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 journalTweed. 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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