Haiku in Australia - perspectives on its history. The Australian Haiku Society has requested two leading haijin, Janice M Bostok and John Bird, to contribute major segments for this compilation. We envisage also gathering perspectives from others with an overview of the movement and activities to submit papers and that the text will be woven into a cohesive whole by a professional historian. Please post a hard copy of your outline for contribution in the first instance to B George PO Box 37 Pearl Beach 2256.

October 19, 2014


In the late 1980”s Martina Taeker began giving workshops and classes in writing haiku. Martina had lived in Japan and published her work in a number of Japanese haiku group journals and Yomiyuri, so she had a good understanding of the essence of haiku and the requirements for writing this genre. On her return to Australia, she published work in Australian specialist journals such as Yellow Moon.
Martina has continued to give such workshops, on request, to this date and to publish her haiku in Australia and internationally.
Martina’s workshops appear to have been the only haiku instruction or activity available in SA until 2008, although a few individuals, who had come to writing haiku by other pathways, such as information and forums on the Internet, were composing haiku and publishing in journals such as Yellow Moon, paper wasp and FreeXpression.
Such South Australian poets included, from at least 2002: Martina Taeker, Alma Thorsteinsen of Mt Gambier and Anne Drew of Whyalla, Lynette Arden, Bett Angel-Stawarz and Belinda Broughton.


September 04, 2013

Breaking the Haiku Mould, or Breeding to a Bloodline

The article below by Janice M. Bostok first appeared on It relates her experiences with discovering and developing haiku as a pioneer of the form in Australia. (Lyn Reeves)

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October 03, 2011

Bushfires in Victoria: February 2009

In 2009, members of the Australian Haiku Society were greatly moved by the suffering of those affected by the terrible bushfires in Victoria, Australia. Beverley George, then President of the Society, wrote at the time:

“I feel certain I speak on behalf of everyone who comes to this web-site, when I send our deepest regrets to those who have suffered most in these tragic fires in Victoria: the people who have lost the people they love, their homes, their neighbourhood, their way of life, their landscape and livestock, and their pets.

May each of you, victim or helper, who has witnessed the loss of human and animal life, and of habitat, under merciless and unexpected circumstance, be granted healing in due course.

Special thoughts to those people, rendered powerless, who still wait to hear the fate of loved ones. Our hearts are with you.”

While all Australians struggled for words to convey their dismay at the suffering caused by the devastating bushfires, many poets tried to share their feelings in haiku which were posted on the HaikuOz web site as a tribute to the victims of the bushfires. Those haiku are recorded below:

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September 11, 2011

Janice Tribute: Jacqui Murray

Jan had a special relationship with Wollumbin/Mount Warning which dominates the Northern Rivers landscape of NSW, the country in which Jan was born and spent most of her life. Her connection to the mountain was profound. In feisty middle age Jan drew herself as the mountain. Mountain as naked woman. Her sketch and accompanying haiku appeared in the first (summer 1994) edition of paper wasp of which Jan was a foundation member and editor.

Late in life, when Jan moved from her beloved Dungay farm, she chose her last home with care. She could not, she explained, live anywhere where she could not see ‘her’ mountain. As with the first people of this land, Jan believed that the mountain was not only her totem, it was her strength and source of energy. I never look at Wollumbin without thinking of Jan.

above the dark earth
Wollumbin’s dawn light

Jacqui Murray

September 09, 2011

Janice M. Bostok Tribute: John Bird

Over the past 15 years I was privileged to work with Janice on many haiku activities including the international promotion of her work. As a tribute I offer this summary paragraph taken from my nomination of her in 2003 for the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prize.


Let me summarise Janice M. Bostok’s involvement in writing haiku and in her promotion of haiku in English within Australia.

Having contributed significantly to the world-wide development of haiku, she pioneered haiku in Australia and, to this day, she continues to be the driving force behind its outstanding progress, both in volume and quality, and its acceptance in literary circles and the broad community. Without her, neither the First Australian Haiku Anthology nor the Australian Haiku Society would exist. She is the inspirational leader of haiku on this continent.


I am proud to nominate her for the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prize.

John Bird”

September 07, 2011

Memorial Page for Janice M. Bostok

This news really shakes me up. I am so sad to hear this. For me, Janice occupied
a very special place. --Michael McClintock

She was a fine poet who gave much to the haiku community in Australia--and around the world. The haiku community will miss her. Rest in peace, Jan. –Penny Harter

Her poems were threaded with empathy, a sense of discovery, insight and joy. She was an enriching spirit, and we shall greatly miss her. –Katherine Gallagher

The haiku community has lost one of its own. – Norma Watts, Cloudcatchers

She leaves us with a wealth of poetry. Thank you, Janice. - Carole MacRury

Janice gave me a great teaching and belief in myself. – Richard Rowland

What a legacy she has left us. – Jo Tregellis

She will be sorely missed. – Leigh Rees

spring morning ...
the wonga pigeon
limp in my hands

Nathalie Buckland

spring morning
a case moth has burst
from the silk

Jo McInerney

illuminating the dark clouds tonight’s moon

Sandra Simpson

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In Memoriam Reflection by Lorin Ford

Vale Janice M. Bostok

After reading the sad news that Jan Bostok had passed away, I sat down and reflected on the strange but true story of how we didn’t meet back in the early 60s. This story came to light not long before the Second Australian Haiku Anthology went to press. Jan, with an uncanny perspicacity, had noted ‘something American’ about my haiku. This, she later told me, was because her own haiku beginnings had been encouraged by American haiku writers such as Marlene Mountain and Bill Higginson and she’d recognized something of a common style, but at the time I wrote back giving the details of where I was born and where I’d lived, hoping to prove I really was Australian and my work would be considered for the anthology.

Jan wrote back, “The hair on my neck is standing on end! Did you know my husband, Silvester?”

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September 06, 2011

Janice Bostok Tribute: Beverley George

Since news of Janice’s passing, I have sifted through her poetry and sumi-e, but it is the stories of her life recounted in conversations, and sometimes in the afterwords of her books, that have most possessed my mind. Hers was an indomitable, independent spirit, balanced by an almost surprising gentleness. I remain grateful to her for years of support in her role as senior adviser for haiku and related genres in Yellow Moon, and for her friendship.

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Janice M Bostok: biographer Sharon Dean

Janice M Bostok’s contribution to the development of Australian haiku is immense. After learning about the genre from an American pen friend in the late 1960s, Jan created the first market for haiku in Australia by founding the journal Tweed. In the 1990s she wrote “The Gum Tree Conversations”, the first series of articles to demonstrate the relevance of haiku to the Australian experience and landscape. Embracing the internet in 1999, Jan then co-edited the First Australian Haiku Anthology with fellow haiku writer John Bird, which led in 2000 to the founding of the Australian Haiku Society (Haiku Oz), and then in 2006 to the publication of the Second Australian Haiku Anthology.

In a haiku career that spanned more than forty years, Jan had sixteen collections of haiku-related work published. Meanwhile, more than four thousand of her individual haiku appeared in journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas, with many featuring in unconventional places, having been carved by invitation onto rocks in New Zealand, programmed into computer games in America, and printed on the labels of green tea bottles in Japan. Her work also won numerous awards, including a Haiku Society of America Book Award in 1974 for outstanding achievement in the field of haiku publication, as well as the prize of which she was most proud: first place in the UK’s Seashell Game for most popular haiku published in English in 2002.

Jan’s work has been translated into several languages, including Japanese. In 1999, Hiroaki Sato, the Japanese poet, translator and past president of the American Haiku Society, cited thirty of Jan’s one-line haiku in his essay “The Agonies of Translation”, while the Japanese artist Takejiro Nojima was so inspired by Jan’s haiku that he rendered a selection in calligraphy, several examples of which are now held in a collection at the Tweed River Regional Art Gallery.

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September 11, 2010

Haiku in Australia 2010

Now seems like a good time to report briefly on the state of haiku in Australia. There is much to say that is positive.

The Australian Haiku Society (HaikuOz) is web-based and made up of many components. Its leadership comprises a patron, president, secretary, web manager and a small committee. Most input to the site comes from the leaders of the various small Australian haiku groups and from outside sources who send news of publication and competition opportunities.

Haiku groups
As in Japan, small groups are at the heart and soul of Australian haiku writing. These are poems of observation, so it is fitting the groups are regionally based, allowing members to share urban or rural landscape.

These groups include Cloudcatchers (Northern NSW, led by Quendryth Young); Bindii Haiku Group (Adelaide, led by Lynette Arden); Mari Warabiny (Perth, led by Maureeen Sexton) Red Dragonflies (Sydney, led by Vanessa Proctor); Watersmeet (Hobart, led by Lyn Reeves) and Ozku (Sydney, led by Dawn Bruce.) The ‘paper wasp’ group (Brisbane led by Katherine Samuelowicz) is currently not meeting regularly but it is hoped that this will resume soon. It is not unusual for groups to go a little quiet and then reinvent themselves.
In Melbourne, Myron Lysenko conducts haiku walks ‘Ginko with Lysenko’ four times a year.

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August 21, 2010

the 4th Haiku Pacific Rim Conference Terrigal, September 2009

A report of the 4th Haiku Pacific Rim Conference for Five Bells Vol 17 Nos 1&2, 2010 by convenor, Beverley George

together . . .
the way wind moves
over water
Vanessa Proctor

One of the features that distinguishes haiku from some other poetic genres is its sociable nature, which often includes the sharing of its creation, and interactive linking. Originally the starting verse (hokku) of renga, a writing game, established time, place and season. This opening poem was given individual status by Bashō in the 17th century and renamed haiku by Shiki and friends around 1900. Haiku are often written on a communal walk (ginko) and pasted up for anonymous peer-judging (kukai).

Describing haiku, John Bird wrote recently:
‘A haiku is a brief poem, built on sensory images from the environment. It evokes an insight into our world and its peoples.’

Most of the 57 full-time delegates of the 4th Haiku Pacific Rim Conference poets who gathered at The Clan Lakeside, Terrigal, on the 22nd September for the welcome night, knew each other by name and reputation, but had not met in person. They included the founder of the first Haiku Pacific Rim conference at Long Beach, California, Mr Jerry Ball, the convenor of the second at Ogaki, Japan, Yoshimura Ikuyo, and the convenor of the third at Matsuyama, Japan, Noma Minako. The 4th Haiku Pacific Rim Conference was the first international conference in Australia to celebrate this diminutive genre.

Registration had been prepaid, so on arrival at the welcome function the delegates had only to pick up their name badges, each of which had one of their own signature haiku on it thanks to David Terelinck, and start mingling. The hubbub was instantaneous, and further complemented by two Australian singers, known as That’s That, who had not only written a song especially for the conference, titled Wind over Water, but who generously gave a CD copy to each delegate.

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August 18, 2010

Black Swans and Gymea Lilies: an Australian haiku?

This article was first published in Five Bells: Australian Poetry, Summer 2006
Haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry, is becoming increasingly popular in the West. English-language haiku has been described as ‘one of today’s most exciting literary developments.’

To mention haiku is to elicit one of two responses among those who are not current readers or writers of the form. Either they have never heard of it, or they remember it (and may even teach or study it) as a three-line Japanese poem, consisting of seventeen syllables and having something to do with nature. While this description may suit past translations and attempts at writing haiku in English, many changes have taken place, not only in the way we write haiku, but also in our understanding of the genre.

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August 14, 2010

First Australian Haiku Anthology

This is available at


July 07, 2008

Haiku in the Bulletin, 1899

Flannel-flow’rs dancing
To the dawn on the hill-tops...
The Vision of Spring!

Is this the first prize-winning haiku published in an Australian journal or newspaper? It appeared over the name ‘R. Crawford’ in the Bulletin’s famous Red Page on 12 August 1899 along with 13 other haiku and two haiku sequences. Crawford and his fellow poets were responding to an invitation, extended by A. G. Stephens (aka The Bookfellow), to submit ‘some haikais, which must have an Australasian reference’. Stephens offered 10s. 6d.—roughly the equivalent of a day’s wage—for the best entry received.

Stephens’ interest in the haiku form was piqued by a similar competition run in the British journal Academy and Literature. Both competitions probably stemmed from the publication in England of W. G. Aston’s History of Japanese Literature.

Who responded to The Bookfellow’s invitation? With his usual flourish, Stephens writes: ‘the lists were filled with competitors for the haikai prize—knights and dames; but none showed remarkable prowess’. Stephens had explained to his readers that haiku consisted of ‘three unrhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables’. He provided three examples that had been published in the English competition and (probably quoting the Academy) said that the haiku’s style is ‘light and fresh, a swift, fugitive impression more often than not ending with a surprise’. (Bulletin, 8 July 1899)

But Stephens was disappointed with the quality of entries. ‘Some attempts too closely imitated the models; others were poetical, but unmelodious; a third class were melodious and unpoetical. It does not seem clear that the form is well suited to English ... But they say the haikai is residuum of a long series of experiments; and genius could no doubt do wonders with it. Local talent has only produced tiny portents’. (Bulletin, 12 August 1899) Despite some misgivings, Stephens awarded the prize money to Crawford’s ‘Flannel-flow’rs’ entry, declaring: ‘his third line could be intensified’.

‘R. Crawford’ was Robert Crawford, a Sydney-born poet educated at The King’s School and The University of Sydney. Crawford included his ‘Flannel-flow’rs’ haiku in his first volume of poetry, Lyric Moods: Various Verses (1904) and in the expanded collection Lyric Moods (1909). In 1921 he published Leafy Bliss, a collection he revised and enlarged in 1924. Again, his prize-winning haiku is included—but with a change to the first line. Crawford discarded the dancing flannel flowers from his Bulletin entry and changed the first five syllables to read: ‘Daffodils dancing’.

Stephens’ required ‘Australasian reference’ had disappeared and what is possibly the first Australian haiku lost its distinctive Antipodean note.

Tessa Wooldridge
July 2008

Perspectives on History - Haiku History 1980 -

Haiku in Australia was in the doldrums for quite a time after Janice M Bostok’s pioneering work. By the late 1980s only a few isolated poets were still engaged with haiku. All that began to change in 1988 – the year of World Expo 88 in Brisbane. The impetus came directly from Japan when Japan Airlines (JAL) decided to be a major sponsor of the Japan pavilion by sponsoring a haiku contest for children and other associated activities. This followed other successes in America and Canada.

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