Get Your Premium Membership

Swing to the Right: How the most Cutting-edge Haiku Poets of Yesteryear became the Hardcore Formalists of Today

by Daniel N. Bern
The redesigned 5–7–5 meme of the neo-formalists

This may come as a bit of a shock to younger readers, but there was a period in the 1980’s and 90’s when you probably could have wallpapered a small mansion with the number of journals dedicated to haiku and related Japanese poetry forms that were being published on a regular basis each year. The titles read like entries in some Japanese naturalist’s handbook: Time HaikuBear Creek HaikuRAW NerVZ HaikuHaiku SouthwestMayflyDragonflyPaper WaspBlack BoughMirrorsLynxAmerican TankaFive Lines DownPersimmonCicada, the other CicadaNew Cicada — the list goes on. The vast majority of such publications have long since folded, or were relaunched as “webzines” many years ago, but their reputations for featuring some of the most groundbreaking and avant-garde poetry of the era are definitely secure.

Like the journals, many of their cutting-edge contributors are long dead and gone, or have drifted into obscurity. Most who are still alive and active tend to contribute modestly to the small magazines published by the haiku and tanka organizations (or what is referred to in some circles as “in-house journals”), having etched out a niche for themselves writing short-count haiku. But a few of the most seminal and innovative have actually re-emerged as arch formalists in recent years, after spending considerable time away from the haiku world.

Jim Wilson is one such figure. In the mid 1980’s, while still known by his adopted Buddhist name of Tundra Wind, Wilson launched APA-Renga — arguably the first “zine” of its kind in the Western world. APA-Renga took a loose, open-ended approach to the titular form of Japanese poetry— as you might only expect from a gay Californian monk who had started his own breakaway Buddhist movement that embraced expressions of “the sacredness of sexuality”. The experimental journal soon caught the attention of notable names from the haiku scene, and contributions from the likes of Ken Leibman and Jane Reichhold began to trickle in. Then, in 1989, after forced to devote more time to his ailing AIDS-stricken lover and collaborator, Bob Jessup, Wilson handed over the reigns of APA-Renga to Terri Lee Grell, who re-entitled it Lynx. Four years later Grell entrusted the journal to Jane and Werner Reichhold, who expanded it to include tanka and haibun, as well as the Persian ghazal and the Korean sijo. The published rengas, both finite and ongoing, all the while retained a loose and flexible quality.

“Loose and flexible” hardly describes the Jim Wilson of recent years. Now a practicing Quaker, the creator of the West’s first renga journal has devoted the past decade to writing and promoting the traditional 5–7–5 haiku — a form in which he had little to no interest in the 1980’s. Between 2008 and 2016 Wilson maintained a blog, Shaping Words. The blog started out innocuously enough, with entries dedicated to the specifics of renga and Wilson’s own solo examples of the form. Gradually, though, the focus shifted to traditional syllabic (5–7–5) haiku and formal poetry in general. By its final year, Shaping Words was devoted entirely to criticisms of “free-verse” haiku and the virtues of traditional haiku (and, occasionally, traditional tanka). From there, Wilson moved on to Facebook, where he set up the group Formal Haiku — The Art of 5–7–5.

Citing the Japanese-American founders of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society as among his arbiters, Wilson maintains that the traditional 5–7–5 English-language form is an appropriate approximation of the traditional Japanese form, and any theories or guidelines that state otherwise — especially those that frown on proper English grammar and promote a minimalist approach — are merely convenient contrivances. From Wilson’s perspective, the Western writers and publishers of non-5–7–5 haiku practice a kind of “bait and switch” (Wilson’s term), selling their poetry as haiku in spite of the fact that examples that conform to the original 5–7–5 syllabic layout are now rarely encountered in such longtime journals as FrogpondModern Haiku and Haiku Canada Review. Writes Wilson:

“The result of this is that there is no standard whereby one can objectively decide whether or not a poem is, in fact, a haiku (or tanka). To comprehend how this has affected English-language haiku, compare a haiku journal to a journal devoted to some other specific form. For example, if you look at the Fib Review, all of the poems are recognizably fibonacci; all one has to know is the syllabics of the fibonacci and one can easily perceive that what is contained in the Fib Review are examples of that form. The same observation applies to a magazine like Amaze, devoted to the Cinquain, or 14 × 14, which is devoted to the sonnet. In contrast, when one reads a haiku journal there is no focus, no recognizable pattern of lineation. The journals read simply as standard journals of free verse; nothing wrong with that, but then why not simply call it what it is?” (“A Formal Advantage”, Shaping Words blog, 21 September 2010)

The original anti-5-7-5 symbol of The Haiku Foundation’s National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo)

Wilson seems to be suggesting that those poets who take a “free-verse” approach to haiku are being lazy and fraudulent — selling a false bill of goods in the name of artistic freedom and individualism. He also seems to be suggesting that a general public reared on high-school literature classes and attuned to what he calls “popular” collections (e.g., Haikus for Jews) would not even visually recognize such poems as haiku, thereby implying that the journals that publish such verse are intended primarily for the poets’ own eyes and dedicated to self-indulgence. The majority of journals that afford poets such liberties are published by the haiku (and tanka) organizations, thus lending them an air of officiality. Therefore the bottom line at the heart of Wilson’s criticisms and reactionism is simply an observation that “the emperor has no clothes.”

And Wilson is particularly wary of a naked emperor whose “reign” extends into his jurisdiction — namely renga. As early as 1995, he was decrying “a kind of self-appointed elite who attempted to control Japanese-derived forms of poetry in the U.S.” In an “open letter” to Lynx upon its tenth anniversary, he admitted his regretting “the setting up of renga criteria by haiku associations” (“Open Letter”, Lynx Vol. 10: No. 2, 1995). It seems that when a top-down policy is arrogantly applied to a semi-independent “satellite,” it can make an effected citizen question policies implemented throughout the entire empire.

Wilson’s recent book of haiku criticism

If the essays and online commentary of Jim Wilson can be seen as conservative and reactionary, then those of R. W. Watkins can only be described as mocking and confrontational.

From the point of view of Eastern Structures editor Watkins, “free-verse” haiku is not merely a convenient contrivance — it is “the ‘form’ of choice amongst naive newcomers, sycophants, dogmatic socialists, paranoid Russians, admirers of Oprah and Dr. Phil, and people who keep their Christmas decorations up from November through February” (Eastern Structures No. 1, 2016). On the pages of his magazine and elsewhere, Watkins is not exactly known for pulling punches. The “dark ironies” surrounding Jane Reichhold’s 2016 suicidal death are milked for their inherent “jet-black humor” in an ES editorial. The haiku organizations and their journals are skewered in crude cartoons. Anatoly Kudriavitsky, the Russian-born editor of Irish haiku webzine Shamrock, is satirized as a drunken bear wearing leprechauns’ garments in a cut and paste collage. Former Haiku Society of America president Michael Dylan Welch is deemed a phony prophet and a pompous censor. Former Haiku Canada Review editor LeRoy Gorman is “god-damn LeRoy Gorman.”

The outspoken poet and editor may have all his foes and former associates figured out, but who is R. W. Watkins?

From what I can ascertain, it appears the poetic pursuits of Watkins actually crossed paths early on with those of Wilson. The haiku and tanka of Robert William Watkins (as he was originally known) first appeared in a 1996 issue of Lynx, interestingly enough. “October Twilight”, a dark Celtic-themed sequence that had the unusual distinction of alternating tanka and haiku, served as the calling card for the young Canadian. Over the next eight or nine years Watkins would eke out a place for himself on the North American haiku scene, applying the traditional haiku and tanka syllable counts to offbeat and often dark subject matter, while almost simultaneously serving up one- and two-line minimalist fare and concrete “eyeku” experiments. Able to generate an appeal, his tanka tribute to pop artist Roy Lichtenstein was called a “tour de force.” His extreme subjects (murder, incest, pagan ritual) were handled so deftly that they were once said to have sounded “as innocent and commonplace as those breath mints in your grandma’s Sunday handbag” (Kinden, “Introducing the Ghazal,” RAW NerVZ Haiku Vol. VII: No. 3, 2001). And his concrete experiments — including a haiku composed in binary for the purpose of transmission to potential extraterrestrials — caught the attention of longtime visual poets like John M. Bennett, Geof Huth and Bob Grumman.

But then Watkins became disillusioned with the haiku mainstream, turning his back on the journals and organizations as they moved onto the Internet, which — as Watkins saw it — cheapened their image and lowered their standards in the process. The rejection of his essay “Dial 5–7–5 for Classicism” (later included in the on-line Lynx) by Haiku Canada Review editor LeRoy Gorman may very well have been the clincher.

In a bit of a strange twist, his Contemporary Ghazals journal was put on hiatus as Watkins himself took up residence on-line in the mid 2000’s, turning his poetic attention to the Outsider Writers group, the Literary Kicks site and the Red Fez webzine, where he served as assistant poetry editor for several issues. After taking notes on trends and developments in publishing for a number of years, he relaunched Contemporary Ghazals via Amazon’s KDP and CreateSpace platforms in 2013. The move proved to be a relatively successful one, and in 2016 Watkins took the advice of interested parties and gracefully phased out his ghazals magazine in favor of a more inclusive journal dedicated to Asian forms in general. “I do believe it’s time someone drew a line in the sand and declared a cultural ‘Year Zero’ in regards to the haiku, tanka, and related forms in English,” he wrote in the forward to Eastern Structures No.1.

Watkins was in the driver’s seat, calling the shots and picking up hitchhikers from among the estranged and the disaffected. Five and a half years later, he has built a literary scene of haiku formalists to rival any contemporary poetry movement in the West. To date, close to seventy poets have repeatedly published traditional haiku or related forms in the magazine’s Japan section.

Ironically, and quite contrarily, Watkins has continued to write and publish short-count and free-form haiku, including a 2019 chapbook of mostly visual material, small flowers crack concrete. But he insists that such poems are actually “conceptual minimalism” and “eyeku,” and merely border on traditional haiku almost coincidentally in a Western context.

Such irony and contrariness should really come as no surprise, for Watkins is in many ways the archetypal Gen-Xer. He epitomizes the record-collecting, used-bookstore-haunting under-achiever — one whose life has been defined and governed by fair-weather friends, buxom redheads, (untapped) university degrees, arts-council grants and dead-end jobs. Given his Internet interests and social media commentary, he strikes you as a man more concerned about obtaining a new Twin Peaks box set or some rare Sonic Youth or Soundgarden LP than what he is saving for retirement, paying the kids’ tuition, or climbing the corporate ladder. In addition to his poetic pursuits, he has operated a website, The Comics Decoder, dedicated to comic books and newspaper strips. He is also a frequent contributor (fiction, literary criticism, interviews with cartoonists) to Pattern Recognition, a magazine edited by an eccentric circle that includes his longtime romantic partner, Jacqueline Jones. The magazine flaunts a policy that contributors should imagine that the 1990’s never ended — a plaid-flannelled and ponytailed 1990’s that actually dissipated a long time ago, and may not have even existed beyond a few disillusioned and artsy enclaves in Atlantic Canada and the American Pacific Northwest. The Rites of Summer, an experimental and “semiautobiographical” novel by Watkins, exhibits an outright longing for that 1970’s and early 80’s era of adolescent excess; a time of smoky pool halls filled with noisy pinball machines, pubescent nymphets, and chain-smoking delinquents in Iron Maiden t-shirts.

R. W. Watkins (from his Goodreads bio)

But Watkins is also a man of deeper ironies and outright contradictions: an admitted agnostic who holds a degree in Religious Studies; a longtime hipster who abhors tattoos and coffee shops; a Haiku Canada member who regularly mocks haiku societies. Although perpetually bearded and longhaired in undated photos that float about social media for years, Watkins is in fact very much a product of the conservative 1980’s that he loves to hate — more a Steve Ditko of poetry than an Alan Moore any day. He apparently grew up on Nietzsche and Aristotle in the era of Mulroney, Reagan and Thatcher. By all accounts, his approach to Eastern Structures and his other indie publishing ventures was influenced as much by Ayn Rand as what it was the two Seattle gentlemen who launched the highly lucrative Sub Pop record label (film stills from The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged serve as illustrations in early issues of the magazine). A reconsideration of Watkins’ boyhood “bohemian” heroes reveals a strong libertarian undercurrent: Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen and William S. Burroughs were by no means altruistic or self-censoring socialists.

It only makes sense, then, that Watkins’ assessment of the politics inherent in free-verse haiku differs from that of Wilson’s. Where Wilson sees such haiku as a byproduct of extreme individualism and the excuses for shortcuts that come with it, Watkins sees it as the result of an extreme-left attitude whereby genuine poetic ability is viewed as an unfair advantage. Being skilled in the ways of meter and syllabics leaves others at a disadvantage; therefore non-syllabic or “free-form” haiku must be accepted in order to keep things on an even plane — not unlike contemporary schools and children’s competitions where no-one fails and everyone’s a winner.

“There’s this silly old belief that ‘All men are equal’ — period,” Watkins has remarked in a Facebook tirade. “Or at least ‘all people should be equal in everything’. I guess it’s mistakenly derived from the American Declaration of Independence or something — ‘All men are created equal’, equality under the law and all that. Of course, it’s not even true where the law is concerned, sadly. To suggest that some meth-addicted Gen-Y dropout who runs an unlicensed tattoo parlor is on par with a Roland Fryer or an Emmanuelle Moureaux is simply nonsensical. Nevertheless, this notion spills over into poetry and ultimately haiku — ‘I can throw a few words together in three lines, so I’m a poet and should be published.’ It’s completely ridiculous.”

Watkins places much of the blame for such lowered standards on the prevailing attitudes at Naropa University, particularly the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics; citing Chögyam Trungpa’s and Allen Ginsberg’s initial insistence that if Americans are going to be Buddhists, they have to become poets first. “That may very well have been the starting point,” he has stated in an editorial. “The idea that anyone can be ‘trained’ to be a poet out of the blue, regardless of one’s upbringing and any genetic factors that may be involved, is more than a little naive and has the potential for disaster.” This compromised approach has begotten or upheld an “anyone and anything goes” policy within the haiku organizations, many of whose members are reportedly Buddhists and Naropa alumni. As a result, there is no longer any formal 5–7–5 haiku to be found in the remaining mainstream journals and webzines, and no “informed, concrete experiments” to be found either — only an “endless unfiltered stream” of free-form, short-count haiku. Watkins calls it a “huge, boring middle ground” (Eastern Structures No. 14, 2020).

While Watkins and Wilson have thus far confined their reactionary stance to the poetry world, at least one of the neo-formalists has made the ideological leap to the world of actual partisan politics. Consider the case of Debra Woolard Bender, who has not only been restricting her creativity to traditional 5–7–5 haiku in recent years, but also freely expressing her undying support for the Trump Administration.

Bender, for those unfamiliar, was editor-in-chief of the groundbreaking World Haiku Review (WHR) webzine in the 2000’s. She took on the role in the early part of the decade with only a few haiku publications to her credit, having discovered the form only months earlier, reputedly. This should speak volumes about her abilities and presence. She was also moderator of some thirty Yahoo Groups for the webzine’s mother organization, the World Haiku Club (WHC), for which she also served as Deputy Chairman. Bender was ultimately responsible for an elaborate network of networks, connecting poets the world over and publishing and promoting haiku in all its variations.

“Much of it was a pleasure,” she stated in a 2020 interview published in Eastern Structures No. 13. “I really enjoyed the contests and competitions, workshops, classes, schools, tours and so many other activities we presented … It was a golden time.”

Debra Woolard Bender (Simply Haiku webzine, 2003)

But then all the responsibilities became too much for the middle-aged Bender, and — as is so often the case with those who comprise this new wave of formalists — she abandoned haiku and poetry in general for about a decade.

“I dropped out of everything,” she revealed in 2020, “having burnt out over the years of WHR’s increasing duties.”

Even at the time of her desertion, however, matters of haiku ideology seem to have figured into Bender’s decision-making.

“I suppose the political haughtiness of haiku society leaders and some followers, issuing at times in ‘haiku wars’, is one reason I left the scene,” she has stated.

Today, Bender is clear and adamant as to where she stands on haiku composition:

“I feel that 5–7–5 and Japanese classic haiku aesthetics are original, traditional haiku. All else is adaptation and hybrid in the church of poetic license. Especially Western haiku.”

Bender insists that she is no longer an official member of the haiku scene, and that she no longer submits to the journals. She has, however, been writing 5–7–5 haiku (and 5–7–5–7–7 tanka) in recent years, with examples regularly posted to Wilson’s Facebook group and published in Watkins’ magazine.

Bender’s poetic conservatism, however, has been most definitely eclipsed by her political conservatism since reentering the public eye. In a rather telling move, the former editor deleted the majority of her poet-friends on Facebook in the late 2010’s. It was around this time that she also posted pictures of herself wearing a MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) ball cap. Since then, she has spoken out against Covid-19 vaccinations, mandatory masks, and other forms of “medical tyranny.” As a result, her Facebook wall is riddled with “False Information” warnings, and she has been subjected to 90-day restrictions and post removals. Bender has even been reprimanded by Jim Wilson for posting her outspoken political views in his Formal Haiku group.

Like most American reactionaries, Bender also demonstrates a streak of Christian conservatism. Hers, however, is no match for that of one elderly Filipino couple that has made its names known to formal haiku outlets.

The husband and wife team of Simeon (Jr.) and Gingging Dumdum regularly contribute haiku, tanka and renga to Wilson’s Facebook group, and both have appeared in Watkins’ magazine. But they are probably more conspicuous for filling their Facebook walls with prayers, biblical quotes and headlines from The Catholic Herald and the Catholic News Agency; e.g.: “‘Repent and accept the Gospel,’ Trump says in Ash Wednesday statement”; “Whatever you think of Trump, give thanks that the Church’s enemies have been defeated.” American Catholic conservative George Weigel’s “The Iron Law of Christianity in Modernity” has also been quoted: “Christian communities that maintain a firm grasp on their doctrinal and moral boundaries can flourish amidst the cultural acids of modernity; Christian communities whose doctrinal and moral boundaries become porous (and then invisible) wither and die.” Needless to say, there’s no mistaking the Dumdums for a couple of Buddhist haiku poets from the San Fernando Valley.

The author of twelve books of poetry, Simeon Dumdum Jr. has actually won multiple awards for his verse. Even more compelling is the fact that the gentleman not only studied to become a Catholic priest in Ireland in the 1960’s, but also practiced law and served as a Regional Trial Court executive judge in Cebu City in the Central Visayas region. Any thoughts on the separation of church and state in the Philippines I’ll leave to the reader.

There are other, less abrasive neo-formalists that comprise this movement. Clark Strand, for example, is a major teaching exponent of the 5–7–5 form; the former Vice President of the Haiku Society of America and author of Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey offers Haiku: The Master Class for an annual fee of $3,000(U.S.), and the Weekly Haiku Challenges forum for a monthly fee of $100(U.S.). There’s Strand’s former student, Priscilla Lignori, the author of the Beak Open, Feet Relaxed collection and Eastern Structures’ most oft-published haiku poet. Lignori’s husband, James, is also no stranger to Watkins’ magazine. But, like the Dumdums on the other side of the world, Strand and the Lignoris have no history of short-form composition or innovation in the “mainstream” haiku world. Strand has always been a formalist, while student Lignori and her husband have naturally followed suit. Unlike the work of Wilson, Watkins and Bender, their haiku output can’t be seen as the result of an ideological turnaround or disillusionment with a literary scene.

Ironically, the man who just may have spearheaded this neo-formalist movement died over two decades ago and wasn’t even a haiku poet.

The Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949–2001) made his presence felt on the haiku scene in 1996, when Lynx republished an excerpt from his essay “Transparently Invisible: An Invitation from the Real Ghazal” (Poetry Pilot: The Newsletter of the Academy of American Poets; Winter 1995–96). Ali made it clear where he stood on Western poetic liberties and compromise in the opening paragraph:

“… Please put this thing called ghazal, floating from so many American monthlies to quarterlies, in its proper place, for it is nothing of the kind. Of course, I am exercising a Third-World, Muslim snobbery, but let’s do change the complexion of poetry in English wherever it is written, for it is time for stringent, formally tight, DisUnities. And, oh yes, let’s pronounce it correctly: ghuzzle, not g’zaaal.”

More importantly, Ali also extended an invitation to “poets everywhere” to send him examples of “real ghazals” for possible inclusion in an anthology he was compiling. That anthology was published four years later, as Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English, and included the work of regular Lynx poet Watkins.

Although not included in the anthology, another Lynx regular, William Dennis, soon adopted the traditional Persian form that Ali outlined in his article, after years of composing ghazals in free-verse couplets. Interestingly enough, Dennis is also another poet who has turned to the traditional 5–7–5 form in recent years after devoting much of the 1990’s and 2000’s to writing short-count haiku and free-form renga.

Other poets featured in Ali’s anthology include Daniel Hales, David Raphael Israel and Shelli Jankowski-Smith. To the best of my knowledge, none of these were Lynx contributors in the 1990’s. They are, however, regular contributors to Watkins’ Eastern Structures, contributing both ghazals and haiku.

Obviously we are talking about poets who have picked up Ali’s traditional ball and ran with it. Indeed, as early as 1999, R. W. Watkins was drawing the ire of Sijo West editor Elizabeth St. Jacques after he openly criticized the liberties taken by some contemporary poets when adapting the Korean sijo (see “Amidst Confusion & Contempt: An Inquiry into the Nature and Limits of Sijo, Past and Present, From an Anglo-Western Point of View”, Lynx Vol. 14: No. 1, 1999). More than two decades later he edited Wholly Trinities: The Nocturnal Iris Anthology of Sijo in English. Given the pattern I’ve established, it should come as no surprise that over half of the poets that appear in it are also regular writers of 5–7–5 haiku and traditional tanka and renga, including such stalwart formalists as Liùsaidh (a.k.a. L.J. McDowall), Bill West and the previously discussed Debra Woolard Bender.

So, in a nutshell, Agha Shahid Ali championed the adoption of the traditional Persian ghazal, and this formal approach was subsequently projected onto other Asian poetry forms by a significant number of those in the Eastern verse milieu. But why?

Eugene A. Melino, another ghazal poet of some note, seems to suggest that the tables have turned, that unwavering loyalty to an Eastern verse form is cool and rebellious in our contemporary social climate.

“The zeitgeist is right for the real ghazal,” Melino has stated. “To write in a traditional form rooted in Muslim culture is controversial in a time of rabid Islamophobia. The real ghazal has become ‘sexy’ in ways that the free-verse ghazal, with its non-sequiturs and obscurities, can never be” (“Celebrating Inability: Canada’s Bizarre Approach to the Ghazal”, Pat Collins; Setu #5, October 2016).

That controversy and “sexiness” seemingly extends to other forms that originated on a continent often described pejoratively as the land of “Red China,” “commie gooks” and the “Yellow Peril,” given the number of poets also writing traditional sijo, haiku, tanka, etc. over the past quarter century. It goes without saying that when you have a multitude of poets writing in one or more of these traditional forms and submitting to the same journals and webzines, then a neo-formalist movement is born.

And when controversy and sexiness are combined with the arrogance and unfairness that poet-editors like Wilson, Watkins and Bender have allegedly encountered in their dealings with the self-declared “haiku mainstream,” the movement becomes morally justified and politically driven. Contemporary social media and online publishing platforms take it from there, propagating the cause and making the abstract material.

There’s no telling at this point exactly where this movement is going. There’s no question that each major participant has his or her own goals and visions, with some more self-serving than others. Depending on who you talk to, there may not even be a movement as such.

Jim Wilson seems to suggest that the current batch of formal haiku poets have no long-term agenda; that the “whims” of the haiku organizations and “free-verse haiku” is irrelevant to them, and that there is no race to be won or foe to be conquered.

“In contrast,” writes Wilson in a brief Facebook essay (“The Personalities of Haiku”), “free verse haiku poets seem to get irritated about formal haiku; this irritation has a range of expression from frustration to attempts to manipulate the cultural environment against formal haiku (e.g. dictionaries, online search engines, etc.).” He goes on to say that there is “an abundance of essays written by free verse and minimalist haiku poets arguing that formal haiku is ‘wrong’; sometimes that word is specifically used. There seems to be a kind of tension among free verse haiku poets whenever this topic comes up, which is frequently. It’s not clear to me what the source of that tension is.”

In other words, he thinks the lady doth protest too much.

R. W. Watkins insists that any perceived movement is “merely the chickens coming home to roost,” and that the “seeds” of the neo-formalist groups and publications were sewn decades ago, when the mainstream journals and haiku societies were rejecting their traditional approach to the form.

“I’m certainly no believer in fate or destiny, but the writing was on the wall way back then,” Watkins recently commented on Facebook. “In most cases a movement is only in the eyes of the offended. For those of us actually involved, acting on our motivations, it’s merely business as intended.”

In addition to a number of anthologies, Watkins recently published the twentieth issue of Eastern Structures in just five and a half years, and Wilson’s Facebook group currently boasts over 900 members. One thing’s for certain: whatever their precise motivations, individually or collectively, these neo-formalists aren’t going away anytime soon.