Frequently Asked Questions
How often does Haiku Northwest meet?
How do I join Haiku Northwest?
What are Haiku Northwest meetings like?
What else happens are your meetings?
Do you have special events or other activities in addition to monthly meetings?
Does Haiku Northwest represent any particular type or style of haiku?
Can you recommend some good books to read about haiku?
How did Haiku Northwest begin?
Gray—white clouds pillow
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!
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?
—Michael Dylan Welch, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2023