jim kacian | country mouse

18 09 2009

PoetryDispatch No. 294 | September 18, 2009

Jim Kacian

Dogs and frogs and cats and mice and bugs and birds…
God bless the creatures all (country cousins, city slickers) the way our poets do, holding them in the light of words for all to see.

After recently posting Charles Simic’s “The Toad”…I was brought to attention by Jim Kacian’s “Country Mouse”, and its “hour upon the stage.” Applause, applause… —Norbert Blei

Country Mouse

I’m just a simple poet
bum, live in the sticks,
grow my own
spinach, but each year
I make my pilgrimage
to the Big Apple,
to ease the tedium.
Just one night
on the town
and I’m suddenly
urban. All subways lead
to Greenwich
where I sweat and shout
poems from a make-shift
stage that slide
through the night’s throat
like bourbon.

[Source: from a small collection called “Chants of a Lifetime”, published in the author’s early years, privately printed and op]

James Michael Kacian, an American haiku poet, editor, publisher, and public speaker was born on July 26, 1953, in Worcester, Massachusetts, then adopted and raised in Gardner, Massachusetts. He has lived in London, Nashville, Bridgton (Maine) and now resides in Winchester, Virginia. Kacian wrote his first mainstream poems in his teens, and published them in small poetry magazines beginning in 1970. He also wrote, recorded, and sold songs during his time in Nashville in the 1980s. Upon his return to Virginia in 1985 he discovered English-language haiku, for which he is best known.

In 1993, he founded Red Moon Press, and in the same year began editing the haiku journal South by Southeast. Kacian’s Red Moon Press is the largest publisher of haiku and haiku-related books outside Japan, with a current catalog of over 60 titles in print, and producing some dozen titles a year, including 12 years of the award-winning annual Red Moon Anthology. This was followed in 1998 with the editorship of Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America.

Having proposed a new global haiku association in 1999, Kacian co-founded the World Haiku Association with Ban’ya Natsuishi and Dimitar Anakiev. In September of 2000 the WHA held its inaugural conference in Tolmin, Slovenia. From August to November of 2000, Kacian traveled to nine countries — the UK, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan promoting a global haiku. Having invited haiku poets from around the world to submit their haiku to Frogpond, Kacian compiled and edited 2001’s XXIV:1 issue, featuring haiku from 24 countries.

In late 2008 Kacian formed and created The Haiku Foundation, a non-profit organization which focuses on archiving English-language haiku’s first century while expanding its second, with an official start-date of January 6, 2009.

Poetry collections

Kacian has written fourteen books of poetry, twelve of which are dedicated to haiku or haiku-related genres. His poems have been translated into many languages.

clouds seen
through clouds
seen through

(along with 29 other chosen haiku) is etched in a stone along the Katikati Haiku Pathway beside the Uretara Stream in New Zealand. (Poems were selected by the Katikati Haiku Pathway Focus Committee, New Zealand Poetry Society, and Catherine Mair).

His essays have been cited in such works as:

  • * “Rowland, Philip (Autumn 2008). “From Haiku to the Short Poem: Bridging the divide”. Modern Haiku 39(3), pp.23-45 ISSN 0026-7821
  • * Yovu, Peter (Winter 2008). “Do Something Different”. Frogpond XXXI, pp.51-61 ISSN 8755-156X

Kacian’s efforts on behalf of global haiku have been featured in:

  • * Global Haiku and the work of Jim Kacian (Richard Gilbert, 2003)

And 30 of his selected haiku are featured at:

  • * Mann Library’s Daily Haiku

with an additional 17 personally selected in December, 2008 at:

  • * Jim Kacian — Essays & Selected Haiku

Kacian’s work has also been anthologized in, among others:

  • * The Haiku Anthology, 3rd ed. (Cor van den Heuvel) Norton, 1999 ISBN 0-393-04743-1
  • * Haiku Moment (ed. Bruce Ross) Tuttle, 1993 ISBN 0 8048 1820 7
  • * Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac (ed. William J. Higginson)
  • * The New Haiku (eds. John Barlow & Martin Lucas)
  • * Haiku Mind (ed. Patricia Donegan)
  • * Journey to the Interior: American Versions of Haibun (ed. Bruce Ross)
  • * How to Haiku (Bruce Ross)
  • * Haiku: A Poet’s Guide (Lee Gurga)
  • * Baseball Haiku (ed. Cor van den Heuvel)
  • * Haiku: Poetry Ancient & Modern (ed. Jackie Hardy) (also German and French editions)
  • * Haiku International Anthology (ed. Ban’ya Natsuishi) http://www.terebess.com
  • * Poems of Consciousness (Richard Gilbert) Red Moon Press 2008 ISBN 978-1893959729

His poem,

my fingerprints
on the dragonfly
in amber

serves as the departure point for Richard Gilbert’s monograph on contemporary haiku technique, The Disjunctive Dragonfly, defining innovative techniques in English-language haiku.


Kacian has edited several English language haiku books and journals, including:

  • * A New Resonance: Emerging Voices in English-language Haiku (series), 1999-present
  • * Contemporary Haibun (series), 1999-present
  • * Red Moon Anthology of English-language Haiku (series), 1996-present
  • * Frogpond, the Journal of the Haiku Society of America, from 1998 to 2004.
  • * Dozen Tongues (series) (vols. 1 & 2), 2000-2001
  • * Knots: The Anthology of Southeast European Haiku Poetry (with Dimitar Anakiev), 1999
  • * South by Southeast from 1993 to 1998.


As a poet. Kacian’s haiku have won or placed in many national and international haiku competitions in English (and occasionally other languages as well), including:

  • * The Kusamakura International Haiku Competition (Japan, 2008)
  • * The Winter Moon International Haiku Competition (2008)
  • * The Cascina Macondo Concorso Internazionale de Poesia Haiku in Lingua Italiana 5th Edizione (Italy, 2007)
  • * The 17th Ito-En Haiku Competition Judge’s Award (Japan, 2007)
  • * The Hawai’i Education Association Haiku Competition (2007)
  • * The Harold G. Henderson Haiku Competition Prize (Haiku Society of America) (2005)
  • * The British Haiku Society James W. Hackett International Haiku Award (2001)
  • * Betty Drevniok (Haiku Canada (2000, 2001, 2002, 2008)

Individual collection awards

The books listed below have won The Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards for outstanding achievement in the genre.

  • * Long After
  • * Presents of Mind
  • * Six Directions: Haiku and Field Notes
  • * Border Lands

As a publisher

Kacian’s work as publisher has also been highly recognized:

  • In 1996 his production of John Elsberg’s A Week in the Lake District was a finalist for Virginia Poetry Book of the Year (Virginia State Library).
  • In August 2000, Knots — The Anthology of Southeastern European Haiku Poetry (1999), which Kacian co-edited with Dimitar Anakiev, won second place in the World Haiku Achievement Competition.
  • In October 2008 he won the Ginyu Award for Outstanding Contribution to World Haiku (Ginyu issue 40, pp. 13-15)

Publication credits

Kacian’s poems, articles, and book reviews have appeared internationally in journals, magazines, and newspapers such as:

  • * Frogpond
  • * The Heron’s Nest
  • * Ant Ant Ant Ant Ant
  • * Simply Haiku
  • * Modern Haiku
  • * The Haiku Canada Newsletter
  • * Acorn


Kacian has read in many parts of the world, including international poetry festivals in New York, New Orleans, London, Oxford, Belgrade, Vilanice, Ohrid, Skopje, Sofia, Sydney, Hobart, Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland, Tokyo, Tenri, Kyoto, Kumamoto, Los Angeles, Toronto and Washington D.C. Some of his speeches are listed below:

  • * “So:Ba” given at the International Haiku Conference (SUNY Plattsburgh, NY, July 2008); published serially in Frogpond XXXI:3 2008 p.73 (part one) ISSN 1089-9421, and forthcoming.
  • * “Bridges” given at the Haiku North America International Conference (Winston-Salem, NC, August 2007); published as “The Haiku Hierarchy,” Modern Haiku 39(1), Spring 2008, ISSN 0026-7821.
  • * “State of the Art: Haiku in North America 2007” Second European Haiku Conference (Vadstena, Sweden, June 2007).
  • * “Dag Hammarskjöld: Haiku Poet and Photographer” (New York, New York, January 2006 — book release of A String Untouched).
  • * Welcome Address (Sofia, Bulgaria, May 2005 — World Haiku Association Conference).
  • * Welcome Address (Tokyo, Japan, October 2003 — World Haiku Association Conference)
  • * “Around the World as Briefly as Possible”, Pacific Rim Haiku Conference (November 2002, Los Angeles, California) published in Connecticut Review XXVII:2, Fall 2005 ISSN 00106216.
  • * “Looking and Seeing: How Haiga Works” given at the Haiku Society of American National Meeting, September 2002; published in Simply Haiku 2:5 (Autumn 2004); reprinted in The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2004 (Red Moon Press), pp. 126-153.


  • * “Tapping the Common Well” (foreword) in Knots: The Anthology of Southeastern European Haiku Poetry Red Moon Press, 1999. ISBN 978-9619071502.
  • * “Beyond Kigo — In Due Season” in Acorn Supplement #1 (2000) ISSN 1521-138X.
  • * “Van Gogh’s Shoes” in Valley Voices 8:1 ISSN 1553-7668.
  • * Renga-Daddy: A Kasen Renga between Basho, Boncho, Kyorai and Shiho in the manner of Tristan Tzara based on “The First Winter Rain” from The Monkey’s Straw Raincoat in commemoration of the 300th Anniversary of Basho’s Death; Frogpond XIX:1 ISSN.


His advocacy, along with that of such poets as Marlene Mountain and Janice Bostok, of single-line haiku in English has initiated renewed interest in this form following its rare usage during the 20th century. His work also champions several innovative techniques (as cited by Richard Gilbert in The Disjunctive Dragonfly and in his book Poems of Consciousness). Kacian’s own critical writings elaborate some of these aesthetic innovations.


  • * The White Lotus Interview with Marie Summers – White Lotus #3 (Summer/Fall 2006) ISSN1556-3987.
  • * The Cascina Macondo Interview with Alessandra Gallo (issue number 13 of Writers Magazine Italia).

Electronic media

  • * Presents of Mind CD (haiku: Jim Kacian, Shakuhachi: Jeff Cairns, Japanese reader: Takke Kanemitsu) (2006).
  • * Around the World as Briefly as Possible CD (2003).



  • * Presents of Mind (Katsura Press, 1996) ISBN 0-9638551-8-2
  • * Chincoteague (Amelia Press, 1996) No ISBN
  • * Six Directions: Haiku and Field Notes (La Alameda Press, 1997) ISBN 0-9631909-4-6
  • * In Concert (Saki Press, 1999) ISBN 1-893823-07-5
  • * Second Spring (Red Moon Press, 2001) ISBN 1-893959-21-X
  • * Iz Kamna (Drustvo Apokalipsa, 2001) ISBN 961-6314-18-1
  • * dead reckoning (Red Moon Press, 2005) ISBN 1-893959-52-X
  • * How to Haiku (Red Moon Press, (online version only) 2006) No ISBN
  • * border lands (Red Moon Press, 2006 ISBN 1-893959-58-9)
  • * Presents of Mind (Red Moon Press, (second edition, bilingual) 2006) ISBN 1-893959-59-7
  • * orbis tertius (Red Moon Press, 2007) ISBN 978-1-893959-66-8
  • * long after (Albalibri Editore, Rosignano Marittimo: Italy (trilingual), 2008) ISBN 978-8889618585




2 responses

20 09 2009
Ed Markowski

one of the biggest problems haikuists face in their yearning to have haiku recognized by the larger literary world as “poems / poetry,” is the reluctance / refusal of its most talented practitioners to present haiku to literary journals & audiences that exist beyond planet haiku.

alot of the “publishing” that occurs in the haiku world is the product of a buddy system that after one’s name is established is nothing more than a slight variation on vanity publishing. friends publish friends, friends declare friends winners of the various haiku contests based on name recognition rather than the quality of the writing.

haiku needs its most talented practitioners to take the poems (?) to venues and audiences beyond the usual circuit. creating new haiku organizations (the foundation, the who, the hsa) only serves to further segregate haiku from the larger literary world.

i’m not aware of a short story society of america, or a free verse socirty of canada, or a limerick society of the galaxy though i think there’s a society of people who write star trek stories.

when haiku’s most talented practitioners (like jim k) summon the courage to take their art to the world at large, then they’ll be able to say they’re something more than big fish in a very, very small pond.

i’ve posed these questions to the self promoting pillars of haiku & have been met with silence.

your posts highlighting jeff winke, kacian & others have done more to promote haiku & haikai writing than organizations like the haiku foundation will ever do because the haiku organizations sing to the choir & no one else.

excellent writers like jim really need to send the message beyond the province, otherwise haiku will continue to be viewed as nothing more than parlor game poetry

i choose a souvenier shot glass
from niagara falls

6 10 2009
jim kacian

thanks again, norb, for publishing my poem on your site, and for provoking ed’s comments, to which i’d like to respond (would have earlier but i’ve just fried my hard disk and am limping back to “normal” slowly)

i agree with ed that in my experience most haiku poets have little truck with “mainstream” poetry, and that this is a problem for them, as poets, and for haiku in general add to this that most don’t care and it is apparent that to many, haiku is something other than poetry i think we should not be concerned with these people in this discussion: if haiku is something other than poetry, then there’s no point in bringing haiku sensibility to bear on it

but if haiku is poetry, then its relationship to the rest of poetry is a matter for consideration i would agree with ed that haiku needs to be taken outside of its own small world to realize its potential as world poetry

on the other hand:

i don’t know of a short story society of america either, but short stories have something better that haiku does not have: acceptance in the literary world even if the short story is only the red-headed stepchild of the profitable novel, it is still recognized as a worthy, even commercial, pursuit by the major publishers (whatever that may even mean any more) if i could submit haiku to the new yorker on the basis of literary merit (not as a spoof, parody, or oddment) and have the possibility of acceptance, i would not see the need for a haiku society of america either but this is not the case: i know from years of personal experience

i can’t speak to the notion that haiku organizations further segregate haiku from other literary pursuits: it’s possibly true, and it’s possibly not true. or even some of both but i can say that i see value in the purpose of at least one such organization (not surprisingly, it’s the one i founded) i think that until there is acceptance of haiku as literature, then haiku needs to keep track of itself, since nobody else in the literary enterprise is going to do so we don’t need to worry about whether robert frost’s poems are going to be preserved: there are variorum editions, complete editions, selected editions, annotated editions, etc. but unless haiku takes care of john wills’ work, for instance, it might well be lost since i feel wills’ haiku is a contribution to literature, we would all be the less in this case one of the purposes of the haiku foundation is to make certain that haiku takes care of its own until there might be such time as it’s unnecessary another of its purposes is just what ed would have us do: seek a closer relationship with the larger literary enterprise we’ll do this through the creation of an academic journal, considerations of poems that are haiku-like (and haiku that is more akin to other kinds of poetry), and by making available the biographical materials of poets who have essayed work on more than one side of this fence there have been others besides myself and jeff winke, of course, who have written poetry and other forms in addition to haiku, and it will serve haiku well to know about them, and what they achieved in both realms

perhaps haiku organizations do sing to the choir, but in the future reckoning of haiku as a significant literary genre, there will be many who will not know what haiku is and has been the haiku foundation will be there to help create some of the discussion and offer some of the context and it will have the resources to substantiate that new assessment those seeking information will certainly not be the choir at that point

norb’s featuring of jeff’s and my work here has helped our visibility, and perhaps indirectly raises the visibility of haiku as well
whether more than organizations have done: hard to say but i’m grateful, in any case, for the opportunity

thanks for your comments, ed


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