Michael Dylan Welch, who helped start and run the first in 1991, was able to take some time out to talk with us about what pleasures this event holds.

H09 asks: Which parts of each HNA do you looking forward to?

MDW: At HNA, it’s always a pleasure to meet other haiku poets for the first time, to see old friends, and to get a deeper sense of each poet’s personality and aesthetics.

A second attraction is the various presentations. Haiku poets are a passionate bunch, and each presenter works diligently on his or her presentation, and they’re nearly always intriguing in the ways they suggest new connections, or map out a new part of the haiku continent.

A third attraction is seeing new publications and adding to my library.

Through all of these attractions, a common theme is that real people are out there writing haiku, and whether they’re scholars, translators, or well-published poets, or someone who just got interested in haiku the week before, they still put their pants on one leg at a time, and are refreshingly down to earth. The talent and variety that haiku poets exhibit makes them an engaging and stimulating crowd.

H09 asks: Is there a highlight from a past year or from this year you would like to mention?

MDW: Each one has its strengths. Common highlights, though, include socializing, hearing stimulating presentations, and seeing new books and journals.

As for highlights from past HNA conferences, memorable presentations have been William J. Higginson, James Hackett, Jane Hirshfield, Gerald Vizenor, Haruo Shirane, and numerous others. I’ve also edited all ten of the HNA conference anthologies, and those have been particularly rewarding to put together.

H09 asks: Would you like to give a teaser for any of the talks this year?

MDW: I’m intrigued by a number of the presentations lined up for HNA 2009. In the first couple of days, these include Robert Sibley’s presentation on Basho and his own Japanese trek, Emiko Miyashita‘s talk on season words and “feeling the word,” the panel discussion on Nicholas Virgilio and his haiku, Dennis Maloney‘s talk on the hermit tradition, Ian Marshall’s explorations of Walden.

The memorial reading is always a moving highlight of the conference, and other presentations that intrigue me that day are Debbie Kolodji‘s talk: haiku speculations.

Remaining attractions are David Burleigh‘s overview of contemporary haiku, David Lanoue‘s “reading the new haiku,” and Charles Trumbull‘s talk on Shiki and shasei.

Ten years ago I published an essay on “Haiku: The Ultimate Short Story,” so I’m intrigue by Jim Kacian‘s presentation on “Haiku as Antistory” — and I bet that our perspectives match a lot more than they differ (if at all).

John Brandi‘s keynote address, the banquet, and the evening boat cruise will surely be highlights, along with the memorial for the late William J. Higginson on the final morning.

And of course I’ve not mentioned so many other events that I know will be excellent, such as the regional readings, workshops, walks, tourist activities, and so much more.

I’m looking forward to feedback, too, on my own presentations. Terry Ann Carter, Claudia Coutu Radmore, and Guy Simser have put together a tremendous program, and I look forward to all of it — and regret only that I can’t clone myself to see presentations that are scheduled at competing times.

H09 asks: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about attending HNA? What are the don’t-miss events among all the don’t-miss events?

MDW: Some people might be on the fence because of finances, but HNA tries to be as inexpensive as it can be, yet also tries to make the experience as inclusive as possible (this is why the banquet is included for all participants, and isn’t an extra cost, because we want the entire experience to be shared as much as possible). And that philosophy is the key, really — HNA is meant to be inclusive, a true gathering of the tribes that seeks to make everyone welcome. Oh, certainly, there are different approaches to haiku, but HNA seeks to trust the audience to decide which path to take out of many options.

Some people may sit on the fence because they’re not “joiners” or don’t like crowds. Yet, as conferences go, HNA is fairly small and intimate. You can go and immerse yourself only so much, and if attending every last event is too much for you, then scale back and attend just a few things each day. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by conferences, literary or otherwise, but if you spend a bit of time looking at the program, and pick a few things to focus on, it can make the experience much more rewarding.

H09 asks: Any advice for first-timers?

MDW: I find that, even if you’re new, if you take the time to pick a few people to try to get to know them (even being honest in saying that you’re new), the effort will reward you. At the very least, try to get to a mix of the presentations that are not offered against other presentations (these are thus among the more important ones) as well as some of the smaller, more intimate presentations.

Plan ahead to be able to spend some money in the bookfair, too. Join in some of the nature or outdoor activities. And don’t miss the banquet and the rest of the main evening activities!

H09: Thank you for your time! And for the heads up on the treats in store.