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Santa Fe Haiku Study Group

The Santa Fe Haiku Study Group was an informal circle of haiku poets and friends organized in in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in January 2015 by Sondra J. Byrnes and Charles Trumbull. The group initially met monthly (later quarterly) in one or another branch of the Santa Fe Public Library, with one meeting a year at a member’s home in Santa Fe or Albuquerque. The group disbanded in July 2021.


The Santa Fe Haiku Study Group was organized in January 2015 at the suggestion of Sondra J. Byrnes in consultation with Charles Trumbull. The group operated without by-laws, officers, or formal administration. The first meeting was held on February 3. Byrnes took on responsibility for reserving meeting space, usually in a branch of the Santa Fe Public Library, and emailing reminders of upcoming meetings. The meetings were originally held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the last Tuesday of every month. In the last two years meetings were held bimonthly or quarterly, and beginning in April 2021, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person gatherings were replaced with Zoom sessions. Occasionally SFHSG meetings were combined with socializing at members’ homes.

Core members or the group (those who attended meetings more or less regularly) were: Alanna C. Burke, Sondra J. Byrnes, Michael Cantor, Loralee Freilich, Natalie Goldberg, Cynthia Henderson, Paulette Johnston, Larry Jones, Mary Kite, Harriet Levine, Jane Lipman, Basia Miller, Susan Nalder, Josh Rappaport, Sharon Rhutasel-Jones, Miriam Sagan, Helga Schimkat, Jane Tokunaga, Charles Trumbull, Lew Watts, Karen Weber, and Scott Wiggerman. Among the Santa Fe–area poets who met with the SFHSG on occasion were Debbi Brody, Mary DeMeo, Susan Gardner, Ava Dasya Rasa, and Barbara Robidoux.

SFHSG meetings followed a regular format: an initial round robin reading of one haiku by each attendee, without commentary or critique; introductions of new members and other announcements; a 10–20–minute program on some aspect of haikai by Trumbull, and a free-flowing critique of a “problem haiku” from each participant, copies of which were passed around beforehand. Over the years, program topics included the following:

  • Defining haiku, senryu, haibun, one-line haiku, gendai haiku, sequences and linked verses, and other short-form poems. Most of the group members were new to haiku and specifically asked for guidance on the mechanics of haiku composition. Accordingly, programs and workshops were held on the question of syllable count, non-text elements in haiku, punctuation, lineation and line breaks, images and juxtaposition, seasonality, and haiku aesthetics.
  • Comparing translations of the work of classic Japanese haijin Chiyo-ni and Buson and taking a close look at haiku by English-language poets John Wills and Alexis Rotella. Members also enjoyed critiquing haiku from recent issues of haiku publications including The Heron’s Nest, Acorn, and Clark Strand’s “The Monthly Tricycle Haiku Challenge” as well as the shortlisted haiku from the Touchstone Award for Individual Poems.
  • Composing original work in haikai forms: the Japanese verse-capping game maekuzuke, tan-renga, and even a twelve-tone (jūnichō) renku, “Winter Lights.”
  • Special guest readers at SFHSG meetings included Santa Fe poet Marian Olson, poets John Brandi and his wife Renée Gregorio of El Rito, New Mexico, David McKee of Madison, Wisconsin, and Roberta Beary of Bethesda, Maryland.
Cover of Open Spaces
Artwork by Bill Berra

Five members of the Santa Fe Haiku Study Group—Byrnes, Henderson, Sagan, Trumbull, and Wiggerman—formed the organizing committee for the Haiku North America 2017 conference held in Santa Fe. Goldberg and Trumbull made presentations at the conference, while other group members, including Alanna Burke (and her husband, artist William Berra), Basia Miller, and Sharon Rhutasel-Jones and her husband Larry Jones participated as volunteers.

Burke and Miller edited a group anthology titled Open Spaces: Haiku from the Santa Fe Haiku Study Group and Guest Poets and arranged for a copy to be distributed to each attendee at the Haiku North America conference.

Authors: Sondra J. Byrnes and Charles Trumbull

SOURCES / FURTHER READING

  • Burke, Alanna C., and Basia Miller, eds. Open Spaces: Haiku from the Santa Fe Haiku Study Group and Guest Poets. Santa Fe, N.M.: Deep North Press, 2017. Published for the attendees of Haiku North America 2017. 66 haiku by group members.
Updated on February 27, 2022