Editorial Decisions: Cherry and Plum Blossoms

pink petaled flowers closeup photo

As I’ve mentioned before, the end goal of this project is to produce a food-related saijiki in the spirit of William J. Higginson’s Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac. That means producing a print book (and because it’s the 21st century, an ebook) that people can use as a reference to guide their personal haiku practice. Although that end goal is still a long way off, I recently found myself having to make my first major editorial decision.

As I’ve been gathering poems to use for the blog, podcast, and eventual book manuscript, I felt that cherry blossom haiku were getting added in every other entry. It wasn’t long in my collecting before plum blossoms began to follow suit. It got to the point where the issue of balance became a concern. Ultimately, after some research and consideration, I decided to stop collecting cherry and plum blossom references. 

First, I learned through my research that the fruit on the Japanese cherry tree is so sour that it’s not generally considered edible. Now, with haiku a global poetry phenomenon, it’s reasonable to assume that someone would write about the blossoms of an edible species at some point. But it’s safe to say that much of what has already been written is about a species of tree we cannot eat. If this is a project focused on what is edible, collecting haiku about a fruit generally too sour for human consumption is not a good use of time and energy. If someone is clearly writing about an edible varietal, I can make an exception. While this first point does not apply to plum blossoms, it was nonetheless useful for me to think through when deciding what to include and what to exclude.

Second, the sheer number of cherry blossom and plum blossom haiku was threatening to overtake all the other categories in the project. If the ultimate goal is to create a manuscript that creates as much balance as possible between seasons, types of food, and world cultures, continuing to add to my already-prodigious blossom collection wasn’t actually going to be helpful. Yes, hard drives are technically limitless at this point, especially for a text-based book project. But there’s no point in collecting something beyond its usefulness. Time is also a factor. I love doing this project. I also work full-time, am trying to build a business, serve on the HSA executive committee, and want to spend time with my partner, my friends, my dog, and my fitness. The time I have during the week to spend on The Culinary Saijiki is precious, and I don’t want to waste it transcribing hundreds of cherry and plum blossom haiku that aren’t going to serve the project as a whole.     

The completionist in me protests. I’ve obviously not collected every single cherry and plum blossom haiku ever written! How can I claim to be giving a thorough treatment to my subject matter by ignoring such an important group of haiku? And how could I rule out plum blossoms when those are edible?

Ultimately, trying to collect every single example of something is a fool’s errand. In addition, cherry blossoms and plum blossoms have already been given a thorough treatment in the haiku world. We know what season they signify. I don’t ultimately feel that I have a unique perspective on cherry and plum blossoms. They can stand on their own. They don’t need me. Beyond that, though, the fact remains that I can change my mind. If for some reason I discover that I really need to include plum blossoms (or less likely, cherry blossoms), those haiku aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be easy for me to collect should I find that a necessary endeavor.

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