Those Women Writing Haiku

In May, 1965, Jean Calkins, in Kanona, NY added another dimension to her publishing career. She was already editor-in-chief of Jean's Journal, an independent literary magazine when she decided to inaugurate yet another publication: a haiku monthly magazine titled, HAIKU HIGHLIGHTS and Other Short Poems.

Typed on mimeograph stencils, this new twelve page magazine, which sold for ten cents a copy, was the beginning of the introduction of many hundreds of readers and writers to haiku publication. Not only did her readers have much to learn, Calkins was herself feeling her way through the dark forest of what is a "real" haiku.

At first each haiku either had a title or was labeled as such. Later the haiku got a small "h" in the margin or an "s" if it was senryu. Calkins, was and is a brave woman, so she listened to others, published articles about writing haiku and was able to go with the flow of its development. In the May, 1966, issue Calkins makes the editorial statement:

"Due to the large number of submissions, I will be using more discretion in choosing poems for this publication. No poem will be considered a Haiku unless it fills the vital principle of referring to a season of the year in some way, either directly or implied; others of the same form are Senryu. Of course they must also adhere to the strict 5-7-5 syllable count. You would be shocked at the forms that reach my desk --2 lines and any number of syllables and called haiku; they are not and will not be considered as such...Haiku, properly, do not use titles, but are self-contained within the 17 syllables. Consequently, I will no longer insist on titled Haiku from contributors, although I still like them that way."

By the middle of 1967, some names were beginning to appear in Haiku Highlights which one still sees in haiku magazines today such as Claire Pratt of Ontario, Canada, Peggy Willis Lyles and Paul O. Williams, Nicholas Virgilio. When the new semi-annual magazine, Haiku West, edited by Leroy Kanterman and Vicki Silvers began, Jean Calkins gave much encouragement and recommendations, urging her readers to also subscribe to this 60 page mimeographed ($1.00) magazine.

In the November-December, 1969 Issue, one can find six women's names which are still appearing in fresh print and four men's names from the list of contributers which, by now, numbers ninty-nine.

With this growth, the magazine was forced to become bi-monthly, but it was still a huge undertaking for a woman who continued publishing the literary magazine, Jean's Journal (and did so until 1987: twenty-three years under one editor!)

Michael McClintock had become Assistant Editor (he later went on to found his own haiku magazine ox seer), introducing his more liberal style haiku. Names of charter members of the Haiku Society of America began to be more frequent on the pages of Haiku Highlights.

The publishing company, J & R Transcripts, which Jean Calkins founded along with her literary magazines, was the first to publish the forerunner of William J. Higginson's Haiku Handbook which at that time also carried in the title And Other Form Poems as it was a how-to-book for 50 forms of poetry with an emphasis on haiku and senryu. Over several issues, Calkins carried Higginson's book, Itadakimasu, serialized before printing it in 1971.

Jean Calkins also published a Poet's Handbook, by Jeanne Hollyfield which offered 923 places to send poetry for publication. In 1972, the workload became too great so Jean Calkins turned Haiku Highlights over to her then Assistant Editor, Lorraine Ellis Harr and Virginia Brady Young took over the position of Contest Editor which Michael McClintock had had. Shortly thereafter under Lorraine Ellis Harr's energetic direction, the magazine's name was changed to Dragonfly: A Quarterly of Haiku as she changed her own name to Tombo, meaning dragonfly in Japanese.

Another immediately significant change Lorraine Ellis Harr made was to organize the Western World Haiku Society (1972). Using the subscriptions to the magazine as membership in the organization, Lorraine Ellis Harr followed the Japanese pattern established in the haiku scene there where belonging to a group, is to belong to a magazine, which is to belong to a school of writing. She was able to follow the Japanese example so closely it seemed almost to be an instinct or something learned in a prior life.

From the beginning, Lorraine Ellis Harr was teacher and shining example of her own very definite idea of what haika was, is, and should be. To the hundreds of persons who sent their first attempts at haiku to her as an editor of Dragonfly, Harr replied as a teacher, sending corrections, suggestions and when that wasn't enough, Lorraine Ellis Harr wrote up the first do's and don'ts of writing haiku in English which she sent back with the work to be rewritten; which it usually was, and resubmitted.

Almost half of the American women responding to the survey for this book, wrote that Lorraine Ellis Harr was the first influence in their writing of haiku. Being a part of Dragonfly, entering and winning the numerous contests, which Harr wisely used to induce readers into new learning, set many haiku writers firmly on the traditional path.

If this had been all Lorraine Ellis Harr had accomplished, it would have been an impressive legacy. But there was more; much more. Lorraine Ellis Harr wrote haiku. Very few persons outside of Japan were as prolific as she was and continues to be. Over the many years of writing she has gleaned from her extensive notebooks, ten books of haiku, senryu, haibun and haiku sequences published in addition to two books of children's poetry.

Her haiku flowed through Dragonfly and out into nearly every other haiku magazine published in English in America or Japan. How this frail, little woman found the time and energy to do so much all at once, is still a mystery. Even when, in 1984 she turned Dragonfly over to Richard Tice and Edward Tice, Lorraine Ellis Harr continued writing articles about haiku in The Red Pagoda, and sending in pages of her haiku. Still very active as a teacher of Ikebana (Ryusie-Ha) [flower arranging], as Tombo she continues to write haiku and articles for a variety of magazines for members of Ikebana organizations here and abroad.

It is one thing to write haiku and another to have those haiku accepted. Judging by the long list of contests Lorraine Ellis Harr has entered and won, beginning with an Honorable Mention in the Japan Air Lines Contest of 1964, and with wins in nearly every year of the Mainichi Daily News contests, across the years and shifting winds of taste to the most recent one which she has entered.

Absolutely secure in her understanding of the Japanese haiku, as few Americans were or have been since, Lorraine Ellis Harr, almost single-handedly, carried the banner for the traditional methods and values of haiku. Each issue of Dragonfly contained fervent articles by either herself or Japanese haiku experts on the terms, attitudes and finer aspects of the genre. Her passion and drive to bring English haiku up to the standards set by the Japanese (and herself), was sometimes misinterpreted by others who were working for a modern, totally American rebirth/reuse of the haiku.

Another woman, on the West Coast (in Los Angeles), had been regularly winning contests in Haiku Highlights and yet left her unsatisfied with the way haiku published at that time were being written. Kay Titus Mormino had the idea that as non-Japanese the writers of haiku in English should be finding their own way, making haiku truly their own and not re-warmed from the old masters, making haiku more...modern.

In 1968, she began publishing Modern Haiku.

During this time, Robert Spiess was making a name for himself with his books and haiku written in the modern manner. He became Assistant Editor and in 1977, when Kay Titus Mormino became ill with cancer, she traded places with Robert Spiess, making him editor and being retained as Associate Editor until her death.

In the early years Spiess also had other Associate Editors, among them was Willene H. Nusbaum, who was in charge of the student section. For each issue a guest editor was chosen who helped with the prior selection of the haiku. Again perusing the back issues of Modern Haiku, one notices that the majority of them were women. When this practice was discontinued to make Robert Spiess the one and only editor, the participation of women in the making of the magazine was greatly curtailed. Over the years, reading through the table of contents, one sees that males were the main contributors of articles and special haiku sequences. Usually only one woman per issue was granted admission to the inner circle.

Also from book reviews one can observe that in 13 years there were only two times which a woman's book was listed first. And the books were always arranged so that the larger, more important books were reviewed before the chapbooks and miniseries booklets. Though women were invited to review books, they were permitted only to review the works of other women and never men's books. Male reviewers are not restricted to this rule.

These practices become even more noticeable when compared to the policies of Hal Roth, editor of Wind Chimes (1981-1988). In the pages of Wind Chimes blew the fresh air of many experiments and a large number of these were from women. Anyone trying something new, first offered it to Hal Roth, knowing that if he had the space he would give the work serious consideration. Books were important to Roth: not only did he give all the pages he could to constructive book reviews, he was the editor and publisher of the haiku mini-chapbook series, which over those few years produced

Beset by printing and typesetting problems, for most of the years, Hal Roth published Wind Chimes alone. It was like a great window closing when he produced the last issue, #28.

Kay Titus Mormino died January 11, 1983. In the memorial issue of Modern Haiku, her friend, Ann Atwood,wrote "One Afternoon" which afforded the readers with a rare glimpse of what it was to know Kay Titus Mormino.

Having done so much to see that other's haiku were published, it is a shock to realize that the few haiku we have of Mormino's must be gleaned from periodicals. She never published a book of her own; she left only a hand-written copy of her haiku to her daughter that is now unavailable to us.

In 1976, Edna Puviance started in Bellingham, Washington, the Haiku Appreciation Club. As result of publishing a newsletter for club members, Edna started in two years later, the magazine Portals. As she wrote, "I never dreamed of becoming a haiku magazine editor and felt very inadequate at the job. It grew so fast I was quite overwhelmed. My children used to call it 'hell week' when I'd be putting the magazines together after printing, as their meals and other comforts were somewhat neglected."

Portals came out regularly for three years. By 1979, Edna Purviance had expanded into publishing her own book, The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife and then the book, Aware, by Betty Drevnoik. Then, due to the illness of her husband, Edna gave up publishing, not only Portals, but her own haiku also.

Haiku Society of America, in New York City, always had over the years, a close connection to magazine publishing through the attendance and cooperation in method and philosophy with the editors of haiku magazines. Leroy Kanterman and Vicki Silvers Haiku West was sent from the Japan Society on 47th Street. Dr. Eric Amann, of Toronto Canada, the founder of Cicada, in 1971 passed it on to William J. Higginson who was at the time president of the group. During the next six years Higginson produced four issues of the magazine under the name of Haiku Magazine.

Realizing that this was not enough opportunities to publish the amount of haiku being written by this time, the Haiku Society of America began publishing their own magazine, Frogpond, in 1978. For their first editor they choose a woman - Lilli Tanzer - and as editorial assistant - Mildred Fineberg.

The size and format of their earliest editions has been maintained and continued even down to the latest issue of Frogpond. The styles have changed over the years as the groups' dependence on Japanese styles and influences has decreased. In the beginning the magazine was concentrated on helping the new haiku writers to acquaint themselves with the form and build their skills. The major portion of the magazine comprised of two related feature columns titled, "Croaks" and "Watersounds". "Croaks" consisted of a listing of each author's three submitted haiku written as a one-liner with slashes indicating the line breaks. Each haiku received a number (around a hundred by the second year of publishing) placed in front of it along with either a "c" indicating that correspondence was invited or an "s" meaning it was submitted to the selections panel. These haiku were then judged by fifteen persons to determine which poems were really haiku and should be published in the next issue of Frogpond in the section, "Watersounds" (in reference to Basho's famous haiku). Here, then the haiku were printed in a three-line form with the author's name under the haiku along with the names of the persons who had checked these lines as being the real thing. The ranking of the haiku determines the placement with the haiku getting the most votes leading the pack and those receiving only one vote bringing up the rear.

The voting is a fascinating phenomenon to peruse. One can see the connections building between like minds, and yet, probably more importantly, the wide diversity of opinion of what constitutes a haiku becomes apparent. Looking at Frogpond II:2, one finds the winner received seven votes from the twelve judges who responded (some person's votes were not available at press time). The next five haiku each received five votes, the next ten haiku received three votes each, 22 haiku were given two votes and the next 40 each got one vote of confidence.

The third most important feature of the early Frogpond issues were the several articles by persons either translating haiku from the Japanese into English or discoursing in the style made famous by R.H. Blyth on Japanese writers.

In the beginning, Frogpond had news of the organization and of haiku events and happenings, lists of member's books, members' awards and winnings, addresses and contest regulations as well as a list of current periodicals accepting haiku for publication (ten in 1979; four of which are still publishing, though some editors have changed: Cicada, Dragonfly, Modern Haiku, and Poetry Nippon).

By the end of 1981, when Frogpond was turned over to Bruce Kennedy, it had changed very much from the first issues. Here to stay was the familiar yellow-creme cover color, the lower case frogpond logo and simple drawing on the front. Gone were the articles of indecision to be replaced with haiku, haiku sequences, interviews and book reviews; all written with shining self-confidence.

In the one year that Kennedy was editor, the number of submitted haiku published was diminished for the inclusion of many challenging and lively articles.

The next year Alexis Kaye Rotella who had edited an anthology of haiku about butterflies, titled Butterfly Breezes, was named editor of Frogpond as well as President of the Haiku Society of America. Under Rotella was started a new feature called "Haiku Workshop". Readers could contribute haiku anonymously for discussion by a "workshop leader" chosen for each issue. These haiku were given critique and suggestions for revision. Sometimes the space given to articles cut the number of pages for haiku below ten.

After passing Frogpond on to Elizabeth Searle Lamb in February of 1984, Rotella originated Sky Mother, a spiritual newsletter and published a tiny (4 1/4" x 5 1/2") haiku magazine, Brussels Sprout sporadically for a few years before turning the title over to Francine Porad in 1988. Alexis Kaye Rotella was also Editorial Consultant for the haiku journal Hai  which was published in Japan.

A charter member and former president of the Haiku Society of American, Elizabeth Lamb, in 1984 became editor of Frogpond. In this capacity she has influenced the writing of new enthusiasts with her clear-cut ideas of the standards of haiku as proposed by the Haiku Society of America while being a most kind and diplomatic woman. Untold numbers of her carefully worded letters are treasured as sources of inspiration and encouragement as beginners struggle with the learning of haiku.

By accepting and publishing more haiku than ever before the readership of Frogpond has now risen to over 500 -an all-time high. Backed by a strong organization and several persons who publish haiku chapbooks, Elizabeth Searle Lamb has been able to concentrate all of her efforts into the continuing of Frogpond's tradition of producing a magazine that functions as a quarterly anthology.

As haiku editor for the Piedmont Literary Review, and as one of the organizers of the North Carolina Haiku Society, Barbara McCoy has been influential in the atmosphere from which so many new and very good writers are emerging.

Women, used to being versatile as wife, mother and often as wage-earner, bring multi-talents to the haiku scene also. As we've seen, many write in addition to haiku, other kinds of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Artists also are attracted to haiku as was Francine Porad.

After raising her six children (is one ever truly done with this task?) Francine had gone back to college to study art and within a short time was producing paintings in watercolor and acrylic with such finesse that her work was awarded many prizes and shown in galleries beyond those in Seattle.

Still Porad had energy left over to write haiku and, in 1988, got the idea she wanted to edit a haiku magazine. She contacted Alexis Rotella, who had returned to school to obtain a degree in spiritual counseling and no longer had time for her magazine, Brussels Sprout.

Now appearing every four months in a larger 5" x 8" format, Brussels Sprout continues the idealism of Rotella to produce an anthology of choice haiku. The subtitle is "art and haiku" and for this there is each issue an artist chosen whose works (12-15) are scattered tastefully among the pages. Until recently no longer forms of haiku-related works such as renga or sequences were accepted. Articles are held to a minimum and books are reviewed with only the briefest comment in order to publish the widest sampling of many contributors.

The year 1988 will go down in haiku history as the time when so many changes were being made among the periodicals. In Connecticut, Tony Suraci was discontinuing his the old pond, and Hal Roth in Maryland stopped publishing both Wind Chimes and his chapbooks and haiku books, Dragonfly was coming up on the short end of Richard Tice's many activities and George Klascsanzky of Haiku Zasshi Zo also announced the close of that magazine.

Simultaneously other magazines began to fill the gaps. David Priebe in Los Angeles began sending out monthly Haiku Headlines, a 11 x 17 double-sided page of haiku designed to be collected in a loose-ring notebook to form a haiku magazine that grew with the months. In 1998, it is still being published along with contests and an engagement calendar with prize-winning haiku.

Women were there, also with new ideas for haiku magazines. Mirrors - in the spirit of haiku, began in the spring of 1987 with an entirely new concept for a poetry magazine. Accepting the reality that small literary magazine have the unspoken premise that if one wants to have their work accepted by the editor, the chances are much greater if one subscribes. Why not make a magazine where the subscription assures the poet a page to use in the way that seems the best to present the work? The result has been that poets design and often paint or draw illustrations to fit with the selection of haiku or tanka. By reading a whole page of one person's work, by not having haiku competing with various poetic voices and subjects, the reader receives a comprehensive understanding of who and what the haiku writer is. The pages are an 8 by 11 inch mirror held by a white page.

Over the months Mirrors has grown to include book reviews, a contest, interviews, news of the international haiku scene, contest announcements, classified ads, letters and biographies of contributors. In the beginning many had fears that it was a vanity publication carrying only the haiku that were rejected elsewhere, but it has become a window of fresh air, permitting new and experimental works. In 1995 Mirrors was handed over to Jim Force of Calgary, Canada.

On a summer day in '86, Terri Lee Grell, the then manager of a seaside resort, Salt Point Lodge, was on her day-off. Exploring the wares in the nearest little town, Gualala, she found a small booklet of poems, Duet for One Mirror. It only cost fifty cents so she bought it.

And she loved it. Here was a new poetry form called renga that felt like people who live and talk and yet was as elusive as life truly is. In the book was the address of the author, a local one, so she wrote a letter asking if they could meet.

Within a few weeks Terri Lee Grell was discussing renga, starting her first renga and getting acquainted with a new magazine, just out, called APA-Renga.

APA-Renga, started by Tundra Wind, (Jim Wilson of Monte Rio, California) and founded on the idea of total subscriber participation was very unique. Anyone could start a renga by writing a hokku. It would be published and any subscriber could add a link to it. In the next issue every new suggested link would be published so other readers could choose which version they liked and add another twist to the poem. If no one linked to the previous stanza, that branch withered and only those with responses were continued. The result was a blossoming of one renga into a cherry tree of light and often laughter.

Over the next three years Terri Lee Grell was on of the most committed contributors, even through her moving up to Washington and becoming the managing editor of a newspaper greatly reduced her time for writing. When Tundra Wind was forced to give up editorship of APA-Renga, Grell took on that job also.

In Terri Lee Grell's hands, APA-Renga underwent a drastic change. Gone were the typewriter-written Xerox pages, the folded blue cover (which still looked like Duet for One Mirror) and staples making it seem a fat chapbook. Even the name changed. The new Lynx was now printed on newsprint in the unusual format of 14 inches high and six inches wide (for those long rows of links). Determined to become at once a refuge for an endangered species and breeding ground for healthier specimens of the genius (sic) as well as the publicity concerning the joys of adopting such a cuddly and lively form, Grell drastically increased the readership, spreading the word of renga to poets who thought haiku ended with three lines.

In 1992, Terri passed Lynx on to Jane and Werner Reichhold. They are still feeding the beast which has grown to 100 pages per issue by the addition of tanka.

The advent of computers and photocopy machines has altered the concept of magazines. Where before it took a considerable investment to start up a magazine, to pay the typesetter and printer, now anyone with some typing skills and plenty of time and enthusiasm can start a literary publication. The new techniques have resulted in new formats and objectives (as in the case of Mirrors and APA-Renga).

In 1989, Madelyn Eastlund, of Beverly Hills, Florida began publishing The No Name Newsletter for Poets which has a similar format. Eastlund, a teacher of creative writing courses and haiku workshops is active in the Florida State Poets, does not confine her selections to only haiku, but also accepts all genre, often creating new ones and explaining, in short articles, the obscure ones. Within one year of publication, the magazine seems to have a wide following of persons testing and trying various styles and approaches to poetry. Using teaching methods such as the features "Poets' Forum" and "Haiku Helpshop", Eastlund is offering newcomers a chance to see their first efforts in print.

Due to Madelyn Eastlund's own broad spectrum of poetry and her enthusiastic support of poets and poetry magazines, she is able to introduce new writers to the form while offering chosen haiku of high quality as examples.

Jean Calkins had at this time, five children ranging in ages from six to thirteen. In the summer she worked at an ice cream stand.

Jean Calkins, Haiku Highlights, May, 1966. Kanona, NY: J & R Transcripts.

. Edna Purviance. Quoted from a personal letter on the editor dated March, 28, 1990.

. The Diary of a Haiku-happy Housewife by Edna Purviance, illustrated by Kay Langdon. Bellingham, Washington:Portal Publications, 1979.

Alexis Kay Rotella, Editor. Butterfly Breezes, an anthology of 160 haiku from 29 poets. Brussels Sprout Press, 1981.

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Material on these pages is copyrighted © by Jane Reichhold 1986 - 1998.