f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

October 16, 2008

Beary wins the Basho Haiku Challenge, challenges some haijin flaws

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 1:49 pm

Don Wentworth of the Lilliput Review and the weblog Issa’s Untidy Hut, has announced today (October 16, 2008) that our lawyer-poet friend Roberta Beary is the winner of the 1st Annual Basho Haiku Challenge, with this poem:

on the church steps
a mourning dove
with mother’s eyes

….. by Roberta Beary (1st Place, Basho Haiku Challenge 2008)

Don was so impressed with the quality of poems submitted for the contest that he has decided to make it an annual event, and will be “publishing a chapbook of the best 24 poems received sometime after the 1st of the year.  19 poets will be featured.”  Congratulations to our much-honored friend and Honored Guest Roberta Beary, and to Don, who honors f/k/a with his frequent visits and friendly comments.

Roberta has often touched us with poems involving “mother.”  For example:

mother’s day
a nurse unties
the restraints

mother’s visit
side by side we outline
our lips

from here
to there
mother’s silence

………………… by Roberta Beary
“mother’s day” – The Heron’s Nest VII:2; Big Sky: RMA 2006The Unworn Necklace (2007)
“mother’s visit” –  from an untitled haibun, Modern Haiku Vol. 37:1 (Spring 2006); “from here” –  The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 2007)

.. Ms. Beary is also on the minds of many of us in the haijin community this week, because the Revelations: Unedited section of the latest issue of Frogpond (Vol. 31: 3, Fall 2008; see our prior post) has her four-page op/ed piece “Five Musings on Matters Haiku.”  We can’t type up the entire Revelation for you, but will briefly touch upon each musing:

  • The Usual Suspects: Roberta notes “Of all the haiku conferences and meetings I’ve attended, I can’t think of one where he keynoe speaker was a woman,” and offers conference organizers a “gentle push” to invite haiku poets such as Penny Harter, Anita Virgil, Alexis Rotella, Marlene Mountain, and Alexis Rotella to give a keynote address at a major conference.
  • FOP Book Reviews: Roberta takes on rave book reviews written by Friends of the Poet.  She suggests editors should choose reviewers who are not haiku poets (and refuse to accept unsolicited reviews).  She also mentions similar sentiments voiced as a “sand flea” by George Swede in his Tracks in the Sand column for Simply Haiku journal, Spring 2007.

We checked out that column and found George bemoaning, “A long laudatory review that includes not even minor quibbles.” George suggests: “To foster more balanced, objective appraisals, we need critics who are devoted first to high standards of criticism and scholarship and only second, if at all, to careers as poets.”

  • Civility in Haiku USA:  Roberta notes that constructive criticism was enouraged among haijin in America in the 1990’s.  She believes “things have gotten much less civil lately,” with her email box “full of complaints about the mediocrity of haiku published in today’s journal.”  Roberta recommends, instead, the more “thoughtful approach” of using “a closely reasoned critique in a letter to the editor for publication.”  She also reminds editors that “each haiku submitted to editors should stand on its own, regardless of the name that appears below.”

Editor’s Note: The f/k/a Gang agrees with Roberta Beary that we need to think of constructive criticism as an important and encouraged part of our haiku community’s life and spirit.  It’s possible that Haiku Wars over definitional issues got so ugly in the 1990’s that haijin have sworn off confrontation and criticism.  But the result is whiny private email to our friends instead of public “criticism” in the sense of evaluation and analysis of a work of literature.  When someone [e.g., me] does go public with a serious critique, he or she can feel very lonely and out on a limb, with any support coming only in private messages and not in a public comment.

The self-censorship is such that even the courageous Ms. Beary has not named names.  Thus, in pieces here at f/k/a, yours truly has so far not talked about individual poems, poets or editors in my extensive criticism of the spread of “pysku.”  Once, when I publicly criticized an editor here at f/k/a for not living up to a journal’s published standards, I lost a friend.   On another occasion, at a group website, when I gingerly questioned whether a particular poem constituted either haiku or senryu, I was immediately told to lighten up.

If we are adults and consider haiku to be a “real” literary genre, we must accept, honor, encourage criticism.  Because print publications come out infrequently and have such limited space for criticism, I want to recommend that every publication have a website section — or a weblog (they’re free and easy to use) — with a Critics Corner that is moderated only to assure civility.

  • Serial Presenters: Roberta muses over the soporific benefits of having the same people give virtually the same presentation at more than one conference.
  • Book Blurbs by Dr. Who: Finally, Ms. B. chides folk who use the title “Dr.” to add weight to comment used in publicity blurbs for books.  She also notes that far too many books have only blurbs penned by males, even though “women make up a substantial part” of the book-buying public [not to mention, your editor notes, a substantial part of the most-respected and well-known haiku poets].

Please feel free to respond here to any of the points made by Roberta or myself.  For now, I’ll leave on a lighter Beary note:

first date —
the little pile
of anchovies

family picnic
the new wife’s rump
bigger than mine

ceremony over
the bride unveils
her tattoo

……………… by Roberta Beary
“first date” – 1st Place, HSA Gerald Brady Senryu Award 2006; The Unworn Necklace
“family picnic” – Modern Haiku (favorite senryu award, 2003) The Unworn Necklace
“ceremony over” – Simply Haiku (senryu, Winter 2005)

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