Where has the year gone? It is the winter solstice and time again for a new issue of Haigaonline, the oldest established internet journal devoted to the art of haiga.
At this point, new readers may be asking, "What's a haiga?" Returning readers may be thinking "Well, I know it when I see it, but what exactly IS a haiga, anyway?"
Traditionally, haiga is Japanese art form that includes two parts: a sumi-e (inkbrush) image, and a haiku hand-lettered on the same paper. The art lies in the relationship between the two. In a good haiga the painting is not simply an illustration of the poem, nor the poem merely a caption for the picture. Each should be able to stand on its own, yet in juxtaposition the two resonate to create a deeper more complex meaning than is there for either alone. The aesthetics of haiga lean toward a spare and simple visual presentation that may even seem unfinished against the expanse of white paper on which it is painted. This allows viewers to enter as participants, completing the meaning in their own minds.
While sumi-e is the traditional medium, the development of digital imagery and the Internet have let haiga expand into new realms. Drawings or paintings may be scanned and presented with little or no adjustment, or they may be manipulated in Photoshop or other software until the original is nearly unrecognizable. Photographs may be used as a starting point, or a purely digital image may be created from scratch. The haiku may be hand-lettered, scanned and pasted into the image, or applied using the software's font capability.
Once again we are pleased to bring you a treasure trove of haiga spanning these possibilities. Our specialty remains the Traditional section, featuring guest poets whom we have invited to submit their haiku and tanka. The haiga are created by our team of resident staff artisans. Mary Rodning paints the haiga; Hiromi Inoue translates the haiku into Japanese; Shisen adds the calligraphy; and our co-editor Jasminka puts on the finishing touches by assembling the image. Meanwhile, our resident musician Choshi is composing bamboo flute accompaniments, so that each web page blends old and new in a unique multimedia artistic experience.
Another tradition at Haigaonline is theming the issues. In keeping with the moods of the seasons, our spring/summer issue is all in color, the more the better, while the autumn/winter issue holds to a restricted palette—last year's was sepia, and the year before that was black and white.
This means a different look for each issue, and one thing I've quickly come to love about editing Haigaonline is designing the graphics. The color scheme must be interesting and creative, while still not interfering with the display of the haiga. Indeed, it must present all the haiga in a way that enhances them as much as possible.
We had called for black and white or monochrome haiga for the issue and I eagerly began working on it thinking that it would be black and white. Soon, however, I realized that while all of the submissions included black or white as an important design element, many of them were in color and could not be desaturated without violating the artist's intention.
True, they were seasonal colors—grayish blues, sea greens and wintery browns, with an occasional splash of red. The question was, if this is what we had, what should be done to pull it all together and keep to the Haigaonline tradition of an autumn/winter theme? I spent an afternoon curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and William Higginson's Haiku World: an International Poetry Almanac (Kodansha, 1996), looking for suitable kigo. As soon as I saw the entry for "Winter Harbor" (p. 253), the issue was born.
What I also love about editing Haigaonline is the chance to work with such creative and stimulating people. Once again, my thanks to the entire staff for your devotion to the journal. Special thanks also to Carol Raisfeld and Laryalee Fraser for helping to proofread, and to everyone who submitted to this issue for the pleasure we have all had in working with you. We hope that our readers will enjoy "Winter Harbor" as much as we enjoyed creating it. Please come back again and again.
the bell buoy