A Hundred Gourds 4:4 September 2015

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The Second International Haiku Conference in Krakow, Poland (May 15-17, 2015)

by J. Brian Robertson

| Introduction | page 2 | page 3 |page 4


This was my first haiku conference. I was familiar with the name Robert Kania—one of the conference’s co-organisers—both because of his haiku and the kukai he has run with Krzysztof Kokot since 2013, the European Quarterly Kukai. The Second International Haiku Conference in Krakow took place from Friday May 15th to Sunday the 17th, 2015. The conference’s events were mostly held at the city’s museum of Japanese art and technology, called the Manggha Museum.


The Manggha Museum

To get to the conference I took a bus from my residence in Berlin down to the south-center of Poland. Krakow is roughly half-way between the Czech Republic and Ukraine. An acquaintance of mine had recommended some pre-reading for the conference. One of these pieces was an essay called “A Brief History of Polish Haiku” written by Rafał Zabratyński in Issue Number 9 of Shamrock Haiku Journal. The bus ride took nine hours, so there was plenty of time to write poetry, take in the countryside and Polish towns, read, and wonder what was awaiting me at the event.


From Berlin to Krakow

One part of Zabratyński’s essay got me pondering throughout the bus ride. He wrote, “…we are facing the spreading of short-form haiku-like poems that don’t have the essence of haiku, whereas real haiku are rare.” I kept asking myself, what is “the essence of haiku”? And what are “real haiku”? I trusted Zabratyński had definitions, but I didn’t have any of my own. (At best, I had deeply subjective, wandering parameters of what make a haiku a haiku, and not a tweet.) I knew these debates over definitions were Pandora’s boxes in the haiku world, boxes that I was fine leaving unopened. But here I was on a packed, sweaty double-decker bus moving towards the conference with a growing awareness that I didn’t (and still don’t) know what “real haiku” or “haiku essence” are. I asked myself whether this was something I would have to confront at the conference.