Editing Haibun and Tanka Prose:
A Haibun Today Colloquium
The following question was submitted to twenty-seven editors of haibun and tanka prose as our topic for discussion.
What qualifications should an editor of haibun or tanka prose possess? Is it adequate to be well-read in haiku or tanka, to be a published haiku or tanka poet, or are other qualities essential?
Eighteen editors responded; their answers are reproduced below in the following order: Stephen Addiss for South by Southeast, Melissa Allen for Multiverses, Roberta Beary for Modern Haiku, Margaret Beverland for Kokako, Colin Blundell for Blithe Spirit, Glenn G. Coats for Haibun Today, Claire Everett for Haibun Today, Ken Jones for Contemporary Haibun Online, Jim Kacian for Contemporary Haibun Online, M. Kei for Atlas Poetica, Richard Krawiec for Notes from the Gean, Mike Montreuil for A Hundred Gourds, Ray Rasmussen for Haibun Today, Jane and Werner Reichhold for Lynx, Bruce Ross for Contemporary Haibun Online, Ian Storr for Presence, Zinovy Vayman for Simply Haiku and Max Verhart for Whirligig.
Articles, Interviews & Reviews Editor
Auckland, New Zealand
Editing is a multi-faceted process that requires many skills. One essential is familiarity with the subject, in this case tanka prose and haibun, both traditional and contemporary. A good sense of writing rhythm and sound is also important, although being a creative writer is not always necessary. An appreciation for varities of evocative expression is vital, but most important is taste and empathy, without which an editor cannot function well.
South by Southeast
I do think it's vital for an editor of haibun to have both read and written lots of haikai, including haiku, renku and other linked verse, and haibun. This is a particular form with a particular history and if you don't have a strong sense of its history and how its parts work you'll have a harder time recognizing the good stuff when you see it, especially with regards to the haiku and to the link between poetry and prose.
I also think it's vital for a haibun editor to have read a great deal of non-haikai poetry and fiction, particularly things like flash fiction, prose poems, or even just prose with a heightened diction—very literary prose rather than workmanlike, pedestrian writing. It's important to have a good sense of the full range of what is possible in English writing. I don't think haibun writers have yet taken full advantage of that range. I know some people feel that haibun prose should be a particular kind of naturalistic, straightforward prose and I can respect that preference, but even with that limitation there is more that haibun writers can do to make their prose more elegant, concise, striking, and effective.
I think it's really an editor's job to push writers, to refuse to accept anything less than their best work. Which means that it's an editor's business to have some idea how work can be improved, while still remaining firmly the property of the writer—her ideas, her style. Not all editors have the time actually to edit—I would like to do far more of it than I do—but they should at least have the capability to do so, to recognize when something is not as effective as it could be, and push writers gently in the direction of working harder and taking more risks.
The most important quality a haibun editor should possess is the understanding that the haibun is the work of the writer who submitted it and not the editor. In other words, an editor should not try to rewrite a haibun to make it his or her own. Perhaps James Thurber put it best, "Editing should be . . . a counseling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, 'How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?' and avoid 'How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?'"
("The Theory and Practice of Criticizing the Criticism of the Editing of New Yorker Articles," May 18, 1959. Published in The New York Times Book Review, December 4, 1988).
An effective haibun editor should have an overall knowledge of the form at its best, at its worst and at its most mundane. The editor should also be able to recognize original work. By original work I include the haiku or tanka. I am not a proponent of using previously published work in haibun. I strongly believe that the haiku (or tanka in the case of tanka prose) must be able to stand on its own outside the prose.
A haibun editor must also be able to accept pushback from the writer whose work is being edited and offer constructive criticism without fear of offending the writer. It is a truth universally acknowledged that there will be some writers who will disagree with a haibun editor's comments.
Finally, haibun editors should set a high bar for accepted work. The published haibun reflects not only the skill and sensitivity of the writer but that of the editor, as well as the quality of the publication.
This year, I take over the co-editorship of Kokako, a journal of haiku, tanka, haibun and related forms, published twice yearly in New Zealand. When I was invited to join Patricia Prime on the Kokako team, I gave this some thought before accepting.
I began writing haiku about five years ago. I had my first haiku accepted for the taste of nashi, New Zealand Haiku 2008. This spurred me on to write more and to read all I could on the subject, subscribing to both online and print publications, and to read translations of the old masters to gain insight into the traditions of haiku. My readings took me into the world of tanka and haibun. I have attended workshops in all three forms, and also in renga. The love I have developed, and the knowledge gained to date, were the deciding factor in my acceptance of the Kokako position.
As a reader and contributor to publications, I think it is essential that the editor be well-read in haiku and tanka, and to regularly be published in at least one. To be well-read indicates a person understands the forms, is most likely aware of new developments, is open-minded to these, and has an affinity with the nuances of the natural world. To be published gives the editor credibility, and I am able to respect and trust their ability to differentiate between what is and what is not a haiku, tanka, or haibun. So, well-read, published and with an understanding of the traditions and the ongoing development of all these related forms in the Western world are, I believe, essential qualities for an editor.
An interesting question! And one which I've often asked myself in all the years I've edited Blithe Spirit.
I have written only a very small handful of haibun. I am not a fan of the genre. When I have produced a haibun it's been as a space filler in the Journal (terrible reason for writing a haibun!) and I've often adapted a longer poem of mine and made a haiku from some image already there. The prose aspect of the few haibun I have written in this way is inevitably 'poetic'—I think this is essential. I notice that the haibun I select for Blithe Spirit are all 'poetic' in some sense or other.
All too often, I feel, haibuneers are writing as though they were in some creative writing class and write overblown prose or else they think it sufficient to write about their holidays and the prose is merely humdrum.
So, it seems, from writing this, that although I am not a haibun fan, I do have a pretty definite view of what a haibun ought to consist of and for the rest rely on my background as an ex-teacher of Eng. Lit. to tell me if I'm reading a decent piece of writing—one that works, has flow, says something worth saying, contains a mystery, changes my view of the world in some way, contains a striking image or two, reminds me of something I might have wanted to say but never got round to it and so on.
As far as subject-matter is concerned, the field now seems to be wide open just as it is with haiku and tanka. Haibun is not just a travel journal but has the potential for helping the writer to investigate 'self' and enthuse the reader while doing so. For me, haibun as travel journey has to be expressed as a metaphor for the exploration of self.
I think that it is essential to be well-read in haiku and tanka so as to be able to make a proper judgment about the quality of either in a haibun and to assess the proper relationship between poem and prose. It seems to me that one also needs to have a large background of experience in what used to be called 'The New Poetry' where the emphasis was on the 'words on the page'—how do they work together? what literary techniques are being used, consciously or not? how does the whole thing gel?
The prose of a haibun offers a great opportunity for experimental writing, stream of consciousness—all the 'modern' 20th Century techniques—I do hope for a prose that tries hard to form itself in some extraordinary way.
My experience as an editor of haibun amounts to the all of one season but one winter has been a learning experience. I read haibun for years but it wasn't until a fellow poet suggested that I try writing one that I really began to explore and understand the form. I do not believe that it is enough just to be well read in order to be a haibun editor—one must be a writer as well. Since the form and content of haibun seem to be part of a constant evolution then the editor must also be a lifelong student of the genre. An editor should be inclined to be receptive, that is he/she should not make decisions (acceptances or rejections) based on a singular model. The editor must be someone who is open to possibilities and able in the end to recognize good writing.
My own experience as an editor comes from teaching both adults and children how to edit their own writing. That experience has helped me as I endeavor to work with haibun writers on revisions. I developed a philosophy through the years of first responding to the meaning of a poem or story—telling a student what I gathered from their words; and telling them the part I liked best. Next, I tried to work on one or two things that could clearly help a piece. I learned that too much advice can overwhelm a student like too much pepper on an egg—I try to bring that philosophy to my work as an editor of haibun.
All of the haibun editors that I correspond with are published writers and I have followed their writings in many journals and books. Each one is likely to recall early attempts at submissions, and remember what it was like to receive suggestions, rejections, and acceptances. Perhaps another quality a haibun editor should have is empathy—a memory of where it all started—as he/she works with someone just starting out with haibun. The first steps can be difficult and a few carefully chosen words from an editor can make all the difference. I am reminded that an editor must also be a good decision maker. This is the hardest bit especially when the choice is somewhere between a "no" and a "revise and resubmit."
Glenn G. Coats
I once spoke of haibun as "terra incognita—vast and only marginally explored." I might apply the same description to tanka prose. Both forms are relatively new in English practice—less than 50 years old!
Jeffrey Woodward, "Tanka Prose and Haibun Today," Haibun Today, September 2008
Since making this observation, Jeffrey has done much to educate and inspire tanka prose practitioners, novice and experienced alike. I am one of those writers. In a sense, I feel we are on this journey together, exploring new ground, becoming better acquainted with an ancient form and seeing where it might now lead us.
For me, it makes sense that an editor of a particular genre is published in that form and in the case of tanka prose, for instance, the poetic element on which that form depends, i.e., tanka. That's not to say that a playwright or novelist might not bring something new to the editorial role, but I believe it is in writing the form that one becomes passionate about its scope, and equally, familiar with what works and what doesn't.
As a new writer in the genre, I greatly appreciated Jeffrey's 'hands-on' approach. This is what I strive to emulate. It will be some considerable time before I am as well read as he is, but I spend most of my spare time reading tanka prose, ancient and modern. For me, editing is very much a case of helping a writer to bring out the very best in his/her work, having an eye for potential, for detail, and coming to an agreement, perhaps, on what can be eliminated. It is, of course, hugely satisfying when a polished submission arrives in the inbox, but the piece that has been sculpted and planed, sanded and embellished, by way of a healthy dialogue between poet and editor, brings its own rewards. I was intrigued by an example of the latter, published in the most recent issue of Notes from the Gean, in which Richard Krawiec, the journal's haibun editor, and the well-known poet, Penny Harter, made available to readers the process by which they worked together towards the final outcome (see "How an Acceptance Happens," Richard Krawiec/Penny Harter, Notes from the Gean 3:4, p.14). Given that both are fine writers, I think this demonstrates just how valuable such interactions can be.
I would propose, then, that a good editor should be well read and passionate about the form; open, approachable, attentive, mindful of tradition, but equally, eager to promote innovation and inspire new writers. I believe all these can best be achieved by continuing to write oneself. In the words of the English poet, Edward Thomas (1878-1917):
Oh, for a horse to ride furiously, for a ship to sail, for the wings of an eagle, for the lance of a warrior or a standard streaming to conquest, for a man's strength to dare and endure, for a woman's beauty to surrender, for a singer's fountain of precious tones, for a poet's pen!
The Icknield Way, London, Constable, 1913
Tanka Prose Editor
Is there "haiku-like prose" or at least poetic prose—and particularly crisp, short sentences and concise and sensory imagery in the tradition of SHOW —don't TELL? No opinions.
Is there some feeling, some empathy, in the writing, beyond self-therapeutics? Does it offer some emotional nourishment? I'm hard on arid cleverness!
Apart from very short pieces, is there some theme, even implicitly? Is the haibun going anywhere? I rejoice if the haibun has some imaginative quality, instead of the chronicled truthfulness in which so many haibunists are still mired. As David Cobb has observed "truthlikeness is required in a haibun; truthfulness is not."
The haiku should be of publishable standard as if they were freestanding submissions, though I do not require them per se to be freestanding. I'm the happier if they can draw strength from the prose—though without repeating it, of course. I always apply the acid test—can this haiku be comfortably folded back into the prose? If it cannot, then it evidently has some work to do as a haiku, though what work does not trouble me. I'm particularly happy with "oblique" and metaphoric ("contrapuntal") haiku, but not where the spark has to jump too far from the prose, obliging the reader to puzzle out the connection (if any!). Because there's too little emotional logic. These appear to be fashionable just now. Less sophisticated is the reader who thinks "It's time to stick in a haiku here!"
If there's something elliptical, ironic and maybe a little unsaid, leaving space for the reader's imagination, I thank the Gods for the subtlety offered.
Not infrequently I accept haibun which, personally, I don't much like, usually because I believe they manifest the perverse obscurity of much contemporary mainstream poetry. However, wherever I detect any literary quality in a piece, even if I don't like it much, I usually let it through. Occasionally I may block it simply because I consider it too far removed even as a broad-church haibun, though it may have literary merit; it's just been pushed through the wrong letter box.
A haibun journal should be governed by more objective and dispassionate considerations than just the likes and dislikes of its editors. They should bear in mind that they have a major role in shaping the future of a promising literary genre.
Contemporary Haibun Annual Anthology and Contemporary Haibun Online
Much as haiku, I think haibun is a process, and that it is the process that keeps it alive. When it becomes impossible to do something new in the process, what's left is to apotheosize the genre, to fill it to its capacity, but by that point it is already largely defunct. So one question I ask of every haibun I see is, what is it contributing to the conversation? Of course not every innovation is good, useful or a direction forward, so I look for capable management of the elements as well: in my experience, talent in writing haiku is no guarantor of talent in writing prose, and vice versa. In fact, it's the control over these two quite different skills in the same piece that is the true challenge to the genre, and one of the reasons it's so difficult to do well, not to say master. Finally, I appreciate content that matters, at least to me: it is too easy for the genre to devolve into travelogue or memoir, but I am excited when the poet transcends the easy thing to say and instead finds something that challenges, plumbs or confirms the most essential elements of being human. But of course I could say that for any genre—and that, to me, would be the point: when haibun meets the level of the best writing in other genres, that's when it becomes significant, and that's my greatest hope for each new submission.
and Contemporary Haibun Online
The qualities of an editor of tanka prose are the same as the qualities of an editor of any other field. At a minimum, they must be well-read within and
without the field, but it isn't essential that they be a poet themselves.
Above and beyond that, they must be able to distinguish between their personal taste and literary merit—editing does not consist of simply publishing what the editor likes. The editor must know the field well enough to recognize valuable variations and experiments. Every field has its conventions, but while these conventions develop because they have appeal, they must not become the definition of what the field is, nor limit what it is capable of becoming.
An editor must be willing to publish 'outside the box' or else see his venue stagnate. Poets are always creating new ideas, and these ideas need a place to publish. Without new ideas, the genre won't move forward. Therefore, while a genuine regard for tradition is important, it should not be a ball and chain. This also means recognizing that innovative and experimental works have value, although they may not attain the highest literary merit. Indeed, given that they are new, it is only to be expected that they have not yet reached the pinnacle of development. The task for the editor is to realize which of these experiments offer something interesting to the development of the genre, and which do not—not all innovations have equal merit.
The editor must be able to create a project that is organized, interesting, varied, and diverse. This does not happen by accident. Editors need to stay abreast of the field, notice, recruit, and support diversity and innovation. This means being willing to look into unconventional venues (such as social media), to read works published by individuals and communities outside the field (e.g., works in other languages), and to encourage emerging poets. Some editors give a great deal of individual feedback, others don't, but at least pointing a poet to useful resources supports the continued development of the field.
Editing requires laying out poems in a way that presents them to the reader in a coherent fashion. Often editing schemes are simple, such as alphabetical by name, but other methods are possible, such as sorting by location, time, or topic. The most sophisticated method sequences the poems into a larger whole in accordance with whatever organizational scheme the editor has devised. Lengthy sequences require a 'plot,' that is to say, an introduction that acquaints the reader with the work, a middle that further develops or complicates it, and a denouement that resolves it.
Technically speaking, layout is separate from editing, but in the tanka world, the editor is usually the layout designer, and so must consider elements such as the size and shape of the page, the choice of font, formatting, margins, how the front matter and end matter will be handled, what the cover will be, etc. In other words, editors must also be book designers. They must often also be publicity directors and entrepreneurs as well.
Atlas Poetica: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Contemporary Tanka
The phrasing of this question is problematic. It is flawed in the same way as those writing prompts they use in public schools for standardized tests.
Is it adequate posits a minimal expectation without defining the terms of that expectation, beyond the vague criteria well read. Someone could read 20,000 haiku and not have read any of them 'well,' and so understand the form less than someone who has read 20. Being 'well read' has nothing to do with how many poems a person has passed their eyes over, and everything to do with the quality of thought put into that reading.
Then there is the implication that to be a good editor one should be a published poet. Even if we were to accept this fallacy, how do we define adequate publication credentials? Make a hierarchy of magazines? There are wonderful poems in small Xeroxed journals, and weak poems in old line standards. Beyond that, publication doesn't make someone a good editor. Perhaps the greatest editor of all time, in any literary genre, was Maxwell Perkins, who edited Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe—3 diverse writers. Those of us who publish regularly recognize the best editors of the magazines we deal with are not always the best poets.
Still, I will use the terms offered. I think it is essential for haibun editors to be adequately well read outside the form, otherwise there's the danger of learning a form without learning the literary elements necessary to it. Haibun editors should read free verse poets who work in short lines—Jane Hirshfield, Lucille Clifton, William Carlos Williams. They should read prose poems—Rilke has some wonderful examples. They should read short fiction—from Kawabata's 'Palm of the Hand' stories to early Ann Beattie.
The more widely read outside the genre, the more likely an editor will be able to do what is most essential to being a good editor—understand what each writer they encounter is attempting to do, and not just try to make everyone's work conform to some notion of the genre. A good editor is not one who merely selects according to predetermined criteria. A good editor is one who can put aside their own beliefs and aesthetics and understand, or attempt to understand, what each writer is trying to accomplish, and maybe point out choices the writer might make to do so. A good editor is someone willing to listen and learn. A good editor must be a collaborator, not a dictator. A good editor must be willing to take the risk of choosing what they feel is the best work they have, no matter who wrote it, and be willing to say No to good writers who submit work that is not their best. Because a good editor must love writing enough to stop someone from publishing a piece that isn't their strongest work.
Finally, a good editor recognizes that in all cases—all cases—his or her judgment might be wrong.
Notes from the Gean
It is absolutely essential that a haibun and tanka prose editor be well read in ALL of the Japanese poetry forms that are being written in the world, including the link and shift techniques used in renga and renku. He must also have been published so that he knows what a good piece is. It will help him recognise a good piece that is submitted to him. This experience is vital.
The editor must also be a thorough reader so that he can see flaws in the haibun and tanka prose pieces. Because many writers of haibun and tanka prose are far flung across the globe with many learning the form on their own, I find that the editor should take the time to point out faults and suggestions to the writer. Only this way can we improve and expand the haibun and tanka prose world.
Haibun and Tanka Prose Editor
A Hundred Gourds
It's important for editors to be well-read in haibun and haiku and to have published their own work in a variety of journals with independent editorial processes. Put another way, it's important that editors are not just self-published and that they have experienced the responses of several editors to their own work. This ensures that an editor's work has been evaluated by and has succeeded with different editors and that editors have direct experience with the ways that a variety of editors go about the business of providing their service. It should also give a writer a sense that the persons judging his work have backgrounds that merit their editorial decisions.
An editor should be aware to the extent that his/her own preferences come into play when reading the work of writers. This doesn't mean that editors should suspend those preferences. Fortunately, there are now a good number of journals that carry haibun and tanka prose, so those submitting their work have the option to send rejected works to a different editor. As an example, some believe that the haibun prose should be haiku-like—focused on concrete and immediate experiences; others accept dreams, fantasy, memories, journalistic reportage, free verse, etc. as suitable. As another example, there is an oft stated pronouncement that the haiku in a haibun composition should be able to stand on its own, without the prose. I personally disagree with this assumption and don't believe that it would hold to the test if we examined the haibun published in current journals. But what I believe matters less than the fact that editors differ on this issue. Thus, I think it's important that editors clearly state their preferences to writers submitting their work and, indeed, many journals carry statements about their editors' preferences.
Editors should be familiar with the field of writers so that they can distinguish between new and experienced writers, and thus be better able to encourage novices. New writers generally require editorial help—not just copy editing, but help with both structuring the prose and composing the accompanying haiku or tanka. To this end, editors should show a willingness to provide some feedback when a piece is not deemed worthy of publication as submitted. There are few places where writers, even experienced ones, can get candid critiques of the drafts of their work. Feedback need not be an onerous task. For example, one could write "In my view, your piece reads too much like fiction, and my preference is that the writer be clearly visible in his or her work." It is also useful if editors point less experienced writers to resources that can assist them in their understanding and writing of the haibun and tanka prose forms. Of course, this makes the editor's task more difficult and most editors are volunteers with limited time. And there is an added complication associated with feedback: some writers are very unreceptive to receiving it. This, of course, discourages the giving of feedback.
As a final point editing requires a certain level of humility. It's difficult to remember back to ones own early experiences in composing work and the ups and downs of submitting that work to editors that one doesn't know.
Having said all that, I read pieces less with an eye to rules and more with respect to the question, "Does this piece say something to me?" If it does, I'll want to accept it. And if it isn't written as well as it might be, I'll tend to make suggestions and ask for a resubmission. In short, an editor's job is, of course, to make judgments which are of necessity personal in nature, and having done so to help writers develop the best presentation of their work to the readers.
When we first started accepting haibun in Lynx, in 1992, we basically took almost any submission with intelligent prose and acceptable haiku or tanka. As we have watched the genre change and expand its boundaries, we have increased our selectivity to reflect our personal requirements for our own work as in our book, A Film of Words (2008).
Both of us get rather impatient reading the 'blah, blah I went there and did that' prose that is topped off with any old haiku. If the haiku or tanka repeats any of the information in the prose the submission is automatically rejected. If the poem part shows a marvelous linkage or leap, we might give the work a few more minutes of consideration. If we feel the writer is just learning about the form and is eager to show off first efforts, we will be more lenient, with the hope that seeing his or her newbie work among the pieces by more experienced writers will incite a desire to write better or in different ways.
We also take into consideration whether the author is willing to work any more on the submitted poem/haibun. A willingness to work with us (this does not mean always taking our advice, but giving it a try, or defending one's position, or making another suggestion) goes a long way towards opening our receptivity for a work.
What we are looking for in haibun is the most experimental composing, or proof that writers are trying new ideas, new methods of writing the
prose—using direct speech is our current favorite—and a new mixing of genres. In addition to traditional haibun with prose and poem, we are even more excited to publish mixes of video, illustrations, shaped poetry, and even collaborations of authors with symbiotic poetry.
We use the term 'symbiotic poetry' because we see that this is a wider concept than just the traditional word—haibun—which narrowly indicates only diary prose and haiku. Under this new term of symbiotic poetry all forms of poetry—renga, tanka, ghazals, haiku as well as sonnets or free verse—can be combined with prose, illustration, drawing, audio, and video.
Jane and Werner Reichhold
I have long thought that haibun consists of a "flow of sensibility" from the title to the concluding sentence or poem. Basically, a haibun reflects the poet's inner being, his or her "heart," if you will. The other important thing I have noted is a matter of form, the characteristically Japanese "link" between poetic prose and the title and the rest of a haibun, what I have called "privileging the link," something in Western poetic traditions that has been primarily replaced by the metaphor. In practical terms, I look at any haibun, from those of heartfelt simplicity to those of philosophical depth, in terms of the above characteristics. I would not be inclined to haiku that have some of the following characteristics: flat, plodding, "flashy" or overworking idiom, pretentious idiom, uneven in tone, melodramatic, overwritten, bald humor, "strange" figurative language, "already seen" approach, "overcooked" writing, "self-satisfied" cleverness, flat sentimentality, too florid, anything too neo-anything, anything too overly postmodern, and anything too overly working a tired aesthetic. Basically, if the haibun has a good focus and/or tone, I'd go for it, sometimes with small suggestive changes, keeping in mind Ezra Pound's advice: "Make it New."
Journey to the Interior: American Versions of Haibun; Contemporary Haibun Annual Anthology; Contemporary Haibun Online
The editor of haibun or tanka prose is required to make judgments on haiku/tanka, and prose and how the components of a piece fit together. For want of a better phrase, these can be called technical considerations. There are further judgments to be made about the piece as a whole, essentially ones of value. Does it engage me as a reader, does it make me think? What about this experience or situation moved the writer to share it? Will others find this interesting? As far as the technical considerations are concerned, I think that an understanding of haiku and tanka as poetry is essential. An editor does need to have read widely and developed some appreciation of the range, limitations and potential of these forms. It is also helpful to test your views with other people and listen to theirs. Ideally the editor should be a poet himself. The processes of preparing material for submission, and being accepted or rejected, provide another way of engaging with the form concerned. Publication is relevant principally for the editor's credibility.
The position with the prose is different. Although I might be tempted to add "haibun and tanka prose" to "haiku and tanka" in the paragraph above, the problem is the current stage of writing. The pool of published material is small though growing. It is important for editors to be familiar with it but it is also necessary to look outside at other genres. Basho drew on the traditional Japanese travel diary as well as Chinese prose models, including fu (rhapsody), a prose-poem form. These may not be accessible to English language writers, but there are our own rich traditions of prose which editors need at least some awareness of. The relationship between the prose and poetry is even more problematic. Haibun and tanka prose, as far as I am aware, occupy a unique literary space. The problem of the pool size, therefore, is correspondingly more acute. The question becomes what other perspectives can the editor also bring to bear? I personally have found ideas from renga useful particularly around linking and shifting—connecting with the previous verse, without repeating or going back, but taking the poem as a whole in a different direction. As far as questions of value are concerned, the editor needs to be aware of his own preferences and prejudices, and willing to engage with the submitted work on its own terms. These are essential preconditions for the exercise of judgment. Judgment itself is a skill which comes from the editor's total life experience, including the experience of poetry and prose. Like writing, it improves with practice and reflection.
It seems to me that a haibun editor should be a well-read person, preferably a native speaker.
An editor should espouse a certain belief. In my case, I would like to see haibun with haiku which stands on its own and does not seamlessly integrate into text but, rather expand it to new horizons and dimensions. It is amazing to see new juxtapositions being formed quite unexpectedly. It may well be that a haibun as a travel or nature prose might be made an easy read if a humorous senryu gets embedded in it. It is rewarding to practice a humorous haibun containing a winning haiku on the level of Blithe Spirit, Frogpond or Simply Haiku. A short haibun could be a better choice than a long one. However, a masterfully written longer piece can be accepted. A submitting author should be flexible enough to allow an editor to make changes since he decided to be heard in the editor's neck of the woods. After all, our uniqueness is temporary. The text can always be deconstructed down to its non-unique parts. We all know that a couple of months (years) later our work can be redone effectively. I love to write and publish metatextual haibun in a way they are connected with captivating books, reviews and haibunists.
The question you ask makes me think of a conclusion I remember from Robert Pirsig's novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That conclusion is this: quality is not something you can define, yet it is something you can recognize.
So to answer your question: A good editor (of haibun—or whatever other texts) has the ability to recognize quality in what is submitted to his/her judgment, as well as the ability to add to that quality, if needed.
And a good reader has the ability to recognize a good editor from what passes that editor's judgment.
Note: Our question was answered by eighteen of the twenty-seven editors solicited. Two editors declined our invitation: John Kinory, Haibun Editor, Ardea and Stanford M. Forrester, Editor, Bottle Rockets. Seven editors did not respond: Francine Banwarth, Editor, Frogpond; Kala Ramesh, Haibun Editor, World Haiku Review; Anatoly Kudravitsky, Editor, Shamrock Haiku Journal; Norman Darlington, Editor, Lishanu; Raquel Bailey, Editor, Lyrical Passion; Dave Smith, Editor, Getting Something Read; and Ebba Story, Editor, Mariposa.