seeking consensus?

When the British Haiku Society was founded in 1990 it found itself up against a wall of prejudice, based on all sorts of misconceptions about what makes "serious haiku".

To bring this wall down, we sought for a decade to describe haiku written in English in terms that anyone who had really studied the principles of haiku, and gone on to put this knowledge into practice by writing specimens that met with general approval from knowledgeable peers, might be able to subscribe to.

This rather insular posture may have been justified at first; but more and more, in our second decade, we have found ourselves wishing to make holes in the ring-fence and go out in exploration through them; or to welcome in through those gaps writers who came to haiku from a different poetic experience and perspective.

In future the touchstone is the writer's commitment and sincerity.

Like all verse, it is easy to write haiku to a certain standard. As with other poetry, it is not easy for the haiku poet to create a masterpiece. Even leading haiku poets do not hope to produce high quality haiku all the time. Since haiku is also in some respects "a way of life", there may be actual benefit in writing quite mediocre haiku, but...

...commitment includes learning how to criticise one's own works and using discretion about what to publish. Yet, for some, commitment will also mean taking risks, challenging what seem to be conventions.

In the next pages we present two potpourri of haiku that some might rate as conventional or orthodox, mixing them with others that the same person might find adventurous or even "way out, man!"

We leave it for you to decide in which category you would put them.

You might even think what R H Blyth said useful:

If a haiku isn't interesting, it isn't a haiku!


(Bookshops with a strong poetry section often stock handbooks that provide an introduction to the more "consensual" kind, e.g. Haiku — a Poet's Guide, by Lee Gurga, 2003, or that "old warhorse" The Haiku Handbook by William J Higginson, 1985. Books that commentate on the merits of particular haiku may also be useful, such as Stepping Stones — a way into Haiku, by Martin Lucas, 2007.)

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