This morning, November 9, marks the first anniversary of Haibun Today. One year in the life of a blog that doubles as a literary journal isn't easily summarized but numbers afford an economy often wanting in the written word.
What precisely has Haibun Today done in the past 365 days? One can begin by noting that this editorial is the 400th posting on this blog, an average greater than one posting daily. The following list details what types of writings Haibun Today has most commonly published and in what quantity:
31 tanka prose
18 book reviews
These works of poetry and criticism come from 83 contributors in twelve countries with the USA, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada leading the way.
Quantity and quality are not equivalent terms but the numbers above do say something pertinent, in my opinion, about the vitality of haibun now and about the role of Haibun Today in this ferment. Haibun’s liveliness and variety are amply demonstrated by the 300 plus poetic works (haibun and tanka prose) published in the past year. This journal’s unique role in the field of haibun is two-fold at least. First, Haibun Today has encouraged and provided a platform for the broadest possible sampling of current haibun styles and of certain variant forms rarely found elsewhere (haibun without haiku, graphic haibun, audio haibun and tanka prose). Second, Haibun Today with 40 plus essays, interviews and book reviews very likely has published more critical commentary on haibun than the remainder of the haikai community in 2008. This last observation, while indicative of Haibun Today’s deep commitment to haibun, is depressing if viewed as symptomatic of the haikai community’s indifference to one critical feature of its own heritage, the haibun genre.
I’ve offered a look at the ledger and a dry accounting of what Haibun Today has accomplished in 365 days. But how does this record balance with the goals of this journal? Two early editorials—“Haibun Today? And Your Point Would Be . . . ?” and “On the Road Alone: Haibun Today, Haibun Tomorrow”—announced our mission and outlined the four goals that were to guide our editorial work:
To create a haibun-specific journal to correct a perceived shortage of venues for serious writers of haibun;
To create, in the absence of any existing forum, a place for critical dialogue about the haibun genre;
To tolerate rival styles and schools of thought in the selection of manuscripts for publication—this, to insure balanced coverage of the haibun scene now;
To overcome the parochialism of haibun writers working in isolation and separated by geographical space.
The successes and shortcomings of Haibun Today will be judged ultimately by the reader. The editor’s view—not without bias—is that Haibun Today has traveled far in a relatively brief span of time but that the landscape before us remains an expanse of unknown breadth and depth. Exploring and mapping this region was and is our chief raison d’etre.
I wish to thank our many readers for their continuing curiosity and our contributors for entrusting their poetic work to a journal whose aims, at times, must seem quixotic. Onward, then, to year two!
by Jeffrey Woodward