Online tournament aiming to take haiku global

Last week, The World Haiku Club kicked off a global haiku tournament. For the first time, haiku enthusiasts from more than 10 countries are gathering online to watch and participate in this three-month contest which runs through June.

The contest is a follow-up to the WHC’s successful Mock-Haiku Tournament held in April last year. But unlike the Mock-Haiku, this year’s tournament is open to non-members of the World Haiku Club as well.

According to organizers, the global contest will become an annual event with the aim of encouraging haiku composition in a “new, creative and playful way.”

Says contest organizer and WHC chairman Susumi Takiguchi, “Taking a serious approach to haiku is of course beneficial, but sometimes we must remind ourself that haiku is, after all, for enjoyment.”

Even so, contestants are likely to be taking the tournament very seriously. Competitors are divided into four teams of seven members, unlike the two-way face-off characteristic of traditional Japanese poetry competitions. Each team has elected its captain, whose duties include posting team entries on the competition’s Web site.

The preliminary stage of the contest got underway Sunday, when each poet was asked to pen three haiku, one on each of two specified kigo (traditional haiku “seasonal” words) and one free-form. Each team was also asked to create a renku-maki (multi-authored linked poem) after a given hokku (first line).

This preliminary ends at midnight on April 25, by which time every team must submit its entries. Poems are to remain anonymous until voting has been completed.

The first elimination round for two out of the four teams begins at midday on April 27 and lasts just three hours. Again, teams will contribute haiku and renku works. Voting begins from 3 p.m. and the results will be announced at midnight. The second elimination round, for the remaining two teams, will be fought on May 25.

The two victors of the opening rounds will compete for the title in June. On June 1, three kigo will be announced and every team member must compose a poem on each kigo, in addition to one free-form haiku. The team must also conduct a renku session. These poems must be submitted by June 27; voting begins on June 29. The winner will be declared on June 30.

The panel of seven judges includes three non-WHC poets: Janice Bostock (Australia), George Swede (Canada) and Michael McClintock (U.S.). They are joined by four WHC judges: Ferris Gilli (Chief Judge, U.S.), Yasuomi Koganei (Japan), Paul MacNeil (U.S.) and Susumu Tackiguchi (Japan).

WHC prizes will be awarded to the winning team. The Japan Times will present awards to the authors of the three best individual poems and to the team responsible for the best renku. Seven honorable mentions will be chosen by popular vote.

Those wishing to be a “spectator” must subscribe to the tournament user-group in order to access the posted entries and view the competition proceedings. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail message to by April 25. The Japan Times will also be carrying reports on the progress of the contest.

“Last time [following the Mock-Haiku Tournament], so many people commented afterward how much they enjoyed being able to learn haiku through having fun,” says Takiguchi.

For this contest, the chief judge, WHC director and WHC chairman will offer their comments on the results. Following that, says Tackiguchi, “We hope that all participants will post comments and congratulations.”