This region includes Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The Midwest region has traditionally been a focal point of American haiku activity with publications such as American Haiku, the world’s first English-language haiku journal (started in 1963), and Modern Haiku, which has been published here for most of its existence, among others. In addition, we are also home to Brooks Books, the country’s oldest publisher devoted to books of haiku, and its journal Mayfly. The region hosted the landmark Haiku Chicago event in 1995 (the first-ever joint conference of the Haiku Society of America and Japan’s Haiku International Association), the 1999 Haiku North America conference, the 2000 Global Haiku Festival, and, more recently, the “Cradle of American Haiku” festivals. In addition, Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, hosts the country’s only university haiku studies program.
The Midwest region has a wealth of talent, with HSA members in eight states, and strives to grow in its knowledge of haiku by holding informative readings and critiques, with presentations by excellent poets and speakers, to which the public is always invited. Additional activities include outdoor walks, such as visiting the Japanese garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Members often meet for dinner after events to socialize.
If you’re not already an HSA member, please come to one of our gatherings or free programs, and give us a try. We encourage haiku poets throughout the Midwest to start a new group (the Midwest regional coordinator is always happy to help), or to join an existing group:
Cradle of American Haiku
Millikin University Haiku
Reeds: Contemporary Haiga
Join the HSA
Regional News & Events
Nov. 20, 2010 Midwest Haiku Meeting
Midwest haikuists met Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 at the Winnetka (IL) Public Library to read their poetry and have it critiqued. A small group met for a highly-productive meeting with time for in-depth critiques. They included: Charlotte Digregorio, Midwest Regional Coordinator, Tomoko Hata, Scott Glander, Michael Nickels-Wisdom, Susan Moss, and Cris Crisafulli. Scott and Michael, accomplished haikuists, gave special critiques of the poetry presented.
The meeting began with tips and review for beginning haikuists, along with a definition of the form by Dr. Randy Brooks, Midwest haikuist/author, Professor of English, and HSA's Electronic Media Officer. Randy’s definition, as follows, has often been quoted:
"A genre of concise poetry that conveys human perceptions and insights from particular moments through the use of images without commentary from the author."
Charlotte stressed that beginners must regularly read a few haiku journals in order to familiarize themselves with the rhythm, language, and style of haiku. She said that both beginners and experienced haikuists often have trouble deciding on the sequence of lines in a three-line haiku, but that with practice, the poet gets a better sense of sequence. Scott said that he, too, often faces this dilemma. She also said that general poetry journals often publish poems that are categorized as haiku, but they really aren't. Therefore, she said that if haiku poets are truly serious about writing haiku well and getting it published, they should submit it to haiku journals where the published poems are representative of what the form really is.
Charlotte also suggested that when beginners read a haiku journal, they should read it cover to cover, marking those they understand so they can reread them to stimulate their thinking about style and form. In addition, she said beginners should also refer to those they didn't understand and pay attention to each word in them. In trying to consider why each word is important, perhaps they can begin to decipher its meaning. Michael said he routinely makes notations beside a lot of the poetry in a journal, including the ones he understands.
Charlotte stressed that while critique meetings are meant to be instructive and help with refining the construction of one's haiku, the meetings are not a substitute for the practice of reading a lot of haiku.
Before the meeting, Charlotte had requested that some well-known Midwest haikuists submit a published haiku for critique as an example of good haiku. Among Midwest poets’ work that was read and critiqued were those of Marjorie Buettner and Marsh Muirhead of Minnesota, Joe Kirschner and Lidia Rozmus of Illinois, Jeff Winke and Dan Schwerin of Wisconsin, and Francine Banwarth and Cynthia Cechota of Iowa. Among the excellent examples critiqued, attendees made several comments about this one:
over the hill
I hear a river
give up winter
Charlotte also initiated discussion about senryu, humorous haiku that illustrate human nature. One clever example cited was:
passing the cream puffs
the guest of honor full
In addition, Charlotte referred to Thoreau’s "Walden" as having many haiku moments to stimulate poems. She quoted from "Walden": "A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature." She cited a poem, inspired by Walden, by the late Robert Spiess of Wisconsin in his book, "some sticks and pebbles":
Lingering at the lake
where geese are touching down
The group also commented on the poetry of Scott and Michael. Among those presented were:
from his topcoat
on her quilt
sound of a drain
—Submitted by Charlotte Digregorio
• • •
Cradle of American Haiku Festival 2
MINERAL POINT, WI -- The Second Cradle of American Haiku Festival was held Friday through Sunday, Sept. 10-12, in Mineral Point, WI, as a tribute to Robert Spiess, long-time editor of “Modern Haiku” journal. It was generously hosted by Gayle Bull, Wisconsin HSA member. Bob died in 2002, after editing and publishing “Modern Haiku” from 1978 until his death.
The Festival was held at Gayle’s bookstore, Foundry Books, and also at The Opera House in this quaint, historic mining town, tucked in the hills of SW Wisconsin. We kicked off the Festival at 5 p.m. Friday, with more than 60 members and non-members coming from throughout the U.S. and Canada. The opening reception of catered food was provided courtesy of “Modern Haiku” and Charlie Trumbull, its current editor. After dinner, many people paid tribute to Bob by sharing memories of him and reading a selection of his poems distributed by Charlie Trumbull.
Charlotte Digregorio, Midwest Regional Coordinator, commented on how Bob had helped so many of us develop our abilities as haiku poets. Lee Gurga, literary executor of Bob’s estate, Randy Brooks, Gayle Bull and her daughter Becky, Roberta Beary, and Charlie Trumbull shared memories of Bob. Bill Pauly read from Bob’s book, “Speculations,” which was published by Bob, offering his insights on haiku. Afterwards, there was an open reading during which people read their own haiku, senryu, and rengay.
Saturday’s activities began early with Jayne Miller, Iowa HSA member, and her husband, Greg, performing Tai Chi, a martial art of relaxation exercises “of internal energy.” Jayne described the exercises as follows: “They loosen the body and mind, and you empty your mind. This allows you to be in the moment.” The art of Tai Chi is like dance choreography, and Jayne and Greg gave a skillful performance set to music, before instructing participants. “Tai Chi is a six-generations’ old art—an approach to creativity,” Greg said. They explained that yoga and Tai Chi are very similar. However, with yoga, you hold a pose, but with Tai Chi, “You keep the flow going, and the energy is an even and continuous movement.”
After Tai Chi, held outdoors on Foundry Book’s property, the official opening of the Festival began at The Opera House. Charlotte Digregorio gave the welcome speech. She thanked Gayle Bull and her family for their hospitality in graciously hosting the festival. Gayle, Francine Banwarth, Second VP of HSA, and Jerome Cushman, New York HSA member, spent all of 2010 planning and organizing the Festival. Charlotte explained that Gayle and her late husband Jim, a professor at the University of Wisconsin—Platteville, were publishers of “American Haiku,” the first American haiku journal, in the early 1960s. Robert Spiess’ poems appeared in the journal. Today, Gayle holds haiku readings and critique at her bookstore. We, therefore, call Southern Wisconsin “The Cradle of American Haiku.”
Charlotte further commented that Bob, who lived in Middleton, a small town in Southwest Wisconsin near Madison, did so much through “Modern Haiku” to bring attention to the form and style of haiku being written in the English language. Haiku, today, is written in languages all over the world. Outside of Japan, English is the number two language that haiku is most written in. Charlotte thanked Lee Gurga and Charlie Trumbull for having carried on Bob’s work after his death. Lee was editor of “Modern Haiku” from 2002-2006, and afterwards, Charlie assumed editorship. Charlotte said Bob would have been very proud of them for expanding the journal and its presence in the haiku world. Charlie drove from Santa Fe for the event.
Charlotte thanked Angie Terry, HSA Secretary, and Susan Antolin, “Ripples” Editor, for traveling from the West Coast. She commended Susan for doing a terrific job with the newsletter. Charlotte thanked presenters including, Randy Brooks, Electronic Media Officer, who does a wonderful job with HSA’s web site; Roberta Beary who traveled from Washington, DC; Lidia Rozmus, Artiste Extraordinaire, who often gives presentations to the HSA; and Jayne Miller. She recognized Mike Rehling, in absentia, for his many contributions to the HSA, including assisting with the membership database, his internet activity promoting haiku, and his organizing of Haiku Michigan.
Charlotte welcomed newcomers and invited them to join, speaking of the numerous membership benefits, and citing HSA as the definitive source for haiku activities and information. She also acknowledged the various local haiku groups in the region and their leaders, and asked members to either become active in a local group or to start one. She offered her assistance in helping members start a local group and to publicize it.
After introducing all eight presenters with brief biographies of their haiku accomplishments, the day’s presentations began.
Dr. Randy Brooks—“A Tumbly Life of Haiku: Reading Robert Spiess”
Randy Brooks, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Professor of English at Millikin University in Decatur, IL, teaches haiku at the university. He gave a comprehensive overview of Bob Spiess’ poetry. With ample examples of Bob’s work, Randy noted that Bob was an observer of the world with his “egoless perception.” Randy said Bob was not afraid to play with language, citing this haiku:
as the dry ZZZzzz
of one cicada ceases,
Randy commented that in Bob’s eight books of poetry, he revealed himself as a lover of animals, and a man of compassion for children and for simple people. An example:
Making lunch for refugees—
My back turned, a child
picks through the garbage pail
Bob was a humble, spiritual man, as illustrated in:
Autumn’s red and gold—
my canoe partner
softly whistles hymns
Randy gave examples of Bob’s self-effacing nature, sometimes referring to himself in his poetry with the lowercase “i.” For those of us who never had the pleasure of meeting Bob, Randy’s presentation was an eloquent one, introducing us to an extraordinary poet.
Lee Gurga—“Robert Spiess’ Muse and The Future of American Haiku”
Lee has often wondered about Bob Spiess’ muse. Lee told an anecdote about seeing a postcard of Greta Garbo on Bob’s bookshelf, and wondering if she was his muse. Lee said that Bob left us a legacy of haiku with clear, concise image, transparency of language, and the haiku moment of realization. “Bob made us realize that we should use haiku to enrich our world around us,” Lee said. He also said that we realize through Bob, that we are the future of haiku, and that there is room in haiku for all kinds of voices, including the traditional, mainstream, and experimental.
Personally, Lee appreciates the “translucency” of haiku that has clarity but also leaves room for the imagination. He and Scott Metz are publishing an “Anthology of Haiku in English.” It will contain a broad range of haiku. Scott likes the “opacity” of haiku that is often hard to decipher. Lee cautioned, however, that haiku can be too transparent or too opaque. Overall, Lee said haiku will survive and grow, whether it’s traditional or experimental. He advised that one should read a haiku with empathy first, and then critically. “Enjoy the flower first, and then inspect the petals.”
Charles Trumbull—“Verbs in Haiku”
Charlie gave comprehensive examples of the variety of uses of verb tenses. Verbs which provide “existence and action” must be strong ones, Charlie stressed. However, Charlie discussed, for example, how Bob Spiess wrote some “verbless” haiku, and how many well-known haikuists also successfully write it. He said that even without verbs, you can still have verbal elements, that is, a feeling of existence. Charlie believes the trend of verbless haiku is growing. But, he discussed and gave examples of haiku that were difficult to understand because they were verbless.
Most haiku with verbs are written with indicative ones, according to Charlie. He said a lot of haikuists tend to avoid forms of the verb “to be.”
Charlie gave an example of a successful haiku by Illinois member Joe Kirschner. Joe’s haiku was verbless, but action was implied:
a moment of respite
among the yellow maples—
my muddy shoes
Charlie gave another example of successful haiku with a verb, by Second VP Francine Banwarth:
passing the cream puffs
the guest of honor full
Charlie concluded that if you use verbs, you must select them carefully according to mood.
Roberta Beary—“A Journey to the Back of Beyond: Risk-Taking in Haibun”
Roberta writes haibun to “reproduce a sensation that is bittersweet and brings me a sense of consolation in the present.” Roberta stressed that the haiku in a haibun must be very strong. It must stand on its own without the prose. And, of course, the prose must be strong, too, she said. She believes that haibun lets one experiment, and that one exposes oneself in it. Her advice is to avoid long, flowery prose, and “avoid writing a long, short story.”
When asked by Charlotte Digregorio if one can get away with writing prose that is only a few lines of the haibun, Roberta said she believes you have to be an excellent writer to pull this off.
Roberta said there is first the risk-taking in the title. She advised that the title shouldn’t be “mundane.” The title, she feels, is very important. as it draws the reader into the piece. However, she said one shouldn’t “give the haibun away” in the title. In writing haibun, she writes the prose first, then the haiku, and then the title. But, she said the order in which you write it, is a personal choice.
Roberta prefers haibun written in the present tense. She cautioned that its haiku shouldn’t repeat the prose, but that it should represent a similar feeling. Overall, Roberta said, “Keep the flow going, draw the reader in, and write it so you can read your haibun to an audience.”
Other Festival Events
The Festival also included one-to-one mini conferences with award-winning poets, editors, and publishers of various Japanese poetic forms. In addition, there was “Hat Haiku,” a workshop by Francine Banwarth and Dubuque Haiku. Haiku was written by participants, submitted anonymously, and then critiqued by the group. Further, throughout the Festival, there were many members’ books for sale.
Activities on Saturday night were very entertaining. We were treated to cocktails and a delicious barbecue by Gayle Bull and her family, there was a drawing for books, and Randy Brooks was presented with the Haiku North America banner. Randy will be hosting Haiku North America, a five-day conference in July 2011 at Millikin University. Francine will be helping him organize it.
There was also a Saturday night open reading. Charlie Trumbull had prepared a brochure of his new haiku in commemoration of the Festival.
This one is lovely:
a dream lingers on
from the night before . . .
In addition, Haiku Dubuque members read from their exquisite new anthology, “the river know the way.”
The Festival’s last day was also a treat. Jerome Cushman led us on a tour of Mineral Point, with its stone buildings and houses, settled by the English tin miners from Cornwall in about 1830. One of the highlights of the tour was a ginko walk through Shake Rag Alley, a park-like setting with a sanctuary of flowers and buckeye trees. It is run by an arts organization. We’re sure that many haiku were inspired by its unique ambiance with an outdoor stage, a blacksmithing barn, potter’s house, log cabin, cabinet shop, school house-- structures from the 1800s. Art classes are now held in these buildings by the organization.
We also held a kukei contest with the theme, “Transitions.” Angie Terry took First Place with:
She asks me again
If I watered her violets
Roberta Beary and Randy Brooks placed Second and Third, respectively.
To conclude the Festival, we ate a special outdoor lunch at Café 4 with a personalized menu to commemorate our Festival. There was a final open reading.
Submitted by Charlotte Digregorio
• • •
May 15, 2010 Meeting of The Midwest Region
Midwest haikuists held a productive meeting of reading and critique of their haiku, Saturday, May 15 at The Winnetka Public Library in Winnetka, IL.
HSA member Mac Green was commended for driving the longest distance to Chicago’s North Shore from Indianapolis. At the meeting, he was joined by Midwest Regional Coordinator Charlotte Digregorio, Tomoko Hata, Gail Goepfert, Susan Moss, Joanne Crofton, Carolyn Jevelian, Annie Reese, Marlene Mitchel, and Elyne Handler.
Since there were some newcomers to haiku, Charlotte welcomed them and introduced them to The Haiku Society of America—its purpose and activities. She oriented them to the HSA’s web site, the goals in holding the region’s regular meetings, and HSA publications with news of haiku from around the world, including other journals, publishing opportunities, and contests. She reminded members to note the deadline of June 30 for submitting haiku to the HSA annual anthology. And, she discussed the National Quarterly meeting in Mineral Point, WI to be held from Friday, Sept. 10 through Sunday, Sept. 12 in this historic, scenic, and artsy town.
Charlotte distributed a sheet of interesting haiku written by HSA members to give everyone a good idea of how to successfully write and publish haiku. Among haiku discussed, written by Midwest members, was one by Randy Brooks:
new grave . . .
a graduation tassle
hangs from the stone
There was a discussion of haiku masters, Basho, Issa, and Buson. As for modern haiku, the group read one of Jack Kerouac’s haiku:
The summer chair
rocking by itself
In the blizzard
Charlotte spoke of the style and content of haiku as a minimalist, imagist, and insightful form, stated in simple language that avoids abstractions. She also discussed haiku resources that one could find through their library system. These included Harold G. Henderson’s The Bamboo Broom: An Introduction to Japanese Haiku, and William J. Higginson and Penny Harter’s, The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku.
Afterwards, participants shared their haiku. Samples as follows:
spring . . .
on my cheek
wisps of hair
trace absent fingers
After the meeting, some in the group went to dinner at The Celtic Knot Public House in nearby Evanston. They were joined by Heather Jagman, a speaker at the February conference, and her husband, Arek, who weren’t able to attend the afternoon meeting.
• • •
February 20, 2010 Haiku Program
The 2010 Winter Program of the Midwest Region of The Haiku Society of America was a most productive and enjoyable one with learning and laughter, on Saturday, Feb. 20 at the Winnetka, (IL) Public Library. Thirty-two people attended, both members, poets and writers from other literary organizations, students from area universities, and the general public. There were five speakers, with six presentations made, on various aspects of haiku content and style, along with Japanese art. Beginners and experienced haikuists benefitted.
There was a good turnout, due to substantial publicity efforts, targeting key media, libraries, literary organizations, and schools. In addition, flyers were posted at popular area locations, such as at cultural centers, bookstores, and coffee houses. Local media also attended our meeting and took pictures.
Among members in attendance were: Midwest Regional Coordinator Charlotte Digregorio, Michael Nickels-Wisdom, Lee Gurga, Mac Greene, Chris Patchel, Joe Kirschner, Lidia Rozmus, John Han, Heather Jagman, and Sung Kyu Kim.
First, Charlotte Digregorio welcomed members and guests. She provided general information about the HSA, and in particular, about the activities of its Midwest Region. She mentioned the HSA National Quarterly Meeting to be held, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 10-12, in Mineral Point, WI. Details will be made available in the near future by Francine Banwarth, HSA Second Vice President and Iowa member. Charlotte made brief opening remarks about haiku: “Poetry or Just a Thought?”
Featured speakers were:
Keynoter John Han,"What is Haiku?" and "What Inspires Us to Write Haiku?"
Heather Jagman on"Season and Other Aesthetics/Poetics in Haiku"
Joe Kirschner, "The Silence Between Haiku Images"
Lidia Rozmus, "What is Sumi-e Art and Haiga?"
Sung Kyu Kim, "Haiku in Korea Today"
There were many published and/or award-winning examples of haiku and senryu offered
during the speakers’ talks and throughout the afternoon. They included HSA members’ work from throughout the U.S., and in particular, from those poets of the Midwest:
red leaf at the bottom
of the atmosphere
Michael Nickels-Wisdom, HSA Member—Illinois
a path of leaves
Chris Patchel, HSA Member—Illinois
bartender’s long sad story
does the listening
Marsh Muirhead, HSA Member—Minnesota
the measure of my aging
in my old friend’s face
Jeffrey Winke, HSA Member, Wisconsin
snowmelt . . .
she enters the earth
on her knees
Bill Pauly, HSA member—Iowa
first day of school
her brother’s backpack
Robert Mainone, HSA Member—Michigan
There were many useful haiku resources discussed, including, of course, Frogpond, the HSA Journal, the HSA newsletter, and HSA anthologies, contests, and web sites. Lee Gurga’s book, Haiku: A Poet’s Guide, was also mentioned. And, haiku books were given as door prizes, courtesy of Lee Gurga.
After the program, 17 of us went to dinner at the Celtic Knot Public House in Evanston, followed by coffee at a nearby coffee shop. The entire day lasted from 1:30 to 8:30 p.m.
• • •
Recap of Aug. 21 Midwest Region Meeting
The Midwest Region held a productive meeting of reading/critique of hakuists’ work, Saturday, Aug. 21 at the Winnetka (IL) Public Library. In attendance were: Charlotte Digregorio, Midwest Regional Coordinator, Rob Waterbury, Joanne Crofton, Mary Jane Gabrielsen, Sung Kyu Kim, Cindy Kim, Ron Levitsky, Elyne Handler, Deborah Rosen, Tomoko Hata, and Chris Patchel.
Charlotte gave an introduction about the Haiku Society of America and its goals and membership benefits to the newcomers present. They had heard of the Society through other literary groups, the media, and postings of flyers at area libraries. She reported on the Midwest Region’s activities to date, and its upcoming events, such as the National Quarterly Meeting and Haiku Festival to be held in Mineral Point, WI, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 10-12.
She also spoke about useful resources such as books, journals, and websites of interest to haikuists. Among well-respected books and excellent publications of haiku noted, were: “How to Haiku: A Writer’s Guide to Haiku and Related Forms,” By Bruce Ross and “Mayfly,” published by HSA’s Electronic Media Officer Randy Brooks.
Before the reading and critique session, there was also a brief review of the basics of writing haiku--its content and style--for the benefit of beginners. Charlotte discussed many haiku style points, including using objective language. She noted mistakes typically made by beginning haikuists, such as preaching to the reader, rather than allowing one to feel the underlying emotion of the poet. She also stressed that one of the beauties of haiku is that the reader can interpret its meaning on different levels. As usual, Charlotte brought along samples of published haiku by HSA members, including the following by an Illinois member:
only a doll tells her
“I love you”
by John J. Dunphy
Chris Patchel, award-winning poet, discussed the style and form of haiku, critiquing many of the attendees’ poems. In particular, he stressed the need for beginning haikuists to avoid the tendency of having too many verbs with too many images in the haiku.
In addition, Sung Kyu Kim commented on the style and form of Korean haiku.
Among haiku read and critiqued by those present were:
between bare branches
by Joanne Crofton
On a fallen leaf
cricket calling for firefly
by Sung Kyu Kim
caught in the firing line
of the corner evangelist—
by Charlotte Digregorio
At the end of the meeting, copies of “frogpond” were raffled to newcomers.
Submitted by Charlotte Digregorio
• • •
518 Winnetka Avenue, Suite 204
Winnetka, IL 60093
Charlotte Digregorio is an award-winning poet and author of four nonfiction books: You Can Be a Columnist, Your Original Personal Ad, Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes, and Beginners’ Guide to Writing and Selling Quality Features. She’s a media guest throughout the United States, and her books are sold in 31 countries. She holds graduate degrees in Italian/French literatures, and has been on university faculties teaching languages/writing. She’s a writer-in-residence at universities, a speaker at writer’s conferences, and gives poetry readings at libraries and bookstores. Digregorio hosted her own radio poetry program on public broadcasting, and has been interviewed on “Poetry Today,” a cable television program in suburban Chicago. Digregorio’s haiku are displayed in wine shops, art galleries, supermarkets, apparel shops, and on public transit in Metro Chicago.
wooded hills . . .
the evening downpour
fogs distant city lights
after confession . . .
my neighbor burns leaves
in autumn’s chill
after his funeral . . .
the dogwood he planted