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Frogpond 43.2 • 2020

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - "The Transcendent Function of Haiku"

Essay 2 - "Two Very Early Haiku Contests"




Book Reviews


Two Very Early Haiku Contests

by Paul Miller

"Two Very Early Haiku Contests" (complete PDF version)

Here is a sample excerpt from the opening page of this interview:

The first known haiku contest in the English language appeared in the April 8th, 1899, issue of The Academy, a weekly journal printed in London from 1869 to 1915. The Academy was a general-purpose, literary periodical that contained book and author news, literary and art biographies, reviews, lists of best-sellers, contests, and occasionally odd bits of literary news such as on one occasion a list of books given as wedding gifts to the Earl and Countess of Crewe. The journal went through several iterations (and editors) and mergers with other journals, at times publishing weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly.

The contest came two weeks after the editors’ review of W.G. Aston’s A History of Japanese Literature. In their review, the editors take Aston a bit to task for his preoccupation with “...the failure of Japanese poets to touch the deeper themes or develop the larger manners...” noting that “... he does not lay quite enough stress on the extraordinary merit of the best in what he has to show.” But they assert Aston’s authority, so when Aston says that “Japanese poetry is, in short, confined to lyrics, and what, for want of a better word, may be called epigrams. It is primarily an expression of emotion...” they take him at his word. Likewise, they confirm his belief that haiku (what they rightly call ‘haikai’ at this historical juncture) is simply a tanka “minus its last two phrases.” This gives the impression that a haiku is merely a shorter or more efficient tanka.

For examples of haiku, they pull from Aston’s translations; including Moritake’s famous butterfly haiku and four haiku by Bashô. One of the four is from a historical anecdote on Bashô, which, in the short section of the review that the editors devote to the haiku, takes up half the space.

[feature continues for several more pages] . . .

Paul Miller. "Two Very Early Haiku Contests." Frogpond 43.2, Spring-Summer 2020, 110-119.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the feature: page 110. The complete feature includes pages 110-119. To read the complete feature, click on the link to the PDF version:

"Two Very Early Haiku Contests" (complete PDF version)