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Haiku Sanctuary as Anarchic Sanctuary

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  • Haiku Sanctuary as Anarchic Sanctuary

    Haiku Sanctuary: Anarchic Sanctuary, Community-building as World-Play and Self Publishing in the Post-Literate Age

    Since we first opened, there seem to be some lingering questions and misapprehension regarding the exact purpose the forums at Haiku Sanctuary serve and how best to utilize and navigate the spaces we have provided. I would like to discuss some of the ideas behind the creation of our little experiment and make some suggestions of how they might play out as the forum evolves. Consider this a tutorial and invitation, perhaps, on the principles behind Haiku Sanctuary and how best to approach the forums in order to help them reach their full potential.

    Looking back, Haiku Sanctuary seems to be a natural outgrowth of the ideas Richard Gilbert put forward in his book Poems As Consciousness. Many of the concepts that were explored during the process of his research, writing and the conversations we had while I was helping to edit the book have been “put into flesh” so to speak in this forum. Namely, the forum is an embodiment of our vision for creative community and publishing in the spirit of anarchic sanctuary. But what does that mean?

    There are three main points I want to cover that I think are crucial to understanding the vision we have for this space: anarchic sanctuary, community-building as world-play and self publishing in the post-literate age.

    The first, and perhaps most essential, is the idea of anarchic sanctuary. For me, the words “anarchic sanctuary” conjure a very specific sense of community that I’ve participated in directly and observed from a distance both online and in the real world. Prominent anarchist and writer Alan Moore, explained his views on the word anarchy as follows:
    “Anarchy, meaning simply ‘no leaders’, to me implies a situation in which everyone must take responsibility for their own actions and, therefore, serve as their own leaders. In such a state, inter-individual cooperation is the most successful and thus the default form of interaction."

    In reality, I don’t think true anarchy is possible except as a liminal state between two existing structural orders. Nature, or at least human nature, abhors a vacuum, so there will always be an organizing principle or set of rules that develops given enough time. What I take from the term “anarchic” in this context is not so much a lack of rules or set of social customs, but an environment or community that rejects mainstream social conventions and involves a sense of transgressing, transcending or otherwise escaping what constitutes rigid, normalized, sanctioned behavior in society at large, often through a mediated interface and a sense of fantastic, imaginary or creative play.

    Basho is often quoted as having said “Haikai is freedom.” In his day this meant that in the context of collaborative writing, the group dynamic of linked verse was a temporary suppression of the strict feudal hierarchy that circumscribed daily interactions and limited social behaviors between people. The renga party in feudal Japan, thus, was an anarchic sanctuary where stifling strictures on interaction and mandatory deference toward social superiors melted away in a pro-social activity of group play. Haikai as a genre also meant freedom from the restrictions on diction and topic in classical renga.

    Insofar as anarchic sanctuary pertains to Haiku Sanctuary, here the idea is freedom from the invasive data collection and emotional manipulation of commercial social media that so often dominates our daily interactions with other haiku poets, a disruption of the hierarchical structures of haiku societies, kessya and other writing programs which have previously acted to promote gatekeeping and policing of the tone, content and style of what is allowed to be called “haiku,” and thus a more communal, horizontal approach to publishing, workshopping, research and poetic theory.

    In an interview Richard initiated during our exploration of what makes anarchic sanctuary different, I wrote:
    Sanctuary is of course the operative word here, and it is only through the safety and trust engendered by generally private, semi-private or virtual safe spaces that allow members of the anarchic sanctuary to strip away their normal inhibitions on behavior. Online or in virtual space this is achieved through anonymity or the adoption of an avatar or persona. The anarchic sanctuary is a place where masquerade is expected, where attitudes and identities can be made up at will and discarded just as easily. People define who they want to be in act of performative self-definition, and may completely re-envision themselves between sessions or even have multiple identities or roles within the group that they use alternately. If regular society tells the individual who they are and what is expected, in the anarchic sanctuary individuals decide what they will be and what their role is to be and any rules or constraints put in place are through mutual agreement rather than authoritarian coercion.

    Haiku traditionally was written in “haigo” or pen-names, and some haijin adopted multiple persona, Shiki is said to have had over 100 different writing persona. While Richard and I use our real names as user names, we don't expect or demand that others do the same. If using a haigo gives you the freedom to express yourself more naturally, create a mask, and engage with the forum, we encourage people to have fun with how they present themselves. We serve a world-wide clientele and for some, there may be risk to free expression of thought. An avatar may free one to be more themselves etc. This is a space for creative self-definition and redefinition, for escaping the tyranny of the quotidian.

    This is also why we have most of the forum closed to the public without a login, and we strongly urge that rather than superficially engaging with the public sections, users create a login and explore the deeper reaches of the forum. In order for people to have the freedom to enjoytrue anarchic sanctuary, there most be, at some level, a fair degree of safety, anonymity and shelter from the "open ocean." We have left a gallery section for sharing published and finished work with the public at large, and an introductory section meant as a public resource section for tutorials etc. but the bulk of haiku sanctuary is enclosed in a way to provide a space for the creation of anarchic sanctuary.

    That brings us to the second topic, which is community-building as world-play. In Poems as Conciousness, Richard spends a lot of time describing the ways in which poems, haiku in particular, can create “mindspace,” or inner landscapes that have a palpable sense of “thereness.” The main forums of Haiku Sanctuary, are divided into topological sections with thematic resonance, from the inviting, opening area of the old pond, based on Basho's famous poem, which is meant as a warm and safe area for those new to the forum to gain their bearings, to the wilder and stranger “haiku forests” each of which explores facets of the types of world-building and consciousness exploration enumerated in Poems of Consciousness; the sections are meant to be metaphorical areas in real mind-space where users can explore ideas and create worlds of their own.

    “White space,” or “dreaming room” is often described as a feature of haiku. The Japanese have the word “ma” for this concept. This article on Kyoto Journal is an exceptional run down of the concept, is says:
    “It must be stressed that a ‘sense of place’ does not negate an objective awareness of the static or homogenous quality of topological space. Rather, it infuses the objective space with an additional subjective awareness of lived, existential, non-homogenous space. It also incorporates a recognition of the activities which ‘take place’ in a particular space, and different meanings a place might have for various individuals or cultures. “Physical appearance, activities, and meanings are the raw material of the identity of places…”

    Disjunction in haiku creates a cut in time and space, a hollow that allows the reader to enter and fill the void with their own interior experience, each haiku becoming a tiny universe, or microcosm, of its own, but here at Haiku Sanctuary, the structure of the forum is largely white space, an opportunity to create new worlds and explore new spaces of mind, as the haiku depends on the reader to finish the experience, so too does Haiku Sanctuary depend on its users to complete the picture.

    ghost cave i brush aside the dharma of a lobster god

  • #2
    Haiku Sanctuary is an unfinished, on-going project full of white-space that our users will fill with their own created spaces. This is why I say that the second facet is creativity as world-play, we are here to create places of mind, to contour these worlds with poetic landscapes, people them with poetic personas and otherwise collectively create an alternative playground in the spirit of world-play.

    One thing aspect I don’t think many people have understood about the forums is that Richard and I do not want to control the way things unfold or mold this space entirely in our own image. Some people are afraid to post out of fear that their vision may not fit ours, but creative visions of haiku that are different from our particular styles are precisely what we want to see. We do not want a uniform aesthetics and a cliquish atmosphere, but seek independence of spirit and heterogeneity of opinion, anarchism in the spirit that every one is a microcosm of their own.

    We made space for people to claim and make their own, to shape the forum into the kind of place they would like it to be. If the Sanctuary is not what you want yet, feel free to do the work and create what is in your vision. We are largely open-source in terms of content, and expect people to help build the world of the forum. We have traced the rough outlines and created the space, but the forum is still largely a blank canvas waiting for people to add their own personal stamp, and the process of building may take many years.

    This is already the seed of the forum Richard and I wanted in terms of our own visions, but we have created space for countless other visions to be molded and created. To see that through will take people stepping up and creating content—of seeing the potential that we did not. This site is not a consumer product, not a place for passive consumption—it is an experiment in collaborative community-building and collective creation. But that means people will need to step up, have a vision of what they want from a haiku forum, and help that come into being.

    The final point is that we also envision haiku sanctuary as a somewhat open source, communal means toward self-publishing. We have put the entire forum under creative commons licensing, which means all authors retain their intellectual property rights, but that quotations with attribution may be made for educational, non-commercial purposes. The current age we are living in has been described as “post-literate,” in that while most of us can read and write, the media we communicate in are dominated by sound-bites, limited characters, and short attention spans.

    Literature as a mind-space unfolds more gradually and in longer threads than the short, choppy and repeated phrasing of verbal communication. Literary thought and mindspace is qualitatively different than verbal or visual communication. Here we aim to create literary mindspace that is counter to the fragmentary noise of the post-literate Twitterverse. We hope that by removing the gatekeeping of editorial selection in traditional literary venues, we will empower poets to share new ideas and poetries that are exciting and boundary pushing which might not otherwise see the light of day, and invite marginalized voices to the table to share in ways they have been excluded from in the past, particularly in the tightly controlled and codified world of haiku.

    The commercial nature and sheer volume of algorithm driven social media feeds on Facebook or Twitter often has a perverse tendency to magnify the banal, lowest-common-denominator kind of product that is the opposite of what we feel is good poetry or art. It is our hope that Haiku Sanctuary will become a space for the long-tail of unique expression and novel world-building.

    So we encourage poets to use the forums as a means of self-publishing with confidence, of sharing essays on poetics, creative manifestos, art, and poetry. We encourage engagement and investment in building a community of writers and a shared creative space that offers the safety and freedom of growth and camaraderie that comes with the spirit of anarchic sanctuary.

    This forum is but an infant and needs nurturing, so if you have a direction you’d like to take it, seize the initiative and make it happen. That’s true freedom, true anarchic sanctuary. I realize for some people that kind of radical freedom is terrifying or at the very least confusing, but it’s what we are offering. Poetry speaks for itself and this is an open space for all voices, whether they are conservative, liberal, traditional or avant-garde. The community of writers we have here is talented and courageous, and many, I think, are among the best poets working in the Japanese forms. We appreciate their regularly contributing excellent work to our site, and stand by all of our poets and their right to express themselves and how they feel.

    We want to continue to provide an open and accepting atmosphere to all styles: we will not police the tone, style or the content of the art here. That is entirely antithetical to who we are and what our purpose is on this forum, which is anarchic sanctuary. This is, I realize, not for everybody, but it is a precious thing for those who can appreciate true artistic and creative freedom. We hope that the ideas behind our forums excite and inspire you, and that you will help us in creating new spaces and building a new kind of artistic community.
    ghost cave i brush aside the dharma of a lobster god


    • #3
      Eagerly looking forward to some robust engagement, with things to share, but much more to learn.


      • #4
        Hope we can get back into being a robust community here. I seem to have joined at a bad time.


        • #5
          You echo my wishes DE Navarro.


          • #6
            Likewise y'all!