Haibun Today: A Look Back, A Look Ahead
Haibun Today, with this issue, dedicates a sixth year to the presentation of haibun and tanka prose as well as to a critical survey and documentation of these same genres. Various commentators have remarked recently upon the increased popularity and presence of haibun in print and online publications. Haibun Today, in its first five years, has played a significant role in this creative and critical ferment. We have published, by our own count, 677 haibun and 143 tanka prose works plus 45 book reviews, 35 articles, 15 interviews and nine editorials. These writings come from the hands of 162 authors in 16 different countries.
Numbers do not tell the whole story. In 2007, when this journal was launched, only one other publication devoted solely to haibun existed. Haibun, beyond that venue, found sparse representation in various haiku magazines where it was commonly committed to the back pages. The state of tanka prose was even bleaker, receiving notice initially in Haibun Today alone and only gradually finding support elsewhere, predominately in tanka periodicals such as Modern English Tanka and Atlas Poetica. Little critical or historical investigation of haibun or tanka prose had been published before 2007; those critical writings solicited and archived by Haibun Today, it can be said without exaggeration, collect much of the best commentary before and after the date of our founding.
So, some celebration of the growth of haibun and tanka prose in the past five years is in order, certainly, and some recognition, perhaps, is due to the writers, editors and publications that have played a role in this expansion. Before toasts are offered or awards handed out, however, some sober reflection on the deficiencies of our community is in order also. Twelve months ago, in "Signposts, Milestones and the Haibun Journey," I wrote:
One cannot hope to comprehend one's present and future without an understanding of one's past. Haibun in English lacks a written history and lacks a comprehensive anthology of its best writers and their finest achievements. The want of such necessities places severe limits upon the progress of haibun and upon young writers who wish to study and master the form. Haibun exists in the perilous moment; it knows no yesterday and can therefore see no tomorrow.
These observations remain true today. We still labor without an exhaustive bibliography, a written history or a comprehensive anthology, tools that are essential to the mastery and preservation of our medium. Talented new writers who are drawn to haibun are often innocent of its past and are unable to cite the best practitioners or the most significant writings even of the last decade or so. Without some present or future remedy, the same fate awaits the best writers of today. Their work will quickly pass from its shining presence in the newest quarterly to the obscurity of a back issue and eventual oblivion.
Haibun Today, like haibun itself, has travelled far in five short years. It began as a modest blog, designed and maintained by a solo editor. With the passing of time, Haibun Today profited from the direct assistance of others—chiefly that of Patricia Prime as an assistant editor and of Ray Rasmussen who, as a technical editor, prepared our transition from a daily blog to a quarterly webzine.
Haibun Today was pleased to announce, in the last issue, that the selection of our critical and creative content would no longer reside in the hands of one person, the founding editor. That responsibility, instead, has been passed along to the competent and creative individuals named in our announcement—Patricia Prime (criticism), Glenn G. Coats and Ray Rasmussen (haibun), and Claire Everett (tanka prose). To underscore this fundamental change, Haibun Today has adopted a new color scheme and design. The content of the current issue, other than the present editorial, has been chosen by the new editors at their sole discretion. I hope our readers will join me in wishing them continued success in this new endeavor.
22 February 2012