Nick Avis spoke of crosscurrents from Newfoundland and Labrador. There he was involved for 20 years with the March Hare Festival, the largest literary festival in Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland is 40% Irish. The connection and similarities across the Atlantic to Ireland are strong. Unfortunately parity is an issue on both shores. Major male poets far outnumber female. Lyric poets far outnumber haiku poets.
Lyric poets outnumber haiku poets in Newfoundland as anywhere. Why should this be for an elegant form with economy of meaning?
There’s the preconceived notion in Canadian literature that the measure of one’s status is based on: bigger the better. Long poems, book-length or epic poems are given more status. Avis suggests that part the basis of that habit of thinking may come from how long works are unpacked; more of the onus of communication is on the writer. In minimalist poems and haiku the demand is on the reader to step into the gap bring suggestions for connections and build the narrative.
Why does haiku not become more popular and central for reading and writing in the general culture? One aspect is form, this sense of greed economic, bulk discounts, weight put on greater length as greater value. A second aspect is content. Due to greater urbanization and disconnect from nature, most people are not involved in the natural world or aren’t interested in it. If the majority of people were we would not be in this environmental crisis.
Haiku gets a focus when non-haiku poets try it as an exercise, such as Michael Redhill or Heaney. Often this yield unfortunately miscuing to mistakes that would be mistakes in any poetic form — unnecessary verbiage, intellectualizing, not being intuitive, anthropomorphizing, padding, etc. Well-rendered poems, such as the haiku sequence In Hardy Country by Tom Dawe deserve a wider reading.
It’s an unfortunately situation where the term is watered down to the point where publishers ask “no haiku please.” Partly, why haiku can be misunderstood as sentimental 5-7-5 verse about anything under the sun is from popular figures writing without a knowledge base of the history. Partly, within the community there is a laxness of terms, where we call a senryu without season’s kigo, a haiku. We add to the confusion.
As advocates and fans and practitioners of the form we can work to educate. Haiku magazines and journals can be seen as on par with other poetry journals. By reading, writing and dialoguing about the people who are doing good poetry, we can spread the word that good poetry lives in haiku as well.