Those Women Writing Haiku
Canadian Haiku

The sharing of a common language with France made a decided difference in the way in which Canadians were introduced to haiku.

In the United States, the second introduction of haiku, which came after World War II, was brought by former military personal who, with their Japanese expertise, had been interpreters. Through their studies of culture and literature, they became enthusiasts of Zen along with haiku. Because of their skills, they not only translated the haiku, they attempted to establish what haiku was and should be with religious fervor. Like natal stars, this pattern has become indelible in the Eastern US haiku scene.

In France, beginning in 1902 with the first translation of a book of Japanese haikai, it was the poetry magazines such as La Revue de Paris, La Grande Revue, and La Revue Bleue which carried articles and the first attempts at French haiku which later became the books that were discussed in these periodicals. Thus, the message of haiku came first to the poets of Canada who read these magazines.

By 1920 the popularity of haiku was extended by the enthusiasm of well-known French poets such as Paul Valéry, Claudel, and Breton. Rilke's quatrains, based on his assimilation of haiku, were written in French, probably because of the French influence of translations, plus the possibility of publication of the work was greater where haiku already was appreciated and known.

Though later, much of haiku information and translations came by English publications, not having the authors themselves as a presence permitted haiku to remain in the realm of poets.

Even today, the official organization and its publication Haiku Canada Newsletter, has an openness, a freshness with the sense of exploration that one associates with poets, not educators.

Hampered by over 3,000 miles between coasts and borders, a sparse population concentrated in several places at opposite ends of the country, Canada has managed to not only pull together across these wide regions, they have also managed to incorporate French, English, and Japanese haiku writers into a feeling of being united.

Having haiku in the hands and hearts of poets has also influenced the quantity and quality of Canadian haiku.

The first Canadian to publish haiku was Jean-Auber Loranger with his book of Poëm in 1922. The second was a woman, Simone Routier, from Québec, who included what she called "haikai", the term used in France until seven years later, in her collection of poetry, L 'Immortel adolescent, in 1928. These fourteen haiku, read in the light of today's ideal of haiku, seem closer to the direction in which English haiku is headed than most of the attempts made in the 20's.

As poet, Simone Routier continued to write both genre, accumulating a oeuvre that was published in one volume in 1981.

As it seemed around the world, in Canada also, haiku was forced into the background by the events of WW II. This hiatus in publicity of the genre does not mean that haiku were no longer written. The anti-Japanese attitude that stopped the public life of haiku forced the form underground.

In Canada also were the so-called "Relocation Camps" instituted for persons of Japanese ancestry. Here, under this deplorable situation, haiku were written. Not published, even later; but they were written and shared. In some cases the haiku have been published in Japanese. Among the writers were Hachiro Miyazawa, Takeo Nakano, Choichi Sumi, Midori Iwasaki, and . Only Gerry Osamu Shikatani has continued to write, publish and exhibit his haiku, beginning in the 70's.

Credit for the first haiku book published in Canada after the war goes to Claire Pratt of Toronto. In the hospital for a critical and lengthy illness, she turned to haiku as a way of preserving her impressions for later use in longer poems or artwork. However, in 1965, she published this work under the simple title of Haiku. This book was later reprinted by the Haiku Society of Canada in 1979. Claire Pratt also has the distinction of having two of her haiku sequences set to music by Euphrosyne Keefer. The first of these pieces, one for soprano and flute, was performed in 1975, and the second, for soprano and pianoforte was given in 1983.

A poet who "avoids excessive words but does not sacrifice the language for the sake of brevity", her work has not remained in the lyrical style of the 60's, but matured and developed as shown in her most recent book, Black Heather.

An artist, not only for books and exhibits, (her drawings and woodcuts have been shown around the world), Claire Pratt has also given her talents to making the world a better place with her involvement in activist organizations. Claire Pratt died in 1997.

Sister Joan Giroux, of the Congregation de Notre Dame of Montreal, as the head of the English Department at Sakura no Seibo Junior College, in Fukushima, Japan became well acquainted with the haiku as a literature form. In an attempt to correlate the Japanese concept of haiku with the haiku that had been recently published in the US - Borrowed Water by the Los Altos Writers Roundtable, edited by Helen S. Chenoweth and The Way of Haiku: An Anthology of Haiku Poems, the works of James W. Hackett, Giroux wrote the book, The Haiku Form, which was published in 1974.

Based on her command of Japanese and knowledge of literature, her explanation of haiku history and meaning and the study of its cultural background is absolutely flawless. Her writing is some of the most succinct and accurate of anything written since on the subject. Even at this date she understood and correctly assessed the differences between the 17 syllable Japanese haiku and 17 syllables in English, pointing out that the polysyllabic Japanese haiku were most usually composed of five to six words. English, being more monosyllabic, resulted in haiku consisting of 12 - 14 words, which when read or spoken were too long and overloaded with meanings. Still she had not the courage to follow her own illumination. As conclusion, she wrote that we must retain the 5-7-5 rule in English with the comment: "There is no strictly logical reason for these rules. As in all languages, rules simply exist".

Giroux writes several pages decrying the language violations Henderson and Yusuda made in their translations of Japanese haiku into rhyming couplets, or as in the case of Yasuda, into four-liners, and yet, knowing better from her own translations, still would write rules for rhyming haiku.

While accepting and encouraging the use of kigo - or season words - as "if not necessary, at least desirable" Giroux goes on to suggest that English writers avoid "pseudo-Buddhist travesties...- there is no place for the cherry blossom, the hototogisu, the rice planter, the Buddha statue or the windbell." Sister Giroux recommends the use of Christian holidays to mark the seasons. She also acknowledges the differences between climates such as in Ottawa and California and the need for individualized lists of kigo.

Aside from her conclusions, which the test of time, have proved unreliable, Giroux's coverage of the history, nature, rules and nuances are impeccable and can be a valuable resource for anyone wanting to understand the haiku form. There are no examples available of Joan Giroux's haiku.

Mildred A. Rose discovered haiku in an illustrated book for kindergarten children in 1969. The next year, she accompanied her husband to Japan where she was able to study haiku and tanka.

As creative writing instructor at the University of Regina, it was only upon her retirement that she was able to publish her first book of haiku included among longer poetry forms in  Esor Derdlim, in 1974. The Fushia Tree (1980) and Old Belly Dancing Moon (1983) were her two haiku books in which Rose further honed her style to the point it now has become.

One of the persons Mildred Rose accredits with helping her get her first haiku published is Catherine M. Buckaway. The connection is apt in that Buckaway has been extremely active in publishing, not only her haiku, but also children's literature (her textbooks are used throughout Canada), plays, contemporary poems and Western Canadian folklore.

A gifted story-teller, Catherine Buckaway related the following:

" I will never forget winning the Carling's Community Arts Foundation Grant. We were living in an area so rural that the awards committee had to call the local hotel to have them tell me that I won. We came to Saskatoon for the award. I went over to the Carlings plant and of course a lovely lunch was served. Then presentations were made. I opened my envelope; no thousand dollars in it. I said right out, "There isn't any money in here!" A week later a young man knocked at my door saying he was from Carling's to interview me. I made dinner for him, found out he knew nothing of poetry and even less about haiku. He gave me a check for $250. with the instructions to report to him each month on my progress, which I did while writing the haiku book, The Silver Cuckoo. Then I got the rest of my money."

A prolific haiku writer, Catherine Buckaway is one of the few persons who could answer the question of how many haiku do you write a year with: "hundreds"!

Equally intense in her engagement with writing is Dorothy Cammeron Smith. Also writing children's literature, she has had a five-day a week radio show, does public speaking, sells verses to an American Greeting card company and runs her own publishing endeavor called Cameo Studio. It was here that her first haiku books, Cameos One, (1975), Cameos Two (1980), and Cameos Three (1981) took their names.

Her gregarious and joy of relating to people has been a factor that results "in people in the street stopping her to tell of a haiku of hers they have liked and memorized."

An active member of the haiku in Hamilton, Ontario, Dorothy Cameron Smith is one of the persons responsible for unusual number of haiku writers and haiku publications springing from this one place in Canada.

This honor is shared with Margaret Saunders, born in Scotland, who is the editor of the haiku quarterly, Wee Giant, and each spring publishes the anthology of lyric and haiku, Daybreak.

Along with her own three books of haiku, Margaret Saunders writes children's literature, assuring that the youth will not only know of haiku but adapt and grow in the spirit necessary for the writing of haiku later in life.

It is interesting how many authors of haiku were introduced to the form through the study of other Japanese disciplines. Betty Drevnoik found haiku while learning sumi-e. Then through the haiku-grapevine, Betty Drevnoik contacted Helen Stiles Chenoweth to study haiku with her in 1969-70. Ten years later, were the two women able to meet personally.

"Very active in visiting other writers, writing and calling persons", was Secretary of Haiku Canada from 1977-79, President for 1979-83, organized The Haiku Festival at Harborfront in Toronto, Ontario, May, 1980.

Capping the publication of her three haiku books, Impressions of Rural Ontario (1976), Inland, Three Rivers from an Ocean (1977), and Focus on a Shadow (1977), Edna Purviance in Bellingham, WA, USA, brought out in 1980 what many feel is the unacknowledged gem of haiku instruction books, Aware, A Haiku Primer. Dedicated to "three great ladies of haiku: Helen Stiles Chenoweth, Rhoda de Long Jewell and Kay Titus Mormino", Aware, A Haiku Primer is a labor of love that commences with the carefully hand-lettered text which perfectly conveys Drevnoik's vitality and "can-do" spirit. Her first words, in the section titled, "The Haiku Journey", could be taken as a international haiku credo or prayer for everyone, even non-haiku writers/readers.

"The Haiku Journey"

is a journey everywhere -- and a journey nowhere at the same time. It is eternity -- and it is now. It is: mist scented with petunias; early morning rain; mushroom; cloud shadows.

When the astronauts went to the moon they took pictures of our planet floating in space. Someone coined the phrase "The Global Village" to describe earth. We all live together on the great global-village, and we are all basically the same no matter where we live -- with the same emotions, with the same love of life and nature . every morning the sun rises, every evening the sun sets, the moon goes through its phases, the stars of our galaxy move through the heavens, and so the seasons pass through the newness of spring, the fullness of summer, the mellowness of autumn, the harshness of winter, and we are one with all. You are one with it all -- where you are, and as you are.

To begin your haiku-journey just open the door, step outside -- there, in the sky and on the earth is the whole of our existence -- the universe, the world. Stand there alone -- and, please, give yourself time to be alone -- Time to allow the universe to touch you -- and time to allow yourself to become aware . aware of reality, aware of the here and now, aware of the moment, the haiku-moment.

There is an old saying, take time to smell the flowers as you go by . It is actually saying: Be aware of the things around you. Let those things reach out and touch you as in the Japanese phrases "mono no aware" the touchingness of things and the touchingness of the world, of life, "yo no aware."

The haiku poet follows the oldest rule of writing! Write about what you know, Thus, we come to Basho, and his directive: Haiku is what is happening at this moment, in this place.

Appreciate the fact that it doesn't matter what time of day or night it is, what the weather is, or even where you are! inside; outside; in the city; in the country . Haiku-moments occur anywhere, at any time!

You stand on the threshold of the greatest adventure of your life -- The Haiku Journey. Open your notebook

take your pen in hand

and start to write ."

Then, step by step, Drevnoik leads the reader into a meditation where not only does one establish contact with the surrounding universe, but almost without being aware of what is happening, principles of writing, and specifically writing haiku, are nudged across the pages with a gentle touch.

Phrases such as :"in your notes", "you remember breathing deeply", "contrast your image", and "read your haiku aloud to yourself" are as apt for leading the beginner through their first haiku or as refresher course for the haiku veteran.

After a note to teachers, Betty Drevnoik continues to discuss the classical rules of haiku in her clear, open way, leaving the reader with knowledge, empowered with the skill to know when to use it.

After reading so often the rules that one does not use simile or metaphors or personification in writing haiku, it is a relief to find in Aware an author who has acknowledged the connection between these forbidden aspects and the real working material for haiku linkage. By giving them new names, Drevnoik can redefine these elements while instructing on their use:

"...whatever attracts the poet never stands alone. The SOMETHING that draws the poet is always noticed in context with SOMETHING-ELSE -- . something-else with which it may be COMPARED, CONTRASTED or ASSOCIATED in some way. By using this principle . the poet expresses an observed relationship between two things, a juxtaposition which makes the break in the poem structure. This technique provides the pivot on which the reader's thought turns and expands."

If all of this was not enough to make this book very special, Betty Drevnoik, in a nurturing, feminine gesture, opens another door of the haiku experience. She teaches not only how to write haiku but, with the section, "Haiku Responses", teaches the oft-ignored lessons on how to read haiku.

Here she asked eighteen haiku poets from Canada and USA to share a haiku with an explanation of how it came to be written. The list of authors is a "Who's Who of Haiku" going alphabetically from Ann Atwood to Rod Willmot.

The topics discussed range from "Pleasant and unpleasant together -- by Catherine M. Buckaway; "Something unknown . by Raymond Roseliep, to "A distinctive point of view: the reversal of relationships ." by Claire Pratt.

Due to the publication of Dr. Eric Aman's book, The Wordless Poem, Canadians were forced to take issue with his controversial approach to haiku. (See Bibliography) Betty Drevnoik discusses intellectually the aspects Aman raised, but it is in Ann Atwood's "Haiku Response" that the reader inwardly recognizes the Zen in haiku.

"The haiku with an unsuspected illogical ending .

Coming down the steps
counting leaf-prints on the moon --
My scream from the ground!

-Ann Atwood

And there you have it -- the place, the time, the unexpected happening, which was to be my contribution to this section of Aware . And no doubt all brought on by my dedication the haiku experience. "For," said I, "an unexpected happening is not a feeling or a fragrance or an image you can pull out of your mind like a magic silk handkerchief. It's something that could not have been there in the first place. So what can I do about a spontaneous event?"

Now that my sprained ankle is obscuring my outer view of the universe both by size and by shape, I am free to contemplate this new haiku and to observe in it some of the unmistakable elements of Zen: The earthly superimposed upon the cosmic; the entanglement of form and fantasy; the sudden slap that awakens one to total reality.

I think I have stumbled on an insight into unifying the levels of reality: (when counting leaves with your mind and steps with your feet, if possible one should begin with an equal number of each.) And I have gained a certain fondness for that wry, chuckling quality in Zen which accepts everything with humor and grace. And when I confront this bulbous bole at the end of my leg, I can feel rather smug about having fulfilled my assignment, "write a haiku with a twist at the end." Little did I know it would be the twist of my ankle!"

Considering all the books known to have been written in English to teach about haiku, Aware, A Haiku Primer is the only one of instruction from poets to the poet in everyone.

In spite of the usefulness of books for storing and passing along knowledge, again and again the survey reveals a haiku teacher within a writers group who sets someone's talents free to expression. As answer to how she discovered haiku, L. Pearl Schuck writes, "In 1978 when I joined the Saskatchewan Poetry Society. President Mildred Rose introduced me to haiku and I was away."

Almost intuitively understanding juxtaposition, L. Pearl Schuck was able to write outstanding haiku in all styles. In 1981 she was awarded the Grand Prize in the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society.

Benefits of being member of a group are evidenced further for Schuck by The Saskatchewan Writer's Guild which published   her book, The Moon is Still, in 1982.

Of all the haiku/renga writers in Canada, many who write more lyrical haiku than those of other nationalities, anne mckay is a true poet who lends her talents to all the Japanese genre. She also achieves the nearly impossible.

Haiku, by its nature and history, is usually short with very little attempt made (in English) for it to be melodic. anne mckay's haiku, however, sing. They sing a lusty, full-throated song of the art of being a woman in all of its aspects. Even her letters look like poetry as her blue, lowercased, words have the exactness of a well-crafted poem. Whether anne mckay writes a book of haiku, tanka or renga; they all read as one long poem.

Her first book, published in 1985 by Wind Chimes Minibook VIII, . . . sometimes in a certain light, formed the beginning an admirable cooperation with Hal Roth. All six of her books were either done by, or in conjunction with, Wind Chimes Press. Two of these -- street songs and a woman of passage (a collection of renga), were given Merit Book Awards from the Haiku Society of America.

Never resting on her laurels, anne mckay, is very involved in publishing in many literary magazines. She has found her path and her voice. Her lyrical haiku have definitely has changed the way many other women write their own haiku. Her courage and power as a poet has instilled the desire, has given others the freedom to let their words ring and resonate, while at the same time, paring the ideas down to the barest bones. anne mckay is an example of what happens to haiku, (renga and tanka) when a poet bends the form to her will. She has altered the course of English writing by showing other women that they can still be the singers and dancers as they express their thoughts and feelings.

Canada, also, has its combined author/artist/poet. Suezan Aikins of Prospect, Nova Scotia, has studied the art of carving and printing from woodblocks in Japan. Her prints are widely exhibited in Canada and Japan. Recently the Prince of Japan purchased one causing a buying frenzy in her Tokyo show.

Suezan has also written haiku since 1977 when she was "cutting out the live parts of assorted poetry in the western styles" and realized the essence of haiku in her own work. Combining not only her well-crafted haiku, and artwork, but also her knowledge of Japanese book-making, Suezan has created two beautiful books, hand printed on accordion folded pages with brocade bound end boards.

Recently, another woman-poet has turned to combining her longer works with haiku. Gail Whitter's book, Insular Position, made a giant leap in expanding the areas of involvement for haiku. Previously, and historically, haiku were not written about certain taboo activities.

Gail Whitter's book is an astonishing graphic description and tale of her dependence upon a man addicted to drugs and how she resolves her feelings and situation. Though it is the longer poems which bear the burden of graphically portraying situations far from the normal haiku arena, Gail has the courage to intersperse haiku, not as outside moments of beauty, but as torques of tension.

In spite of the fact that both her major books are written in French, Jocelyn Villeneuve, also translates and publishes many of her haiku and haiku sequences in English magazines, as well as being represented in the Haïku Anthologie Canadienne/ Canadian Anthology in Bernadette Giulmette's preface with highest praise for her work. Almost alone, Jocelyn Villeneuve is the flagbearer for haiku among the French-Canadians.

Due to its size, Canada has many regional writers' groups. In addition, since 1978, there has been a national organization, Haiku Canada. Formed shortly after Dr. Eric Amann founded Cicada, the magazine became the publication of the group until its demise when Keith Southward, Marshall Hyrcuik and Denise Coney replaced it with their Toronta-based Inkstone.

With the election of co-presidents Dorothy Howard and her (then) husband, André Duhaime, a newsletter was initiated for the members of Haiku Canada. Over the years, the size and spirit of the letter format has grown into a haiku quarterly under the hands of Dorothy Howard and Ruby Spriggs. More concerned with meeting the needs of the approximately 90 members than fostering one aspect of haiku writing or philosophy, The Haiku Canada Newsletter, has become a window of information and exchange as other journals have either closed their doors to this in an effort to become quarterly anthologies of haiku or have simply folded.

The Newsletter's policy of publishing Haiku Canada Sheets (separate sheets sent to all members containing on the both sides of one paper, one author's poems along with a biography and photo) without editing (up until recently) gave many haiku writers their first experience of seeing their haiku in print. The results were, to be sure, uneven, but they were interesting and revealing.

In 1985, Dorothy Howard and André Duhaine completed Haiku: Canadian Anthology/Anthologie Canadienne, that has become a classic as well as comprehensive reference book of Canadian haiku in addition the previous Canadian Haiku Anthology, edited by George Swede.

The spirit of openness and sharing which guided The Haiku Canada Newsletter, brought not only haiku written in English, but also French and Japanese, translations and originals in kanji and romaji, to reflect the multi-cultural heritage haiku.

Update 2010:
Finally I was shown the work being done by Janick Belleau of Montreal, Quebec to foster the work of women writing in French. In 2008 and 2009, Janick spoke at the annual Conference of Haiku Canada in Ottawa and in Vancouver giving marvellous overviews of the women writing haiku in French, not only in Canada, but also in Belgium, France and North Africa. She gathered her materials through her work on the anthology, Regards de femmes, (ISBN: 978-2-921956-30-7) that contains 283 samples of haiku from 86 authors. You can read her talks translated in English by Dorothy Howard at  Women and Haiku in French, Thematic Evolution, talk for Haiku Canada, 2008 and  Canadian Haiku Women and Inner Thoughts; talk for Haiku Canada, 2009

Page Copyright © Jane Reichhold 1986

Quoted materials Copyright © Author 1986.

Go to Chapter Five - Those Women Writing Haiku in Europe.
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