For as long as it has allowed people to share their writing with the rest of the world, the Internet has been bombarded with ‘headline haiku’ and attempts at combining current affairs with short-form poetry, often using the 5-7-5 model and therefore establishing itself as nothing more than a global word-game. It’s the kind of thing to which serious writers, readers and students of haiku and related forms would have a strong aversion. Their authors are easy to spot – they’re the ones at the office who, whilst scanning the online news, are counting syllables on their fingers and jotting down a three-line summary that has as much literary merit as a tabloid headline.
Whilst we can very easily dismiss these ‘haiku’ as tea-break puzzles, there is still something attractive about the idea of marrying haiku with current affairs. Any writer of haiku and related forms would agree that, from time to time, a poem might arise from seeing some harrowing story on the six o’clock news or, for those of us who are constantly looking for that first spark of a senryu, spotting some amusing article on a page of the local rag. How many of us considered picking up a pen shortly after the events of 9/11? Upon visiting the Tribute WTC Visitor Centre in New York last year, I felt it only natural to leave a tanka in the tribute comments box. Surely the coming together of haiku and the news could still offer some interesting avenues for those who take our haiku, senryu, tanka and kyoka seriously.
It’s a joy, then, to discover that Dick Whyte and Laurence Stacey have launched Haiku News – a website that calls itself “the newspaper written in the Japanese poetic form of haiku” and believes that “the personal is the political is the poetical”. Haiku News allows writers to share their personal reflections on the theme of a current news item in the form of a haiku or related form. Being seasoned writers of haiku and related forms, the project is in very capable hands indeed. For those wishing to submit a poem, along with a link to the related news story, a simple glance at the guidelines will assure you that the 5-7-5 format has been “abandoned, and with good reason”. This is no arena for cheap attempts at word-game haiku – this is a very serious literary journal that documents our current history in the short form poetry of writers across the globe. The poems that have already surfaced on the site, along with their related links, are well-written, incredibly moving pieces. As well as offering the challenge of writing to a theme – something many journals have already successfully explored – Haiku News also offers us the chance to see the current political climate in a new, often very personal light, as well as other news items that might inspire us to open our notebooks. For us writers of senryu, I believe that we have another exciting journal to explore and I wish Mr Whyte and Mr Stacey every success.
Haiku News can be found at