“Real haiku is the soul of poetry. Anything that is not actually present in one's heart is not haiku. The moon glows, flowers bloom, insects cry, water flows. There is no place we cannot find flowers or think of the moon. This is the essence of haiku.”
—Santōka Taneda, renowned 20th century haiku poet
Do you enjoy writing and/or reading haiku? Stone Bridge Press is helping the City of Albany’s Arts Committee bring the traditional Japanese poetic form to our local community this autumn.
The city’s 2nd annual “Fall into Haiku” seasonal poetry celebration accepts original haiku submissions from anyone who lives or works in our hometown of Albany, California. Approximately 40–50 of the haiku are selected and printed on signboards and installed in public places from late November through New Year’s. If you live, work, or go to school in Albany, the deadline for submissions is October 15th, so get those creative juices flowing and let’s see what you’ve got!
Stretching back over a millennium, haiku is a poetic form that is deeply woven into the fabric of Japanese culture. For the Japanese, writing haiku is a common practice that is not practiced solely by literati; rather, it is an aesthetic medium for all walks of life. Every month around ten million people write haiku in Japan alone.
Since the 20th century, haiku has expanded beyond the shores of Japan to become the most popular genre in poetry around the globe. And understandably so: the short poetic structure of haiku provides writers with a simple and accessible aesthetic medium for expressing the everyday experiences and emotions of the human condition.
As Michael Dylan Welch writes in the foreword of The Haiku Apprentice, “All who write literary haiku—both ordinary people and professional poets around the world—share a desire to write with simplicity and empathy, to write authentically of their personal experiences, whatever those experiences might be.”
Like all forms of poetry, haiku uses imagery, affective content, juxtapositions, figurative language, sound devices, and so forth. The traditional structure of haiku consists of 17 syllables, conventionally divided (when written in English) into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. Albany’s “Fall into Haiku” program does not insist that you follow a rigid haiku form. Around 17 syllables is fine.
Whether you’re from Albany or not, you can still participate in “Fall into Haiku” on your own! Take to the streets with a stick of chalk and write your original haiku on the sidewalks. Who knows, you may give some unwitting passersby a sudden epiphany!
For “Fall into Haiku” details, guidelines, and submission info or to learn more about the poetic form, visit www.albanyca.org/arts.
As a part of Stone Bridge Press’ ongoing efforts to contribute to our local culture, publisher and Albany Arts Committee chair Peter Goodman, along with the rest of the Stone Bridge Press team, is helping design and produce the haiku signs that will be strewn throughout Albany in the coming months. If you’d like to help contribute, feel free to contact the Albany Arts Committee.
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In honor of the "Fall Into Haiku" program, we thought it would be appropriate to give away a copy of Momoko Kuroda's collection of haiku, I Wait for the Moon, the first work in English devoted entirely to this modern haiku master, with 100 poems plus commentary on the poet's life, social context, form and technique. Subscribe to our mailing list to be automatically entered to win.
Written by Nikolas Bunton