Through the years at Haigaonline we have been choosing our issue themes largely from the saijiki and haiku topic lists. As editor I’ve been immensely pleased at the breadth and depth of thought that has gone into the submissions. Beginning with the current, Autumn 2019 issue, however, we've changed the approach slightly and are working with broader themes.
As you’re probably aware, I’m an Art teacher, which means that whenever I’m not online posting, responding and connecting with other haiku poets, I’m online posting and responding in a lively exchange of idea with my network of Art Education colleagues. One of the things we’re talking about these days is reorganizing the curriculum around themes rather than discreet projects, so that students learn to make personal connections and deepen their thinking.
A favorite source for some of my colleagues is educator Ernest Boyer (1928-95). Born in Ohio, Boyer studied at colleges in Illinois and Pennsylvania, then earned his master's and doctoral degrees in speech pathology and audiology at the University of Southern California in the 1950s. After a stint as professor of speech pathology and audiology at Upland College in California, he moved into administration and teacher training. In 1965 he moved to the new State University of New York (SUNY) system, where he eventually became chancellor of the state system and pioneered experimental programs in arts and equal opportunities. In 1977 was named US Commissioner of Education by President Jimmy Carter, and two years later was named president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Decades later, his influence on American education continues.
Central to Boyer's thought on education and curriculum was a list he developed of “human commonalities”: shared experiences that define what it means to be human on this planet.
Numbers 2, 3 and 7 should immediately feel familiar to us as writers and artists of haiku and haiga, as they are embedded in the forms we practice. My thoughts over the next few issues of Haigaonline are to move through the others on the list, exploring them as themes for the Challenge and the issue as a whole. We'e begun with this issue with "Life Cycles."
Now, as a renku writer, I've learned to be wary of themes that impose limits on a poem to be "about" something. Haiku too is all the better for the range of experiences and resonances that each reader brings to it. But Boyer's human commonalities are fully consistent with haiku aesthetic. Throughout this issue you'll see how wide-ranging the responses have been. Moreover, the "Life Cycles" theme does not dictate how each haiga should be read; rather, it offers the reader a frame that can draw out deeper meaning. In planning the theme for our next issue, I've also realized that the commonalities also open into each other. It's been fascinating to imagine how differently some of these Life Cycle haiga would read if they were submitted to, say, our next issue on Time and Space.
So I hope you'll join us inour adventure over the next several issues as we venture beyond themed issues based on kigo and topic. As for "Life Cycles," when I first selected it, the associations it triggered were to the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus and the Riddle of the Sphinx: What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening? We are still a journal devoted to poetic forms that are Japanese in origin, so of course I went looking for art and old master haikuthat reflect the theme. The graphics I've chosen for the issue are from prints of children at play by Issa's younger contemporary, Utagawa Kuniyoshi. As for haiku, a search through David Lanoue's translations of Kobsysdhi Issa did not disappoint. Here are a few that reflect the riddle as well as Boyer's first commonality. For me, that fourth one was particularly meaningful to me—my Scottish grandfather loved walking sticks—so it has named the issue.
Many thanks to everyone who supported this issue with contributions of art and poetry Many, many thanks also to our resident staff who have given so much over the years. You'll find information about our next issue's theme and Challenge on our Submissions page.