffee shop. 

Sunday, July 18, 1993

Morning

  • Informal social gathering
  • Round robin reading of haiku 

Evening

• James W. Hackett delivering selections of his best haiku, including some humorous poems;

• Geraldine C. Little reading haiku and sequences as well as tanka from her book, More Light, Larger Vision.

• George Swede reading serious haiku and humorous senryu;

• Cor van den Heuvel sharing portions of a haibun manuscript rich with childhood memories and imagery.

• Welch closing the reading with a blessing for all attendees as they went on their way to various parts of the continent.

Other Activities and Events

Conference anthology

The Shortest Distance, a conference anthology featuring one haiku or senryu each by 51 poets, edited by Ebba Story and Michael Dylan Welch, was distributed to the attendees.

Freebies tables

Two tables in the registration area provided a place to display free brochures, order forms, poetry sheets, and other information on haiku groups and publications.

Art and photography show

An exhibition was mounted in the registration room. Especially memorable were paintings by HSA President Francine Porad, which were available for purchase. Many greetings and messages of support were also on display. These included posters, pictures, and poems from Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Croatia, Canada, and various places across the United States.

A real-time publication

As attendees were getting ready to depart, Carolanne Reynolds and George Edward Pajari distributed their pamphlet called “The Late Haiku Poet Society.” They had worked on it late into the night. It contained 22 haiku and senryu by conference attendees (including themselves) who hadn’t submitted poems in time to be included in The Shortest Distance.

Book fair

More than a hundred books on haiku, senryu, tanka, and longer poetry covered tables in the book fair room. Especially well-represented were AHA Books, From Here Press, Press Here, Stone Bridge Press, Two Autumns Press, and Weatherhill. Recent issues of Brussels Sprout, Frogpond, Haiku Headlines, Inkstone, Lynx, Modern Haiku, Woodnotes, and other magazines were also available. On display was Surimono: Prints by Elbow, a sumptuous collection of Japanese woodblock print reproductions, with commentary by Edythe Polster; she generously donated a copy her book as a gift to the Las Positas College library. Also of great interest was the newly published Haiku Moment edited by Bruce Ross, an anthology that included the work of most of the haiku poets in attendance at the conference. In all, more than $4,000 worth of books were sold.

Sources / Further Reading

  • Hackett, James. The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poems. San Francisco: Japan Publications, Inc., 1969. Poetry and photographs. “This book is a compilation of the previously published Haiku Poetry Volumes One through Four inclusive.”
  • Hackett, James W. “That Art Thou: A Spiritual Way.” The Haiku and Zen World of James W. Hackett website: https://hacketthaiku.com/. Published in a small print edition as J. W. Hackett. That Art Thou: A Zen Way of Haiku. Dayton, Ohio: Mead Corporation, 1992.
  • Haiku North America blog: http://www.haikunorthamerica.com/blog. The latest information and plans about HNA events.
  • Haiku North America website: http://www.haikunorthamerica.com.
  • Little, Geraldine C. More Light, Larger Vision. Gualala, Calif.: AHA Books, 1992. 
  • Polster, Edythe, and Alfred H. Marks. Surimono: Prints by Elbow. Washington, D.C.: Lovejoy Press, 1980.
  • Ross, Bruce, ed. Haiku Moment: An Anthology of Contemporary North American Haiku. Boston, Rutland, Vt., and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1993.
  • Story, Ebba, and Michael Dylan Welch, eds. The Shortest Distance. Foster City, Calif.: Press Here, 1993. The HNA conference anthology; one poem each by 51 poets.
  • van den Heuvel, Cor. A Boy’s Seasons: Haibun Memoirs. Portsmouth, N.H.: Single Island Press, 2010.
  • Welch, Michael Dylan, ed. “A Report on Haiku North America 1993.” Graceguts website: http://www.graceguts.com/reports/report-on-haiku-north-america-1993. Revised version of Welch’s “A Perspective on Haiku North America 1993,” Woodnotes 18 (Autumn 1993), 4–11.
  • Welch, Michael Dylan. “Haiku North America.” Graceguts website: http://www.graceguts.com/digressions/haiku-north-america. Personal history of the conference series and a list of the venues, directors, and conference anthologies.
  • Williams, Paul O. “The Question of Metaphor in Haiku.” Paul O. Williams, The Nick of Time: Essays on Haiku Aesthetics. Edited and introduced by Lee Gurga and Michael Dylan Welch. Foster City, Calif.: Press Here, 2001, 93–105. 

AUTHOR: Michael Dylan Welch

ADAPTED FROM: Michael Dylan Welch, “A Report on Haiku North America 1993.”

Updated on April 26, 2022