Table of Contents


Welcome to our Spring 2016 issue:"Azalea Blossom"

Practitioners of modern haiga may choose to draw or paint their images using traditional means, and then scan them for online presentation. They may choose to use a digital photograph, with or without artistic enhancement in Photoshop or another software package. Or they may choose to create a digital image from scratch using one or more of the many digital art apps that are now available. This issue of Haigaonline includes images in all of the above categories. But that's just half of it.

If any thing, it's the text that is more important. As Alexis Rotella once said to me, the haiku is what the haiga hangs on. Most often, of course, the text is a haiku, though the haiga sections in prominent haiku publications often include senryu, tanka, short haibun or other kinds of poems. What interests me is that using other kinds of poems—even tanka—link differently to images, in ways that can be successful on their own terms but are not, strictly speaking, haiga.

Sometimes you learn more about what something is by practicing what it isn't. I've been giving the past several issues of Haigaonline to investigating text/image interrelationships. If you've been following us, you'll have noticed the challenges and features devoted to concrete poems, found haiku and ekphrasis. In this issue we have more installments on the project, most notably Ron C. Moss's "Red Seal" series with its kanji graphics, and the Poem this Painting Challenge. In this context, we invite you to think about text/ image relationships in Susan Constable's and Llaesa North's collaborative photo haiga, in Anita Virgil's "Editor's Choice" pairing of a haiku by John Stevenson with photograph by Lisa Pitcher, and in Emily Romano's solo works. Does the process by which the haiga came into being color the reading?



Though I generally start jotting down ideas an issue ahead, this time, inspiration was slow in coming. Not till I had finished making most of the pages and set the computer aside did my thoughts turned to Mary's painting for the challenge: a tree-lined road with flowering shrubbery that bends upward toward a tiny white hip-roofed house with Greek Revival columns.

In real life it is Stewartfield, on the grounds of Spring Hill College in Mobile AL. The ante-bellum house is generally photographed in perspective view through the tunnel of southern live oaks and azaleas along the allée. Mary's birds-eye view has an imaginary quality and not surprisingly, several of the submissions spoke of journey, of childhood memories, or of home.


Knowing that azalea (躑躅, tsutsuji) is a kigo for late spring, I began to search for old master haiku with this season reference and indeed found wonderful examples by Buson, Issa and Shiki. Still, it was Basho's that seemed most to speak to the painting.

a lonely nun
in her straw-thatched hut—
white azaleas

(1690, tr. Gabi Greve)

In 1690 he also wrote "The Hut of the Phantom Dwelling", his famous haibun on age and the pleasures of solitude in a hut by Lake Biwa where he stayed from late spring into summer that year. Though Burton Watson's translation is more commonly cited, I'm also attracted to Donald Keene's which calls the it "the Unreal Dwelling". "It was the beginning of the fourth moon when I arrived, and the azaleas were still blossoming. Mountain wisteria hung on the pines. Cuckoos frequently few past, and there were visits from the swallows. . . "

"Yet isn't it true that there's no place that's not an unreal dwelling," he reasons, then closes with a haiku about a Japanese stone oak:

for now I'll rely
on the pasania tree:
summer grove


Not having read this haibun for several years, I've now renewed my acquaintance, and it colors how I read Mary's painting.

Azalea it shall be for the issue's theme.

As for graphics for the issue, I went web browsing for azalea-themed ukiyo-e and soon found examples by Utagawa Hiroshige (1866) and Kono Bairei (1900), and a teahouse in a pine forest with azaleas by Yoshida Hiroshi (1938), but the one I'll choose is by Katsushika Hokusai (1828), though it's actually satsumi, a later blooming azalea and mid-summer kigo. It's readily available at Wikimedia Commons, on the websites of museums with copies in their collections, and even on shopping sites such as Zazzle.

So, welcome to our "Azalea Blossoms" issue!

ONE FINAL NOTE: I'll be gone for much of the summer and we won't be doing our usual Gallery. See you for the fall issue, when we'll be unveiling a new long-term project and our Challenge will be "Comfort Food". Click on the left bar for instructions on submitting.

Linda Papanicolaou
editor