Frequently Asked Questions
How often does Haiku Northwest meet?
We meet monthly, usually on the second Thursday evening of the month, sometimes at the Bellevue Regional Library in Bellevue, Washington, just east of Seattle, or at other regional libraries. Because library meeting rooms are not always available (especially in the spring), we sometimes meet elsewhere, so we encourage you to join our Mailchimp email list to receive meeting announcements and reminders. Our Events page on this site also gives basic location information, but email reminders provide the most up-to-date and complete details. During the pandemic, nearly all our meetings were online.
How do I join Haiku Northwest?
If you’d like to join our email list, please visit our Mailchimp email list signup page (if you have questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org). That’s all there is to joining Haiku Northwest! We have no membership dues, and anyone is always welcome to join any of our events, although only Washington state residents may vote in our elections. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced poet, you are welcome to join us. Most Haiku Northwest members are also members of the Haiku Society of America (which has a Washington state regional group), but you do not need to be a member of the HSA to be a member of Haiku Northwest. You’ll find that joining the HSA has many benefits, though, so please consider joining.
What are Haiku Northwest meetings like?
Our meetings focus mainly on the sharing and critiquing of haiku offered on sheets of paper that members pass around and read aloud (Zoom meetings during the pandemic altered this process, however). We usually include our names on the poems, so the discussion is not anonymous, except for occasional special workshops. Our workshopping focus helps us improve our poetry as we share and comment on our writing. If it’s your first time, you are welcome to just observe and listen, or to chime in as the spirit moves. Poets of all experience levels are always welcome, and our regular meetings are always free.
What else happens are your meetings?
We sometimes have a featured reader, who reads for about five minutes, usually one of our local members, but sometimes a visiting poet, who is usually given up to ten minutes to read. We also share news and announcements, and then have as many rounds of reading and critiquing of attendee poems as time allows. We make sure to get to every poet. Each poet typically brings a sheet of about five or more haiku or senryu (occasionally tanka or a haibun) to distribute to the group (usually fifteen copies is sufficient). Occasionally, someone brings cookies or some other snack, or we share personal news. The group started in 1988, and for many years we met at the home of founder Francine Porad (who passed away in 2006), and the group’s meetings retain that comfortable and friendly living-room feeling. Now and then we spend some time planning or discussing various events, but we try to keep the primary focus on sharing, discussing, and improving our poems. We sit in a circle together and are a friendly and welcoming group!
Do you have special events or other activities in addition to monthly meetings?
Yes, often. Twice a year for many years, the Seattle-area haiku group has met with the Port Townsend haiku group for a weekend activity, often involving writing haiku outdoors, and an afternoon of sharing, performing, and discussion. We have also hosted national meetings of the Haiku Society of America, supported two Haiku North America conferences, and performed our haiku on local radio and at Folklife, Aki Matsuri, Arts in Nature, the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival, and other local festivals. We have also collaborated with the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington, the Rainier Haiku Ginsha (Japanese haiku group), and other organizations. Since 2008, we’ve also had very popular annual weekend haiku retreats in Seabeck, Washington, at the Seabeck Conference Center. This retreat, called the Seabeck Haiku Getaway, was founded by Michael Dylan Welch and Alice Frampton, and has been directed since the beginning by Michael Dylan Welch. Haiku Northwest occasionally has activities at the Seattle Japanese Garden and regional libraries, and our members offer workshops or give haiku readings at many venues throughout Seattle and the Puget Sound area.
Does Haiku Northwest represent any particular type or style of haiku?
Haiku Northwest’s approach to haiku has been primarily influenced by Francine Porad, her journal Brussels Sprout, and the organization’s past affiliation with the Haiku Society of America. From its founding in 1988, Haiku Northwest included Oregon and Washington. In 1993, Haiku Northwest became synonymous with the Pacific Northwest region of the HSA. In 2008, Oregon became its own HSA region, and from then until 2013, Haiku Northwest was synonymous with the Washington state region of the HSA. Starting in 2014, Haiku Northwest elected officers and the HSA region and its regional coordinator position became independent of Haiku Northwest. Haiku Northwest poets tend to mirror the prevailing style of haiku evident in the publications of the Haiku Society of America and the great majority of its members. The HSA welcomes poets writing all styles and approaches to haiku, as does Haiku Northwest. Most of our members focus, in the haiku tradition, on objective sensory imagery that employs a seasonal reference (kigo in Japanese) and a two-part juxtapositional structure (equivalent to a kireji, or cutting word). Because of differences between English and Japanese, we are aware that seventeen syllables in a 5-7-5 pattern in English tends to produce a poem that is longer than a Japanese haiku, and may suffer from padding or chopping to fit a sound pattern that works well in Japanese but not necessarily in English, despite popular belief (the 5-7-5 syllable pattern for haiku in English may be best understood as an urban myth). Thus we tend to focus on haiku as a one-breath seasonal poem whose two parts create energy through implication. If these traditions are unfamiliar to you, we invite you to come to our meetings to learn as we have learned. Each of us took our turn learning these traditions, and also explored how to develop our own unique voices in the art of haiku. We have also worked to go beyond tradition, to take haiku in new directions that fit our personal muses. For more information about haiku, many useful essays on haiku appear at Graceguts.
Can you recommend some good books to read about haiku?
The standard books for anyone wishing to learn to write haiku in English are William J. Higginson’s The Haiku Handbook (McGraw-Hill, 1985; Kodansha, 1989; 25th anniversary edition, Kodansha, 2010) and Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology (W. W. Norton, 1999, third edition). These books are readily available in libraries and bookstores. Ask any of our members for additional book recommendations. We also recommend subscribing to journals such as Frogpond (which comes with membership in the Haiku Society of America), Modern Haiku, and other haiku journals.
How did Haiku Northwest begin?
Organized English-language haiku activity in Washington state first took place mostly in Bellingham, with Edna Purviance’s leadership of her Haiku Appreciation Club in the late 1970s. She also edited Portals, the first haiku-related journal in Washington state, published in Bellingham for three years in the 1970s. Edna also published several books, mostly notably Aware by Betty Drevniok, who was a cofounder in 1977 of Haiku Canada (Edna died in 2009—see her obituary). In February of 1984, Seattle poet George Klacsanzky started editing Haiku Zasshi Zō (which may be translated as Haiku Magazine Image). The first poem in that first issue was by Francine Porad:
Gray—white clouds pillow
Maui mountain top. Forest
fingers point to God.
Francine continued to be a regular contributor to the journal, and the quality of her haiku quickly improved, but George Klacsanzky remained the center of Seattle-area haiku activity for at least three or four years, leading “Haiku Hikes,” sponsoring haiku contests, sharing haiku news, and putting on other irregular events related to haiku. He also held several haiku meetings in the Seattle area. It’s not clear how long these meetings persisted, but the first of his bimonthly meetings was in August of 1986, and they were a direct precursor to Haiku Northwest. In 1987, Francine Porad took over the publication of Brussels Sprout from Alexis Rotella (Francine’s first issue appeared in May of 1988), and in the Summer/Fall 1988 issue of Haiku Zasshi Zō (probably its final issue), the following announcement appeared on page 53:
BRUSSELS SPROUT ANNOUNCEMENT!
Brussels Sprout Haiku Journal is sponsoring a haiku get-together September 15th , Thursday evening. 7 p.m. thru 9 p.m. at the Bellevue Public Library, 11501 Main Street.
Admission is free of charge. All haiku enthusiasts are welcome to attend. Hear and meet Northwest haiku poets from Canada to Washington State. Bring your own haiku to share with us. This is an informal meeting. Refreshments will be provided.
R.S.V.P. Please contact Francine Porad at (206) 232-3239 for more information.
This meeting, which Connie Hutchison says had about twenty people in attendance, started the group that became known as Haiku Northwest, and it was attended by poets from British Columbia and Washington state. In the January 1989 issue of Brussels Sprout (page 3), Francine reported on the first meeting: “It was great to get together for our first Northwest Haiku Meeting, Sept. ’88. Participants included Anne McKay [anne mckay], Beth Jankola, and Anna Vacar [Vakar] from British Colombia, local editors George Klacsanzky (Haiku Zasshi Zō) and Michael Kettner (Catalyst), and well-known poets Eve Triem, Sarah Singer, and Nixeon Civille Handy. On hand, too, were friendly haiku enthusiasts. Each in turn read his or her own work. Those unable to attend were quite vocal about wishing another meeting. So-o, Wednesday, January 11, 1989, 7:00, we’ll meet again at Bellevue Public Library. Renga writing, instruction and analysis of haiku will be part of the program in addition to readings. Do come.” Connie also remembers M. Anne Sweet being there, and says that “Marcia Pence, artist featured in Brussels Sprout V:2 made an appearance. It is possible that Ira F. Stone, Laurie Porad, Connie Brannan, Evelyn Slater McLeod were also there, as was I.”
Brussels Sprout announced additional meetings for September 15, 1988; January 11, 1989; and May 18, 1989. These meetings all took place at the Bellevue Public Library. The May 1989 issue announced that meetings would occur every other month on a regular basis. Connie says “Two of these early meetings stand out in my mind: one at Mercer Island Library, where we met Ann Voegtlen for the first time, and one at George Klacsanzky’s home in Edmonds, attended by artist Jean Dernberger, featured in the January 1989 issue of Brussels Sprout.” Other meetings mentioned in the journal were: February 15, 1990; January 17, 1991; May 21, 1992; September 17, 1992; January 21, 1993; May 20, 1993; and September 23, 1993.
That first Haiku Northwest meeting on September 15, 1988 was on a Thursday night, and the group has continued to meet on Thursday evenings ever since (although in 2015 the group added quarterly meetings on Saturdays in place of that month’s monthly meeting). At first, meetings took place every couple of months, then monthly, and from May 1992 forward were held at Francine Porad’s home on Mercer Island, the setting of which was a key factor in developing the close friendships among members (Francine laid down a strong social foundation for the group). Haiku Northwest also embraced Oregon poets, and together both states became an official region of the Haiku Society of America circa 1993 or 1994, when Francine was president of the Haiku Society of America (Mary Fran Meer was the first regional coordinator). Oregon split off to be its own HSA region in 2008, but both states continue to be active in attending haiku events together. In 2014, Haiku Northwest elected its first officers (president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and web manager), to make less work for the single coordinator who ran the group previously. Also in 2014, Haiku Northwest published No Longer Strangers, an anthology celebrating the organization’s 25th anniversary with a selection of poems by many of its current and deceased members, plus an extensive history of the organization written by Connie Hutchison, who had worked closely with Francine Porad on most Haiku Northwest events from the beginning, and also helped to edit the haiku journal Brussels Sprout with Francine. Haiku Northwest celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2023 and continues as a vibrant organization that looks forward to its next 35 years.
Do any other haiku groups meet in Washington state, and what history does the region have with haiku?
Yes, Washington is rich in haiku activity—and history. To read a brief overview of haiku in Washington state, please visit the HSA’s Washington state regional page, and Connie Hutchison’s history of the organization published in No Longer Strangers, Haiku Northwest’s 25th anniversary anthology. While Haiku Northwest is the state’s largest and oldest English-language group (started in 1988), the Port Townsend Haiku Group began in 1992 but stopped meeting regularly around 2012 (estimate). This group met monthly, and also had a subgroup that focused on renku. For more information, please contact Christopher Herold. Also active, on Vashon Island, is the Mondays at Three haiku group, which also decorates the island’s north ferry terminal with Hiway Haiku (you can see another picture of one of the signs on cofounder Helen Russell’s page and read more about the origin of Hiway Haiku at Kajira Wyn Berry’s site; see also the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber newspaper article). For more information about haiku on Vashon Island, please contact Ann Spiers. In addition, the Bellingham Haiku Group was started in 2009, led by Seren Fargo, and met monthly until aroudn 2019. In early 2020, when the Bellingham Haiku Group went dormant during the pandemic, C. J. Prince started a separate haiku group, called the Komo Kulshan Haiku group, named after the Salish-region term for the “white shining mountain” or “great white watcher” near the city, Mt. Baker. The group meets online and has more recently been led by John S Green. The Commencement Bay Haiku group was formed in 2011 in Tacoma, led by Carmen Sterba, more recently Richard Tice. As you can see, Washington state has a great deal of haiku activity, but if there’s not a haiku group in your area, why not start one?
Earlier haiku history in the region includes the enormous influence of the Beat poets, especially Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder, who famously honed their spiritual awareness and poetic chops while manning fire lookouts atop Northwest mountain peaks (Snyder, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen were also graduates of Portland’s Reed College). Haiku scholar Kenneth Yasuda, author of A Pepper Pod (1947) and The Japanese Haiku (1957), was a graduate of the University of Washington. Edith Shiffert, a well-known writer and translator of haiku, and cofounder of Poetry Northwest, spent many years in Seattle before moving to Japan. Early haiku pioneer James W. Hackett was also from Seattle. Prominent poet and translator Sam Hamill from Port Townsend also published numerous books relating to haiku. Edna Purviance promoted haiku in Bellingham in the 70s, running the Haiku Appreciation Club there, and published the journal Portals for three years, also publishing a book of her own haiku in 1979, titled The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife, as well as Betty Drevniok’s landmark book Aware: A Haiku Primer in 1980. The Seattle area also enjoyed the journal Haiku Zasshi Zō, published by George Klacsanzky in the 1980s. And Haiku Northwest founder Francine Porad published the widely respected quarterly haiku journal Brussels Sprout from 1988 to 1995, as well as numerous haiku books from her own press, Vandina Press. In addition, for many years, Christopher Herold published The Heron’s Nest in both online and print forms, in Port Townsend. Washington state is also home to several Japanese-language haiku, senryu, and tanka groups, in and around Seattle and Tacoma, such as the Rainier Haiku Ginsha (begun in 1934), the Hokubei Senryu Ginsha (begun in 1946), and the Hokubei Senryu Gosenkai (begun in 1929). A Japanese-language senryu group in Yakima, in fact, is said to have been the first senryu group in America (around 1910 or 1912). While many of these Japanese-language poetry groups disbanded or were disrupted during World War II, several still continue to this day.
Thanks to the prominent influence of nature in Washington state, from its majestic glacier-covered mountains and expansive forests to its islands and extensive tidal waterways, proximity to Japan and Japanese immigration, and a rich Native American influence, haiku has enjoyed fertile ground in this area. It is therefore no wonder that the Washington region of the Haiku Society of America has frequently enjoyed the highest per capita membership of the Haiku Society of America, more than any other region in the society. Haiku Northwest has also benefitted from a great depth of engagement by haiku poets in this region.
I have more questions. Who should I contact for help?
Please send an email message to email@example.com or to Michael Dylan Welch (web manager) at WelchM@aol.com. Any member present at one of our regular meetings would also be able to help. Please do come to one of our meetings and help to make Haiku Northwest what you want it to be. Hope to see you soon!
—Michael Dylan Welch, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2023