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Summer 2005, vol 3 no 2


Showcase ~ Russian Haiku
by Eugene Wasserstrom

Russian haiku resists definitions. Like primordial soup it defies geography and structure. Bound only by its language and the Internet it finds ways to mix Russian literary tradition with Japanese style and Western logic. Not unlike many who are taken by this poetry, the Russian haiku community has yet to establish a boundary between haiku and senryu, between real and imagined, between self and the world. Everything, good or bad, is possible in this virtual thought environment that sometimes reminds me of Solaris, the planet-mind from the Stanislaw Lem science fiction novel.

From early translations of Japanese classics and occasional publications in secondary literary magazines Russian haiku sprang on the Internet, appearing first on Alexei Andreev's His article "What is haiku?" still serves as a reference point for many Russian haijin.

In the late nineties Russia experienced a surge of interest toward the outside world, and especially Japan. Russian translations of Yukio Mishima's and Haruki Murakami's novels became instant bestsellers.The first Russian haiku contest sponsored by the Japanese Embassy in Moscow received more then ten thousand poems from all over the Russian Federation, and in the end was won by Marina Hagen, a poet from an industrial city in the Ural Mountains. Critic and publisher Dmitri Kuzmin then started a Russian language haiku almanac, Triton, which eventually folded after publishing just four annual issues.

Names came and went, but haiku decided to stay in Russia. When and Triton froze in time, a more interactive haiku playground,, was brought to life by a group of enthusiasts led by Alexander Koudryashov. Their work created a very popular haiku destination, which in turn produced two haiku anthologies: Haikumena-1 in 2002, and Haikumena-2 in 2004. Both volumes, edited by Dmitri Kudrya, contained works of various Russian haijin: haiku, renku, critiques, translations, etc.

In 2002 Michael Baru started another purely internet-based haiku venture. He used his blog at for publishing his own works as well as interactive translations from major English-language anthologies. This initiative attracted the attention of many other Russian haiku poets and readers, who lived in Russia proper and all over the world. Thus Russian haiku became a truly global experience. It is now represented on the Internet in The Anthology of Russian Haiku and Short Poems [], which was put together and edited by Michael Baru. The Anthology contains about a thousand works written by more than a hundred authors living in twelve different countries. Many of them participate in virtual Russian haiku [] and haiga [] communities, creating day by day what has become contemporary Russian haiku.



train starting off
the silent rise of
separated voices
              —Svetlana Bobkova; Adelaide, Australia.


the mitten
falling in the snow
              —Natalia Levi; Moscow, Russia


out of the bar:
I steer by
Rigel and Betelgeuse
              —Gleb Secretta; Halifax, Canada


Summer dress---
so many flowers
on this plump girl!
              —Felix Tammi; Tallinn, Estonia.


a dragonfly
on your pinky---
no longer
              —Dve Kobyaki; St. Petersburg, Russia


stone garden
with a butterfly on his cap
a passerby in bloom!
              —Georgy Filonov; Chicago, IL


Dance, my wife---
let me see you
as a stranger
              —Andrei Schlyakhov; St. Petersburg, Russia


deserted land
on both sides of the window
white flies
              —Zinovy Vayman; Boston, MA


frozen window
an oncology nurse tells me
to relax
              —Eugene Wasserstrom; Cupertino, CA

Eugene Wasserstrom is originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, but now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. He learned about haiku several years ago while doing research on patterns of information evolution, and has enjoyed working with this unique type of poetry ever since. He writes haiku in Russian and English, and runs a Russian Haiku translation project [].

His haiku, senryu, and translations live mostly on the Internet, but some of them managed to appear in print. Eugene says that he always follows Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to write only for one person, with this special haiku person being his wife, Nicole.

Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku