Haiku databases / Bases de haïku.


A while ago I was in the library looking for the text of a certain poem and was grateful for those anthologies that featured a first-line index of the contents. I had the thought that it would be wonderful to have a first-line or subject index of the best English-language haiku. But then, I continued, since haiku are so short, why not a full-text index? And while we're at it, since we're effectively talking only about 40 years of English haiku activity, why not a comprehensive, inclusive database?

THE HAIKU DATABASE in an attempt to do just that: to put into a searchable, sortable, electronic database all important haiku that have appeared in English. I began working on the project in September 1998 and so far (March 2004) have captured 98,500 haiku. An unscientific guess is that the total number of English haiku published in the journals, anthologies, and individual collections is a little less than twice that number.

I began - because it was easy - by copying materials from on-line haiku sites and journals, including Dogwood Blossoms (the first Internet haiku journal), the Shiki Internet Haiku Salon biweekly kukai, Dhugal Lindsay's Web site (which includes several issues of Futoh), the wonderful sites constructed by Jane Reichhold, ai li, Elizabeth St Jacques, Randy Brooks, John Hudak, and others. Next, I targeted the major English-language anthologies, and have so far included Cor van den Heuvel's The Haiku Anthology (all three editions). Bruce Ross's Haiku Moment, Jim Kacian's Red Moon Anthologies (1996-2001) and "New Resonance" series (1999, 2002), the San Francisco, Canadian, Australian, and two New Zealand anthologies, the British Haiku Hundred and Iron Book of Haiku, and others.

Journals and individual collections are next. I have finished entering systematically the full runs of a few journals including American Haiku, Haiku Quarterly (Arizona), Woodnotes, black bough, South by Southeast, Acorn, still, The Heron's Nest, and Frogpond, and have begun working on Modern Haiku, Cicada, Haiku West, Dragonfly, and Brussels Sprout.

The Database now includes the contents of first two volumes of R.H. Blyth's Haiku, as well as his two-volume History of Haiku. All the Peter Pauper haiku books have been extracted, as has the first volume of Toshiharu Oseko's Bashô's Haiku and many other translations into English of Japanese haiku. Important individual collections are being captured as well, including Jane Reichhold's massive Dictionary of Haiku (both the print and on-line editions; more than 4,800 haiku), Richard Wright's Haiku: This Other World, and many others.

Criteria for inclusion of a haiku are basically that it should have appeared in print (or on line) in English. Some untranslated haiku in other languages are included, however; these may form the core of another database some time in the future. Verses included as part of haiga or haibun are included if, in our opinion, they can stand alone as independent haiku. Except for the hokku, verses of renku are generally not included, nor are tanka, cinquains, and the like. In the case of concrete poems and short verses of haiku length, we generally try to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Children's haiku are sometimes included but are a low priority.

Data collected for each haiku include the text (including as much of the formatting as possible), the author, publication history, date of composition (or, usually, date of first publication), and notes. For haiku translated from languages other than English, notably Japanese, the original text (in rômaji), the name of the translator, and date of translation are also included. This permits searches on specific kigo and comparisons of various translations of a haiku by, say, Bashô, even when the English texts are very different. Other fields in the database assist in sorting by season, season words, attributes (e.g., rhyme), etc.

The purpose of THE HAIKU DATABASE is to make it easier for serious students to locate and study haiku - i.e., it is a finding tool. So far the database has proved useful to poets wishing to check the originality of their own work and in a few cases has helped identify cases of plagiarism in haiku contests. It has been useful for authors writing about haiku, preparing newspaper columns or journal articles, or compiling anthologies to have at hand large selection of examples, together with original publication information.

Clearly any sort of commercial use or making the database available on the Word Wide Web is out of the question, and I will not publish any raw search data. I would, however, gradually like to make the existence of this resource known and make the search capability available to others in the haiku community. Please let me know if you are looking for a haiku or want to know what use has been made of, for example, "pampas grass" or "Christmas" in haiku.

I would also like to have your help. First, in order to be sure that I have included the most important verses of active haiku poets, I am inviting (as time and energy permit) correspondents to send me their favorites among their own haiku, which I will designate as "Author's Selection" in THE HAIKU DATABASE. Thus, I'd like to ask you for 25-50 of your personal favorites from your oeuvre, together with dates of composition (or first appearance) and publication data. I would prefer to have your haiku in electronic form, but print is all right too.

Hope to hear from you - both as a contributor and a user!

Charles Trumbull
2634 Prairie Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201

trumbullc @  comcast.net

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