POSTMORTEMS & FEEDBACK
May 19, 2001
Dear Charles, I notice there is some confusion about the status of HOBO (and other haiku magazines) in your survey. Just to set the record straight:
I was haiku editor for HOBO from 1995 - 1999. HOBO was a mainstream poetry magazine with a haiku section within. The editor and publisher was Dane Thwaites. In 1999 he handed the magazine over to another mainstream editor, Les Wicks who took it upon himself to choose any haiku published. So I simply became redundant as haiku editor. However, Les Wicks only continued the magazine for four more issues and in 2000 it ceased publication. Not all four of those issues published under Les Wicks' control contained haiku.
Just as a matter of interest, HOBO published a lot of Tom Noyes' work: comments and articles, which we felt privileged to have had.
Now I edit for Paper Wasp, and a magazine called Yellow Moon; much like Jean Calkins' Jean's Journal and Haiku Highlights in the sixties. I hope to gently persuade the general editor that limericks and haiku don't sit well together! We must allow haiku to grow up!
Any work which I've done in Australia, for haiku, over the past thirty years seems to have been a 'battle' to allow haiku to take its rightful and dignified place in Australian literature. A small breakthrough this May when a 'linked verse' in the one lined form, between myself and a new writer Mark Power was published (and we both were paid $25!) in a university magazine! So we battle on, inch by inch.
Janice M. Bostok
August 10, 2001
I was advised there were some comments you made about Hobo on a haiku discussion site. I just want to make some comments clear.
Firstly, I was asked to take over the editing role of Hobo & I agreed to do so for four issues only (hence on the credits page "temporary editor"). Dane needed a break & we were both hoping this time off would see the magazine continue to thrive. I did so for no money bar normal payment per page for my reviews etc). I was not given the choice of working with a specified haiku editor. I say this not as a criticism of Dane, merely stating this was not my call. He probably saw that as part of the break process, not having to coordinate between editors of different sections. An honest attempt was made to give fair coverage to haiku during the three issues I did & haiku appeared in them all. Finally, the decision to close Hobo was made without consultation with me & was largely as a result of the new tax obligations in Australia & the other bureaucratisation of Oz arts.
For Dane, I must say that the only miracle in Oz poetry is those editors who continue. Dane did a great job at Hobo to the detriment of his own poetry, time & pocket. Let's look at that with some enduring gratitude.
Feel free to post this alongside your understanding of events.
May 30, 2001
I am absolutely fascinated by your survey results. Thank you! This is the first time the haiku journals have been significantly assessed in a qualitative manner, and your presentation of the results is nothing short of excellent, offering insights in many areas, and on many levels.
Besides being a valuable source of information for haiku poets, the comments and numerical results offer us editors an opportunity to get an idea of what we are doing right, and what we should think seriously about changing. As most of us know, there is considerable room for improvement even with the very best journals. This survey acts as a stimulus to respond to readers' and contributors' views and make those improvements. This can only be of benefit to the haiku community.
As was always predictable, the top end of the survey did come down to whether Frogpond or Modern Haiku deserved the accolade of 'Best Haiku Journal', and, as I will get to later, I think the results are sufficient to just discern between these. However, what was very encouraging was that four journals in particular gave them a good run for their money; namely Acorn, Mayfly, Snapshots, and The Heron's Nest. What is more, three of these journals are considerably less than five years old.
Of course, I am particularly thrilled with the 'performance' of Snapshots in this survey, and it gives me strength and encouragement to continue working to improve the magazine. It was also great to see that two further British journals (Presence and Blithe Spirit) did exceptionally well, despite the fact that most voters were North American. The British haiku scene is going through a very healthy period, and our journals reflect this. By necessity, the independent British journals also have a higher percentage of international readership than most American journals need to maintain (or gain).
Your interpretations of the results and summaries on the magazines are highly insightful, and I am sure your web site will become a very important tool for haiku poets everywhere. I also feel that, if you were willing, you could repeat the survey on an annual, or even biannual, basis, and that the results would be considered most significant. I know, as an editor, that I would continue to take great interest in every aspect of them; and that as a poet they would influence where my poems and subscription fees went. How else, for example, are we supposed to know which magazines really have gone out of business; which are most suitable for beginners to submit to; and which are useful forums in which to 'workshop' poems. Is there any other single place where we can find out which haiku journals are amenable to which type of haiku; which are the best places to go for essays or discussion; and, perhaps most interestingly, which are considered to be the most prestigious places to have one's haiku published?
By extension, being slightly scientifically minded, I couldn't prevent myself from actually wanting to see some kind of ranking of the journals-a development that could only result in much greater interest in the survey, especially if it were to be a regular event. It therefore became necessary for me to consider which were the most important factors in order to attempt to carry this out.
As I have mentioned previously, I was initially concerned that there were only three categories (A, B, and C), which, barring the top end in the double-tier rating system, resulted in little discrimination between similarly ranked journals. Then there was the fact that journals were being ranked according to the personal criteria of each voter. However, I now see that this is a 'scientifically' ideal system. It would be impossible to assess each journal against each other if there were too many categories, or too many factors, and it is really the extremities of the scores that are important-the voters preferences for different criteria being implicit in these. By extension, the B votes-beyond expressing an awareness of the magazine-tell us very little, and can, by implication, be included in the results by concentrating on the extremities:
1. The number of A1 votes a journal receives.
2. The number of Top 5 votes a journal receives.
3. The number of A votes a journal receives.
4. The number of C votes a journal receives.
Simply adding these and then ranking each category, then summing these ranks to give a final result, does however, give very unreliable results (1st Frogpond; 2nd The Heron's Nest; 3rd Modern Haiku; 4th Snapshots; 5th Acorn; 6th Mayfly; etc.) especially when one considers that 35 people considered Modern Haiku to be A1, as opposed to 21 top votes for Frogpond.
What is more, this model gives no consideration to the fact that some less well known journals, such as The Famous Reporter, actually scored very highly amongst the few people who had heard of it, and therefore deserved to be a little higher in the rankings.
But by adding ranks in an 'awareness' fashion (no. of votes/no. of non-X's) Frogpond again came out top to Modern Haiku's joint 2nd (with The Heron's Nest), whereas the A1 votes were 43% to 25% in favour of Modern Haiku over Frogpond. The positions 4 to 6, incidentally, remained the same.
Perhaps then, only by combining these results could a realistic picture be gained. This resulted in 1st Frogpond; 2nd The Heron's Nest; 3rd Modern Haiku; 4th Snapshots; 5th Acorn; 6th Mayfly; etc. However, I was under no illusion that this was correct. It did not give sufficient emphasis to actual awareness of the journals, which is, after all, a considerable measure of their success, and an area where, as you pointed out, Snapshots for one needs to improve (despite the fact that it was the highest scoring non-US journal). It was also highly suspect that Modern Haiku should not be in the Top 2, where any cursory glance at the results would place it, and that Snapshots should be quite as high as 4th.
This could all be put down to the fact that there may not be much actual difference between journals ranking say 7 and 8, whereas there may be a much more significant range of scores between those ranking 2 and 3. Even more significant is the proximity of scores measuring dissatisfaction levels (the C votes), and the corresponding 'upset' factor of their ranking. (Modern Haiku ranked equal 10th here, and 6th in the corresponding 'awareness' scale.) The only reliable solution was therefore to consider the actual percentages of voters who voted for each journal in each category. This could be repeated in the same 'awareness' fashion as before, concerning only those who were actually sufficiently aware of a journal to score it (i.e. those who marked them other than an X). (The percentage for the C votes could be represented by 0 votes = 100% to produce a positive result.)
These two ways of scoring did in fact, perhaps surprisingly, give very comparable results. It was still evident, however, that a journal such as The Famous Reporter still positioned very differently-in this case 16th and 7th-and that only by combining the two sets of results could a realistic picture be gained.
But how could one, beyond ranking, quantitatively see how each journal actually measured up against another-a factor that must be as important as the actual ranking. Easy. We have considered 2 lots of 4 lots of a possible score of 100%, so by dividing their sum by 8 we get a Total Score out of 100-a simple figure by which journals can realistically be compared against each other.
I have attached an amended version of your 'tally' excel spreadsheet containing all this information. Of course, you may consider it a quite unnecessary development, or indeed consider that factors other than those I have included are important, or more important, and that other methods could produce even better results. However, I think this is probably as good a method as any, and it utilises the gathered data to realistic effect. The leading results, incidentally, come out as:
1. Modern Haiku (72.5)
2. Frogpond (71.1)
3. The Heron's Nest (60.3)
4. Acorn (58.9)
5. Snapshots (51.5)
6. Mayfly (49.4)
7. Blithe Spirit (43.1)
8. Presence (42.8)
9. Tundra (42)
10. The Famous Reporter (41.6)
11. Raw NerVZ (37.2)
12. Kô (37.1)
These, funnily enough, seem very much in line with your qualitative observations! They also, quantitatively, suggest a hierarchy of Frogpond and Modern Haiku; with a second group of The Heron's Nest, Acorn, Snapshots and Mayfly; followed by some closely grouped quality journals headed by those mentioned above. Equally importantly, it suggests which journals are operating in the middle-ground, and which (for various reasons, many of which you have mentioned) are considered to be at the lower end of the scale (many of which are filling very important niches). I guess some of us just like to see things in numbers!
Anyway, I feel this tiny addition was a useful and fascinating exercise for me. If you think others would be interested please feel free to adapt it as you see fit. I really think it would be a small cherry on the icing of a magnificent cake you have created. And I believe it would create even greater exposure-possibly under some banner or other-for the journals, which, to be honest, need every bit of help they can get. I know Snapshots does, and I am very, very grateful for all your hard work in putting this together. It would also give editors greater encouragement to spend even more time and effort (if this is possible!) working on their magazines, first and foremost to improve them for the haiku community, and by extension to improve or maintain their overall 'score' and ranking.
I wish you every success with this venture, and thank you again for everything.
John Barlow, Editor, Snapshots