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New Orleans Haiku Society (2002–2016)

The New Orleans Haiku Society was founded in early 2002 by Johnette Downing and David G. Lanoue; it disbanded in 2016. Monthly meetings at the Milton Latter Public Library were open to the public. Attendees shared their haiku and other poetry, especially renga, and members published a collection of haiku, Katrina-ku: Storm Poems (2006) and two mini-chapbooks. At its peak the society had 11 regular attendees.

Founded in early 2002 by Johnette Downing and David G. Lanoue, the New Orleans Haiku Society disbanded in 2016. The group met monthly for 14 years at the Milton Latter Public Library to discuss and share haiku, renga, and other work. The public was invited to participate in the library meetings without charge, and over time several walk-ins became dedicated members.

At its peak NOHS had 11 regularly attending members: Bob Allen, Vaughn Banting, Johnette Downing, Carolyn Graetz, Mike Hebert, Samantha Klein, David G. Lanoue, Juliet Seer Pazera, Emma Pierson, Karel Sloane-Boekbinder, and Nicholas M. Sola. After meetings members typically met at a nearby sushi restaurant for libations, dinner, and continued fellowship.

The group enjoyed frequent ginkō (haiku walks) through New Orleans neighborhoods and attractions, including Uptown, French Quarter, and Gentilly; the Audubon Zoo, Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, and Aquarium of the Americas; the shores of Lake Pontchartrain; and various gardens and cemeteries. On one occasion, the group traveled to a beach on the Florida Gulf Coast.

Several NOHS members regularly attended meetings of the Haiku Society of America South Region, usually held in late October or early November in Hot Springs, Arkansas, hosted by Howard Lee Kilby. One year they attended the South Region gathering in Shreveport, Louisiana, hosted by Carlos Colón. Each autumn the group organized an information table on haiku at the Japan Fest in New Orleans City Park.

During the chaos and population evacuations that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005, NOHS members kept in touch online, writing renga and sharing haiku that they later published in a chapbook, Katrina-ku: Storm Poems (2006). All proceeds of its modest sales were used to support art education in New Orleans. A small selection of Katrina-ku:

Cover of Katrina-ku, 2006


Johnette Downing

so far away
the apartment I hated
now a prized possession
Lana Jackman

constant hurricane watching
channel changed
to Mutiny on the Bounty
Carolyn Noah Graetz

                   g   z
               i            a
         z                       g
artistic Katrina experiments
         with power lines

Isabel M. Altamirano

NOHS published two mini-chapbooks, in 2007 and 2010. The first marked an important anniversary of the society: New Orleans Haiku Society 5-year Celebration, September 29, 2007. The seven-page accordion-fold pamphlet featured graphic design, layout, and editing by David G. Lanoue and Isabel M. Altamirano. Included, in order of appearance, were poets Johnette Downing, David G. Lanoue, Juliet [Pazera], Ronnie Virgets, Carolyn Noah Graetz, Karel Sloane-Boekbinder, Michael J. Hebert, Vaughn Banting, Emma Pierson, Samantha Klein, and Isabel M. Altamirano. Three haiku from the collection:

Across the canvas
of my day
orange butterfly
 Juliet Pazera
hallway meeting
only a kiss
on the cheek

Samantha Klein
the slug’s map
I arrive at cabbages

Vaughn Banting

Following the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana and the ensuing ecological disaster, the New Orleans Haiku Society compiled a chapbook titled Crude Haiku, oil poems to raise awareness of the fragility of the environment and promote the belief that humans have the capacity to leave the world a better place than they found it. Proceeds from the sale of the book were donated to wildlife and coastal restoration. Eighteen poets, including several non-NOHS members, contributed work to the anthology: Robert Allen, Fay Aoyagi, Karel Sloane Boekbinder, Leo Boekbinder, Carlos Colón, Johnette Downing, Carolyn Noah Graetz, Dennis Holmes, Samantha Klein, David G. Lanoue, Emiko Miyashita, Allison Mull, Sakuo Nakamura, Juliet Seer Pazera, Luce Pelletier, Mary Emma Dutreix Pierson, Nicholas Sola, and Mike Walls. The cover image was by Lana Gramlich; graphic design, layout and editing were accomplished by Johnette Downing. A sampling of three poems from the book:

stabbed by man
the seabed bleeds
David G. Lanoue
pre-blackened fish
bp marinade
Mary Emma Dutreix Pierson
south wind
through the kitchen windows
the smell of oil
Karel Sloane-Boekbinder

Attendance at the New Orleans Haiku Society meetings dwindled as members’ lives got busy. In October 2016, after two monthly meetings in a row with only two members in attendance, the group disbanded. Cofounder David Lanoue lamented “a beautiful group of people that, moon-like, waxed then waned.” 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, some former members of the NOHS continued to meet in bars during New Orleans Saints professional football games (including the historic Super Bowl of 2010). Since the pandemic, these dedicated poets still meet quarterly to write renga via Zoom.

Sources / Further Reading

  • New Orleans Haiku Society. Crude Haiku, oil poems. New Orleans: New Orleans Haiku Society, ©2010. 8 pages with haiku by 18 poets.
  • New Orleans Haiku Society. Katrina-ku: Storm Poems. Edited by David G. Lanoue. Illustrations by Angelica Chiara Gallo. Canton, Miss.: Magnolia2 Press, 2006. 62 pages; 25 haiku by 10 poets..
  • New Orleans Haiku Society. New Orleans Haiku Society 5-year Celebration, September 29, 2007. New Orleans: New Orleans Haiku Society, ©2007. 7 pages with haiku by 11 poets.

Authors: David G. Lanoue and Johnette Downing

Updated on September 28, 2023