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Contemporary Haibun Online: January 2015, vol 10 no 4

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Ray Rasmussen

The Health of English-language Haibun

Jim Kacian's announcement in our "News" section about the end of the anthology Contemporary Haibun brought on feelings of sadness and concern about the state of haibun publication. Jim brought the genre into its present prominence by founding American Haibun and Haiga in 2000, followed by Contemporary Haibun and Contemporary Haibun Online in 2005. It's no surprise that he has stopped production of Contemporary Haibun. After all, that level of service places a demand on one's own writing and on other life pursuits. Of course, he continues to contribute to and lead haiku genre publication and evolution in other important ways, notably with his work as founder/president of the Haiku Foundation and as founder/owner of the Red Moon Press, the most notable publication house for haiku genre publication, and through which he produces the Red Moon Anthology, an annual initiated in 1996 that carries a mix of genres including haibun.

The demise of Contemporary Haibun is a serious loss to our haibun community. Prior to Jim's initiation of Contemporary Haibun and Contemporary Haibun Online, there were few places for writers to have their haibun published. Our existing print flagships, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, bottle rockets and Blithe Spirit, initially carried few, if any, haibun. While the number of haibun appearing in these and other journals has increased, few present writers would have their work published were these the only vehicles. Early in haibun's growth period, Bruce Ross' Journey to the Interior, American Versions of Haibun (1998) and co-editors Michael Dylan Welch, Cor van den Heuvel and Tom Lynch's Wedge of Light (1999), which contains the outcome of the first haibun contest, gave notice of the emergence of English-language haibun into the poetry scene. Soon after, Pat Kelsal founded the print journal Yellow Moon, Susumu Takiguchi founded the World Haiku Review and Robert John Mestre and Robert Wilson founded Simply Haiku, all of which carried haibun. In 2007, Jeffrey Woodward founded Haibun Today, an online journal also exclusively dedicated to haibun. Most significant, Haibun Today carries a rich archive of critical literature and there now exists a Haibun & Tanka Prose Website that carries articles, reviews, interviews and commentaries collected from all journals that carry such work. This is vital to the continued growth of a genre. A bit later in this 15-year period, Jane and Werner Reichhold founded Lynx, a journal that featured haibun along with other linking forms. Still later, Colin Stewart Jones and Lorin Ford founded Notes from the Gean and Lorin founded A Hundred Gourds, both of which carry a significant number of haibun. In the background, haijin Michael Rehling contributed to the growth and health of haibun by allowing many of these same online journals to anchor their journals on his Internet server. And so goes the evolution of English-language haibun.

Haibun has now reached a point where the growing number of writers can have their work reviewed by a variety of editors who have different preferences in judging haibun. This is important since English-language haibun is still evolving and no single editor or journal should exclusively shape its future. All of this speaks to the present state of health of haibun.

My hope is that someone will soon pick up the gauntlet and create Contemporary Haibun's successor.

Ray Rasmussen

Note: I've not mentioned other significant online and print journals that carry haibun. The website "Haiku Journals Online and Print" has an almost full listing of all journals that carry haibun (and other genres). Unfortunately, several of these have already ceased to exist and, worse, some have not been adequately archived.