Editing Haibun & Tanka Prose:
I encouraged Patricia Prime, our critical editor, to make of this current issue a special project, one devoted to eliciting the opinions of contemporary haibun and tanka prose editors upon one topic, to wit: what qualities, from their point-of-view, should an editor of the cited genres ideally possess? The time seemed appropriate for such public discussion. Diversity in the editing and writing of such prosimetra (mixed prose-and-verse compositions) may be greater now than at any period since their adoption by English-language poets. Serious practitioners have multiplied in number dramatically in recent years. An increase in haibun and tanka prose venues and, logically, in persons devoted to the business of selecting such works for publication reflects the growing popularity of this creative practice. The result of Patricia Prime's industry may be read in "Editing Haibun and Tanka Prose: A Haibun Today Colloquium," a collection of the views of eighteen contemporary editors. My modest hope is that this conversation will contribute to deeper inquiry upon the part of editors and poets of haibun and tanka prose alike.
Haibun Today may be said to mirror these broader literary developments in miniature, having come full circle from its advent in 2007 as a solo editing and publishing venture in the form of a daily blog to its current incarnation as a quarterly webzine with a staff of five editors. Our shift from a lone sailor at the helm to the present captain and crew came about gradually. I recognized that we'd traded a small vessel for a larger craft when we launched as a quarterly in 2010; an increase in the volume of submissions and of general correspondence eventually demanded, in maintaining this journal's quality, some division of labor. That was not my only consideration, however. The focus of Haibun Today, since its inception six years ago, has been not only to cultivate new writing talent by the wide promotion of haibun and tanka prose but also to preserve a tradition of the best previous writings as a firm foundation for today and tomorrow. New editors, no less than new writers, are a vital component of any living literary art. To recruit and to develop a cadre of competent editors seemed, with one stroke, to serve the immediate interest of this
quarterly as well as the long-term interest of those genres that we cherish. Such are the causes that lie behind the expansion of our staff this year.
My engagement with haibun and tanka prose has been protracted and complex. I've practiced both poetic forms, offered countless line-by-line critiques of the same in online workshops, published numerous critical articles, maintained an extensive private correspondence with many of the most active poets in these fields, founded this present journal as well as the now-defunct Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose and, finally, edited The Tanka Prose Anthology. Those experiences encompass not only poetic creation and literary editing but also, in rudimentary form, resolution of online and print production and design problems, basic proofreading and original critical research. The intention of this paragraph is not to offer a curriculum vitae but to state that something applicable to editing can be gleaned from all such activities, that every person that assumes an editor's chair brings to that office an individual background with specific strengths and weaknesses, and that a competent editor, in conducting that office, continually seeks to acquire broader understanding and skill with the passage of time.
Opportunities to declare my views on the writing of haibun and tanka prose as well as the editing of the same have not been lacking. Those opinions are readily available in numerous articles, editorials and interviews. It would be redundant, and of dubious value, to burden the reader with a précis of my positions here. I would prefer, therefore, to close this editorial with a simple observation. Every good writer, to draft and revise his work satisfactorily, must be a fair editor in embryo and every accomplished editor, in some similar sense, must be in possession, if not of personal literary talent, of a generous poetic spirit. An excellent and sensitive reader is as rare as a poet. Isn't every true editor, like every true poet, precisely such a reader?
25 May 2012