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Introduction: New Forms of Haiga
Ray Rasmussen, Editor [bio] [email]

What constitutes haiga? Are the new approaches to marrying image and haiku haiga at all? By new approaches I mean the joining of haiku and images of any type: paintings, photographs, digitally created images, modified photographs, graphic designs, sketches, etc. Of course, there is a good deal of controversy as to whether these new approaches should enjoy the name 'haiga' which in Japan fell to the marriage of calligraphy and ink and brush drawings and paintings. Given that the definition of English haiku remains controversial so many years after its introduction in the West, that there is controversy over the definition of these new forms of image plus haiku should come as no surprise. One might ask, why use the term 'haiga' at all, why not simply invent a new term? I suppose that begs the question as to why use the term 'haiku' for the wide variety of English language short poems that we see today. My guess is that in keeping the name, we are paying homage to the originators of the form, to those creators from Japan who wrote short verse so expressively and whose art is so compelling.

Now, what constitutes success? Whatever the type of image, I believe that good modern haiga has three key characteristics:

1. It does an eye-pleasing, if not "artistic," job of presenting both image and haiku.
2. It makes sense to have the haiku and image together--both are enhanced by the joining.
3. The haiku is in good modern English form.

Should the haiku be such that it can stand alone, without the image? I can't say whether that is true or not for traditional Japanese haiga, but this position has been advanced for the new forms of haiga.

Should the text of the haiku be part of the art work, or something added to it, as in a title? Although I don't read Japanese characters, it strikes me that the calligraphy in the traditional Japanese haiga is an integral part of the image. A traditional haiga image is not two things, image plus text. It's a single visual artistic expression.

I don't think that these two conditions are necessary or even possible conditions for modern English haiga. Even with the beautiful fonts available, English reads left to right and isn't so easily integrated into an image as is calligraphy into ink drawings and brush paintings. In terms of the relationship between haiku and image, in some cases there will be a juxtaposition of haiku and image, but in others the haiku and image will mirror each other, yet there will be an enhancement. The enhancement may occur for some viewers but not others--some of us are more visually oriented than others. Furthermore, some of us readily form visual impressions when reading text and may feel that a mirror image is a distraction or even offensive from the perspective of simplicity and allowing one's own mind to find the image.

If you will permit this stretch of an analogy, I understand from astrophysicists that not all of the universe's dust has settled into stars. In similar vein, these new forms have not yet settled into just one clear, brilliant thing. As computers grow in power and as the Internet increases its ability to deliver images, new form haiga practitioners are rapidly developing their skills and approaches. Who knows where we'll be in 10 years? Perhaps there will be several new stars in this emergent genre. On line journals like Simply Haiku and other Internet sites featuring haiga, will document the path that we take. Through them, new forms of haiga images can be easily and cost effectively displayed and widely disseminated. Image reproduction in print journals in either color or black and white is very expensive and the print journals containing them will likely be rare and themselves expensive.

Here's to the future and to enjoying our moments of creativity on our path to getting there!

This "New Forms" haiga section shows work by ...

Comments are most welcome. If I receive a number of interesting definitions of modern haiga or challenges to what I've written above, I'll collect them and post them in one of the forthcoming issues. So please contribute your thoughts as well as your haiga.

Ray Rasmussen: email

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