The term "Non-native species" conjures an image of disruptive, invasive plants or animals that have been introduced to an environment where the absence of natural predators allows the interlopers to spread aggressively, overwhelming native species: Norway maples or gypsy moth in the Northeastern US, eucalyptus and ice plant here in California. In the wake of human migrations, as people bring their agriculture with them food and medicinal culture with them to new homes, seeds blow away, animals escape. Some invasives have come as stowaways or accidental, and some have been from attempts gone wrong to control other invasives.
Still, the situation is more complex than native species=good, introduced species=bad. In the artist statement for her portfolio, Adelaide has noted that whether imported or native, many plants or animals have the potential to be invasive if unchecked. Introduced species can provide opportunities for enterprising natives, and that too can alter population numbers. What would the world look like without our interference in the natural balance of things? From the colonial periods from the colonial settlements through the nineteenth century Romantics, writers and artists pictured the North American continent as a wilderness rolling away from the edge of human settlement, Modern studies, however, show that native populations were much larger prior to the arrival of Europeans and their diseases, and that it was a managed landscape.
I began haiku with the common misperception of haiku as a nature poem. Not exactly true, of course—haiku is a poetry of seasons, viewed through the gaze of human experience. The animal and plant categories of the saijiki include wild and domestic species, many originally from China or elsewhere but now part of the fabric of life. A lesson I take from this is that "native" vs "imported" may be less important than how a species behaves in its habitat. What we want is the preservation of diversity, not some primeval stasis that never existed anyway.
Having chosen the Challenge theme, picking a theme for the whole issue was difficult--until I settled on the common dandelion. Native to Eurasia with a fossil record in the Ice Age, they were known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and China for their diverse medicinal benefits. They came to North America with the colonists and by now are everywhere in the world where plants will grow. They seed prolifically yet have light ecological impact—unless you're fussy about your perfect lawn. Don't we all have childhood memories of those shaggy, bright flowers and their sticky stems?
Haruo Shirane has referenced dandelions (tanpopo) among the non-classical Spring season words introduced to by writers in the 17th century. Shiki's advice to a young poet, "If you see dandelions, sing of dandelions" (tr. Makoto Ueda) speaks to this association with daily experience rather than classical poetizing. From the 19th and 20th centuries, citations focus on its seed head:
For the actual title of the issue, I've taken from Yoshiaki Shimizu's version of an account by Issa about the drowning death of a child:
Once again, many special thanks to everyone who has contributed their poetry and art to this issue, as well as to all our readers whose continued support makes Haigaonline a wonderful experience for me as well. As it happens, I'm writing this introduction on April 22, so Happy Earth Day, everyone!
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