Sunday, November 30, 2008

Graham High: LOST CITY

a trowel probes
the stones of the lost city—
and then the sun

Something Freudian about it, this digging up the past. As I watch the excavator at his work I am reminded that archaeologist and psychologist were both careers I was attracted to in my youth. This man painstakingly sweeping a small amount of dust with a very small paint brush is probably my age. Has he done this all his life?

digging in the sun
the archaeologist
peels layers of skin

I realise that I’ve lost the urge to conserve and record. I no longer even keep a journal – perhaps I’m too busy. History is for the young. Maybe the past can only be taken on by those having a sense of new beginning? When history has slowly absorbed you into itself the sheer weight of the past can only be stultifying.

pinned to the earth face
the neat hand-writing of the

He pauses to take a photograph. Then he unpacks a sketch pad and pencils. This I can relate to: this fixing of his find in the momentary circumstances of the day; the particular configuration; the tones and shadows. This, if anything, is what I’ll take away, this concrete image of a place and time. The sheer beauty of it, held in the singular changing light. A fleeting impression broken now by a few sudden heat-spots.

he draws the ruin
of two thousand years—
rain on his sketch

I savour the scent of the warm droplets on dust, embrace the present and move on.

by Graham High
Blackheath, West Midlands, England

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ingrid Kunschke: THE HOUSE CRICKET

I’m invited to come and visit Japan. Everything, no doubt, will be taken care of. Still, I never travel by air, drive on the autobahn or book a tour if I can avoid it. Living at the edge of a small village I learned to treasure doldrum days.
Japan—not a country to visit in a few days, is it? You should approach it by sea like Couperus and explore it on foot like Bashō did. To prepare myself I consulted travelogues by Aafjes and Bouvier; I’ve been on the road with them for weeks now. This year, my autumn was the rustling of yellowed pages. And I only noticed a cricket when I found it, of all things, lying dead beside Lafcadio Hearn’s Japanbuch.
To be on the safe side I also prayed for wings that might carry me through this adventure. But you don’t always get what you wish for, do you? I've never been known for airy lightness. And so nature did the only right thing to do: all clothes I packed for the trip are a larger size. Nothing worth mentioning really, when you’re nearly forty, but not until now, that I’m pushed out into the world, do I realize how suffocating some things had been for a long time.
my aging body—
with the women I have been
I soap my skin
eager to feel like the one
I'm about to become

translated from the German by Ingrid Kunschke
from Gekritzel im Maulwurfsheft, unpublished

Notes by I.K. .

Louis Couperus: Nippon (1925)
Bertus Aafjes: Mijn ogen staan scheef (1972)
Nicolas Bouvier: Chronique Japonaise (1989, German translation from 2002)
Lafcadio Hearn: Das Japanbuch (German translation from 1921).
The included story Kusa hibari is about a tiny cricket kept in a little cage for his song, since it cannot survive for long out in the cold. House cricket translates to the German title of my tanka prose: Heimchen, which is also a deprecatory word for housewife, like in the phrase Heimchen am Herd (cricket at the cooker). Also, there is a parallel to me: it’s easy to write poems for yourself, but who knows if they will last for long in public?
Eine Einladung führt mich nach Japan. Für alles wird gesorgt sein, keine Frage. Trotzdem: Ich fliege nie, fahre nicht über die Autobahn und buche auch keine Reise, wenn es sich vermeiden läßt. Am Rande eines kleinen Dorfes lebend, habe ich das tägliche Einerlei schätzen gelernt.
Japan—kein Land, das man in wenigen Tagen bereist, nicht wahr? Man sollte sich ihm wie Couperus auf dem Seeweg nähern, es wie Bashō zu Fuß erkunden. Um mich vorzubereiten, habe ich Reiseberichte von Aafjes und Bouvier zu Rate gezogen; mit ihnen bin ich seit Wochen unterwegs. Dieses Jahr war mein Herbst das Rascheln vergilbter Buchseiten. Sogar ein Heimchen bemerkte ich erst, als ich es ausgerechnet neben einer alten Ausgabe von Lafcadio Hearns Japanbuch leblos liegen sah.
Um auf der sicheren Seite zu sein, bat ich noch um Flügel, die mich durch dieses Abenteuer tragen mochten. Aber man bekommt nicht immer, was man sich erhofft. Für Leichtigkeit war ich nie sonderlich bekannt. Und so tat die Natur das einzig richtige: Sämtliche Kleider, die ich für die Reise gepackt habe, sind eine Nummer größer. Nichts, was der Erwähnung lohnte, wenn man fast vierzig ist, aber erst jetzt, da ich in die Welt hinausgeschubst werde, wird mir klar, wie einengend doch manches seit langem gewesen war.

Meinen Körper—
mit den Frauen, die ich war,
seife ich ihn ein,
begierig zu fühlen wie sie
die ich sein werde.

by Ingrid Kunschke
Porta Westfalica, Germany

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I dreamed that a group of wild boars—des sangliers—were drinking from the stone water basin in my garden. One of them, unusually large and stately, had long tusks and an ebony fur coat. What a strange dream I thought upon waking.

Next morning, when walking to my garden in the valley below our village, I met a hunter with his dogs who said that roaming boars had damaged a field near my spring.

without rain
a maze of cracks
riddles the earth
green fields pale
into burnt sienna

As I was painting ochre pigment onto the walls of my little stone cabanon at dusk, I heard some crackling of branches, as though someone were coming to visit. Sometimes Madame Bosio brings me iris roots or comes with her dog to chat a while. The cabanon was still open. I put all my rakes, shovels and paint brushes away. A box with walnuts and quinces was ready to be brought home to the kitchen.

I was ready to go and there, drinking from my stone basin of clear spring water, was a large boar with his clan—just as in my dream. I stood very still in surprise, amazed at their strength and bearing, when I heard a soft grunting sound from the great grandmother which sounded to my astonished ears as follows: “Do protect us from these hunters. We know you are not one of them. Each night we come to drink and rest on your land.”

“What can I do?” I said.

“Let us stay this night in your cabanon. Tomorrow, it being Sunday, the hunters will be up early. They won’t find us and we will be safe, until you come to open the door. When they all go home for their sacré déjeuner, we can run free, eat, drink and go to another of our secret hiding places.”

“Excellent idea,” I grunted, “Let’s do as you wish.” And I spread dry lavender hay on the floor of the cabanon and let them all enter with a big welcome. They settled in comfortably for a good night’s rest.

do we come from
where do we go
between lime cliffs
a flicker of light

Next morning early the hunters looked up and down the valley—not a sanglier in sight! One of them, Moretto by name, wandered over to the cabanon to check it out. Tiles on the roof, a fresh ochre pigment wash on the back wall, iris planted in front and—ma foi—a new window!

I wonder what is stored in there, he thought. Carefully, he put his nose to the windowpane. Behind the glass a giant face, dark with reddish gleaming eyes and enormous tusks, stared back at him.

Barbe de Dieu . . . Pieds de Marie,” he shouted, turned and, glancing back once, took to his heels, running uphill all the way to the village . . . where no one believed a word he said. He started early on his red wine today, they winked.

within the wild
footprints of foxes
and boars
through an oak grove
to a hidden spring

Meanwhile I got up at eight as usual—breakfast, and work in my studio. Just before noon, I remembered my promise to liberate the sanglier clan. Quickly I ran downhill, through fields and vineyards, taking shortcuts, arriving out of breath to open the cabanon door.

And who was waiting there to greet me? Why Moretto, who had turned into a wild boar!

He spoke in his own Provencal French: “Maya, you must save me or I will have to stay in this form forever. It is my punishment for hunting sangliers for fifty years. Do kiss me on the forehead, please . . . .”

A just punishment? Well, I’ll be darned if ever you should catch me planting a kiss on that scrubby brow.

from human form
a wizened peasant
no longer endangering
untamed creatures

by Giselle Maya
Saint Martin de Castillon, France

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mary Mageau: SOLACE

I’m bent over a mass of red, orange and gold crotons, pruning away dead leaves among the long shadows. There are no flashes of exotic flowers here as the colour is showcased by mass plantings of foliage. The variegated leaves of tall cannas and cordylines are offset by beds of soft white flannel flowers. Silver wattle occasionally breaks the spread of striped cream and green leaves. Boronia’s deep rose competes with purple and lavender coleus. My aching back suggests that it’s time for a break.

beyond my door
a perfect garden
a deep impacted root
I twist and pull

by Mary Mageau
Samford, Qld., Australia

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jeffrey Harpeng: SAD TOYS

after Takuboku Ishikawa

in the weeping willows
of Takuboku's tanka
kanji leaves hang . . .
hear the soughing
of Takuboku's words

Setting the doll I bought for my child
By her bed where she naps,
I enjoy myself alone.

—Takuboku Ishikawa
In the biographical introduction to Sad Toys I read that Takuboku, his mother and wife all died of tuberculosis within thirteen months.

And the daughter not yet seven years old, nothing more is said of her.

only one or two
house lights this smoggy night
walking the streets
lighting one cigarette
from the glow of another

by Jeffrey Harpeng
Macgregor, Qld., Australia

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Graham High: FAN BLADES

chanting from the mosque—
the hotel ceiling fan
rocks in its socket

It is mid-day and sweltering. Even in Sri Lanka it is seldom this hot. I am lying on my back watching the ceiling fan. My mind drifts, begins to churn. As I get sucked into the creaking blur of blades a random memory stabilises the swell, like a kind of ballast. It is an image from the film ‘Apocalypse Now’. I remember the opening shots: helicopter rotor blades cross cut with a ceiling fan. There is the sound of distant gunfire.

A mosquito disturbs my reverie. I get up and walk to the window. The silver river flanked by paddy fields that I watched last night as I waited for fruit bats is now ablaze with sunlight. The palms and ferns between the earthen houses are of the most vivid green. But now there is something else. A patch of blackness amongst all that light. There has been a disturbance over night. Some Moslem youths have beaten up a Sinhalese lad. It seems the boy died this morning and now some Sinhalese are taking their revenge.

a Muslim store aflame—
black smoke is framing
the Bodhi tree.

I am overwhelmed by the beauty of this country. Its lush greenness, its profusion of birds and creatures, it’s blithe and compassionate people. That paradise should be the setting for such racial tensions and civil disorders disturbs me. I can’t make the images fit. It is as if perverted pathways are being laid down in my brain.

I go to the writing table as if I had something to say, something to write down, but I need a kind of comfort that a pencil cannot give.
fan blades stir the air—
soft fringe of the table cloth
strokes my other hand

I flop back on the bed and yield to the fan blade’s homogenising blur.

There is the sound of distant gunfire.

I swat the mosquito—
my hand spotted
with my own blood
[1] The Bodhi tree is the tree under which the Buddha, Siddhartha, found enlightenment. All Bodhi trees, which are found in most Buddhist temples, are held to be derived from this original tree.

by Graham High
Blackheath, West Midlands, England

Friday, November 21, 2008

Catherine Mair & Patricia Prime: PURPLE IRISES

A daughter-in-law brings spring flowers for us to take to the rest home.

wrapped in damp tissue
three purple irises
on her night stand

Molly's in the exercise room. When she's ready, I help her to the lounge where the other ladies are having morning tea. "I'll go and fetch your tea," I say. The tea trolley is parked outside Molly's door. "Who's it for?" questions the officious tea lady. "It's for Molly. She's in the lounge. May I please have a cup for me and my friend?" "No, you can't. It's for residents only." I return with the solitary cup. Along comes another carer. "What no tea for you? I'll get you some." She returns a few minutes later with two cups of tea and a ginger slice.

"I'm glad it didn't land on you!" The pot plant bursts like a bomb at the feet of an elderly woman. "What's that strange sound?" asks a lady beside me. "It's the carer slapping a cushion to remove the dirt," I reply. I ask her how long she's been living in the rest home. "I only come for a day now and again. I've a huge family: two daughters and five sons to look after me." She reminisces about life on the farm, bringing up two babies while her husband served in Egypt. Her long-term memory is excellent.

The woman with the Dutch accent asks, "What's your name?" She says she has Parkinson's and finds it difficult to talk. She says how thick her tongue feels, like a barrier in her mouth. I'm thankful that although I was diagnosed with the same illness sixteen years ago my tongue is not affected.

Some instinct makes me examine Molly's arm. Her left forearm is mottled with bruising. I check her right arm. The bruising is worse and there's an ugly haematoma between her wrist and elbow.

I summon a nurse, who brings in the night book. She reads the treatment Molly received the previous evening. "Her arm was bandaged and it should be bandaged now," she says. "I'll do it straight away. She will need to see the doctor later on." Gently she applies a pressure bandage to the bruising and straps up Molly's forearm.

bruises on her arm
more startling
than one on mine

As we leave the rest home I notice that the croquet lawn is covered with cherry blossoms.

in spite of the gale
croquet players
line up balls and hoops

by Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime
Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
and Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The old wind chimes, that had emerged from the melting snow in spring and ever since held a place nearer to the house by the trellis, I found them enlaced by woodbine.

chimes entwined
by honeysuckle,
how I miss
your mellow tone, now that
the wind blows west


While the eastern regions face this country’s greatest flood, we live on an island of peace. But the drowned cattle in Zeeland, back in 1953, come to mind, in black-and-white like I saw them later on the screen in school. And yet another flood, and in the midst of it all: my uncle, the painter, who refuses to leave his old water mill. Four million people are threatened by floods now and hundreds of thousands flee. The water rushes North with unbroken force.

waters rising
on the air at eight—
but the dikes
are breaking now and now,
while I can’t find my shores

The poppy seed pods that I left to sway in the breeze wither at last.

poppy pods
crushed by the yearning
of my numb hand:
ink-black, their promise
of new blossom


The morello cherry had long lost its foliage. Already in summer its branches were bare and silhouetted against the sky. But look at this: leaves unfurl again, and in the autumnal garden I spot a handful of blossoms trembling in the wind.

this cherry tree,
what did it find
in its wooden heart
that timidly, like me,
it dares blossom anew?

translated from the German & Dutch by Ingrid Kunschke

Das alte Windspiel, das im Frühling unter dem tauenden Schnee hervorgekommen war und seither näher am Haus einen Platz am Rankgitter hatte, fand ich vom Geißblatt umschlungen.

Windspiel, umrankt
vom Je-länger-je-lieber,
wie vermisse ich
Deinen hellen Klang, nun da
der Wind von Westen weht


Während der Osten sich der größten Flut gegenübersieht, die das Land je gekannt hat, leben wir auf einer Insel der Ruhe. Aber die ersoffenen Kühe in Zeeland, damals in 1953, schieben sich vor mein inneres Auge - in schwarzweiß, wie ich sie später in der Grundschule auf der Leinwand sah. Und noch eine Flut, und mittendrin mein Onkel, der Maler, der sich weigert seine alte Wassermühle zu verlassen. Nun sind vier Millionen Menschen von den Fluten bedroht und hunderttausende auf der Flucht. Das Wasser drückt mit ungebrochener Kraft nach Norden.

Steigendes Wasser
pünktlich um acht im Kasten—
aber jetzt und jetzt
und jetzt brechen die Dämme;
finde ich meine Ufer nicht.


De papaverdoosjes, die ik liet staan om op de wind te deinen, verdorren tenslotte.

met heel de hartstocht
van mijn dove hand
breek ik ze open: inktzwart
de belofte van bloemen


De kerselaar had allang zijn bladeren verloren. Al in de zomer staken zijn takken kaal af tegen de hemel. Maar kijk nu: verse blaadjes botten uit, en in de herfstige tuin zie ik een handvol kersenbloesems trillen in de wind.

de kerselaar
wat heeft hij gezien
in zijn houten hart,
dat hij net als ik opnieuw
voorzichtig waagt te bloeien?

by Ingrid Kunschke
Porta Westfalica, Germany

Monday, November 17, 2008


pitch of loud thunder
bedtime soon dreams of a dream
in a stranger’s house

An untidy B&B trembles under threat of a turbulent train that hurtles toward an old viaduct overhanging an ancient relative’s house. Any loitering light dissolves into a slag of darkness.

A hollow, ill-fitting bedroom door shakes in time to bouts of tantrums. Sometimes it is deafening. Always discordant. Mock porcelain cups, saucers, even plates, jangle at soprano height. Unclaimed bedroom windows overlook a permanent alley. Crowded bins spill, reshaping an already closed-up wall. Divided women settle into their dream of a dream shape while love movements extend into a pool of exuberant colours that press close to a shared event. Dissolved in rain, lampposts wave from top to bottom. Only when sight of it stops can thrush sounds flourish, goldfish glow their surface, goldthread lines lead sheep in a tame walk across their dream of a dream.

Beyond rain-touched taints of a moth flicker, fingers glide into growths of old softness, new tautness, tonight’s speech. Here is where thought lines stop. Some part. Outside newly co-opted shape is ice blue. Music drips from an over-strung washing line.

Inside a maybe dream, globules of honey are covered in pollen.

below zero....beyond their dream of a dream....not yet sound of day

In her sleep she is sure......................................In his, he is not.

just a single path
delves between two valleys
slow flow of juices

by Stanley Pelter
Claypole, Lincolnshire, England

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Graham High: LODGE

dark teak and whitewash
in the silent jungle lodge—
one bright blue suitcase

When does it really hit home, that moment of feeling wholly, undeniably foreign in a strange and unknown land? Not at the first touchdown of the aircraft; nor upon leaving the airport lounge. Other tourists, your fellow travellers, cocoon these first impressions in a spun shell of familiar features, understood speech, shared gestures and communal excitement.

Even when being collected by your transfer driver in the purple two-stroke taxi, you are greeted by someone who, though undeniably of a different culture and race, meets you on your own terms, shyly speaking your own language.

Then, at the colonial hotel, you are welcomed, shown to your room, your suitcase waiting for you in the corner having mysteriously arrived from the lobby by another route. The door closes and suddenly you are alone, out of the cocoon. A strange creature among strangeness. As you sit on the bed that is not quite your bed, you anticipate the night that you have yet to live through.

through the rattan chair
an electric fan shreds the breeze—
hum of the jungle

Restless, you feel you need to make a change of place. You move to the balcony and absorb the late sun, the vivid, singular viewpoint. And you too are the viewpoint. Highly visible. Irradiant with sudden self-consciousness. You are like a glow-worm unexpectedly revealed on a turned leaf. You are hardly aware of the dark hand that discretely sets down the courtesy drink before you. You are not the same you. This is not the same sun.

caught in the bottle
green sunlight pours slowly
into the glass

Gradually you feel more comfortable. A kind of nostalgia overcomes the need to stay sharp. The flurry of new images, the sounds and smells, find a place to settle inside you to form a surface, a continuum that blends the old familiar with the new unknown.

dreaming of home
the postcards blow over
the balustrade

You move back inside. After a while you accept yourself. It feels like you really live here. Maybe you’ve always lived here. But it still feels strange. You throw yourself on the bed and read the book you brought with you: something to bridge the hiatus; a link to a re-play of the recent past. You try to find something in your memories of where you’ve come from that is as vivid as the brightness of these green leaves. And for the moment you are lost in your own story.

last page of the book—
a trace of mosquito spray
where my thumb has been


by Graham High
Blackheath, West Midlands, England

Friday, November 14, 2008

Joanna Preston: NYLON SUMMER

The curtains in the kids’ bedroom had pictures of ballerinas on them. Filmy nylon—there for decoration, not light exclusion. That summer I drew copies of the different positions, and practiced holding my arms and legs the same way. I was the awkward child, even at seven, always banging my shins and elbows and stubbing my toes. I wanted so much to be graceful. But even when I snuck outside to dance on the lawn in the moonlight, it ended in a tangle of arms and legs. A tutu wasn’t going to save me. I went to sleep looking up at the curtains.

dawn breeze—
the dancers change position

by Joanna Preston
Christchurch, New Zealand

Thursday, November 13, 2008


"The labyrinthine corridors of the Albert Hall...," says the radio voice, setting the scene for tonight's Prom concert.

I'm back through passages of time to when I, seven years old, in a white and turquoise damask frock my mother sewed, emerge from the tunnel when my turn comes, into the lines of boys and girls criss-crossing the arena, to drop with bows or curtseys, purses full of five whole pounds we've gathered, into cradles blue and pink respectively, before the royal person of the Queen's kid sister, Margaret.

a sparkling pack
of party princess wands—
thistle seeds

by Diana Webb
London, England

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Catherine Mair & Patricia Prime: ENCOUNTER

Outside the village store we are accosted by two Maori men. One is quite handsome with a facial tattoo and hair in a topknot. He wears knee-high boots and a black leather coat though it is sweltering. His face is surly and his eyes dart between me and my friend. The other man is slim and has several teeth missing. He is friendly.

“Where youse from?” he asks. We reply, “Auckland and Katikati.” “Gee, I thought youse were foreigners.” “No, we’re touring the East Cape, heading towards Gisbourne,” I tell him. “Foreigners! No, we’re true blue kiwis,” asserts my friend Catherine, launching into a haka stance with outstretched arms, quivering fingers and lolling tongue. “Ka mate, ka mate,” she chants. “Yikes!” he says, leaping backwards. Then he decides he’d like Catherine for his girlfriend.

exiting the store
Selwyn and Merv
offer to sell her

As usual, I remain composed in the face of this tomfoolery.

on the doorstep
our groceries
in a cardboard box

by Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime
Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
and Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


With the very real concern of a manic relapse occurring due to overexposure to a certain shade of boysenberry blue, the frizzy-haired young chef carefully re-sorts his shiny stainless steel collection of butcher, bread and cake knives before taking his bi-polar tawny pug, Rufus, out for a relaxing walk down the tree-canopied lane on the way to the canine shrink who suffers from a digestive disorder and possesses the amusing affinity for wearing mismatched plaids.

full moon
above the sidewalk tables—
candles blown out

by Jefffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bob Lucky: TIME WARP

Over the weekends I park my car illegally near my apartment building and get up early Monday mornings to move it down the street to a legal spot. This morning I noticed scattered groups of dead ants, as if they had drowned and washed ashore on the pavement. It hadn’t rained the day before. I could think of no plausible explanation for this ant catastrophe. Then I noticed the playground across the street had sprouted with tan mushrooms that had long thin stems and caps that looked like those bamboo hats Vietnamese and Chinese farmers wear when working in the rice paddies. It hadn’t rained the day before. I could think of no plausible explanation for this mushroom explosion. The security guard guided me out of my illegal spot and I drove down the street, but there was no place to park. Every spot was occupied. Some cars were parked on the sidewalk. I drove around the block a few times before returning to my illegal spot and the security guard’s welcoming wave. It started to rain.

Sunday supper
the lunch I packed
for Monday
by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Sunday, November 9, 2008


This morning, November 9, marks the first anniversary of Haibun Today. One year in the life of a blog that doubles as a literary journal isn't easily summarized but numbers afford an economy often wanting in the written word.

What precisely has Haibun Today done in the past 365 days? One can begin by noting that this editorial is the 400th posting on this blog, an average greater than one posting daily. The following list details what types of writings Haibun Today has most commonly published and in what quantity:

285 haibun
31 tanka prose
18 book reviews
15 essays
10 interviews

These works of poetry and criticism come from 83 contributors in twelve countries with the USA, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada leading the way.

Quantity and quality are not equivalent terms but the numbers above do say something pertinent, in my opinion, about the vitality of haibun now and about the role of Haibun Today in this ferment. Haibun’s liveliness and variety are amply demonstrated by the 300 plus poetic works (haibun and tanka prose) published in the past year. This journal’s unique role in the field of haibun is two-fold at least. First, Haibun Today has encouraged and provided a platform for the broadest possible sampling of current haibun styles and of certain variant forms rarely found elsewhere (haibun without haiku, graphic haibun, audio haibun and tanka prose). Second, Haibun Today with 40 plus essays, interviews and book reviews very likely has published more critical commentary on haibun than the remainder of the haikai community in 2008. This last observation, while indicative of Haibun Today’s deep commitment to haibun, is depressing if viewed as symptomatic of the haikai community’s indifference to one critical feature of its own heritage, the haibun genre.

I’ve offered a look at the ledger and a dry accounting of what Haibun Today has accomplished in 365 days. But how does this record balance with the goals of this journal? Two early editorials—“Haibun Today? And Your Point Would Be . . . ?” and “On the Road Alone: Haibun Today, Haibun Tomorrow”—announced our mission and outlined the four goals that were to guide our editorial work:

To create a haibun-specific journal to correct a perceived shortage of venues for serious writers of haibun;

To create, in the absence of any existing forum, a place for critical dialogue about the haibun genre;

To tolerate rival styles and schools of thought in the selection of manuscripts for publication—this, to insure balanced coverage of the haibun scene now;

To overcome the parochialism of haibun writers working in isolation and separated by geographical space.

The successes and shortcomings of Haibun Today will be judged ultimately by the reader. The editor’s view—not without bias—is that Haibun Today has traveled far in a relatively brief span of time but that the landscape before us remains an expanse of unknown breadth and depth. Exploring and mapping this region was and is our chief raison d’etre.

I wish to thank our many readers for their continuing curiosity and our contributors for entrusting their poetic work to a journal whose aims, at times, must seem quixotic. Onward, then, to year two!

by Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Miriam Sagan: LAST WORDS

I tended my mother-in-law Claire when she was dying at home.

"I have something to say," she whispered to us.

My husband and I bent in close.

"And it isn't very deep," she added. The gist was that although she wanted to eat, she really couldn't.

Her last request to me was to get her comb and brush from the little wicker table in the other room.

"Your house is so cluttered," I teased her. "A little table! Where?"

She laughed. I brushed her hair and lay down to take a nap. My husband sat by her bed until she died.

since your mother's death
you do the crossword puzzle—
filling in the blanks
by Miriam Sagan
Santa Fe, New Mexico
first published in
Simply Haiku V4, N4 (2006)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Miriam Sagan: MALA

The word mala is Sanskrit for garland. It is a string of prayer beads. You always wore one wrapped around your wrist.

These bone beads
Did not go up in smoke—
Unlike you.

You were a Zen priest, and when you died you left shelves of books and records but otherwise very few possessions. In some ways you really were unsui, clouds and water, a Japanese word for monk. Although you were also my husband.

A mala has 108 beads. You told me this was to insure a hundred minimum. But I read that it is also a mystical arrangement—twice the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, plus eight magical amendments. One bead is called the guru bead. You left a string of wooden beads marked by one of crystal.

When we were courting, you came down the dirt road to visit me. You held one wrist aloft—I thought it was wrapped in bodhi beads. I ran towards you to greet you and stopped dead. A snake was wrapped around your wrist.

jewel eyes, darting tongue
the snake you found
wrapped like a mala

To pray. To count. To keep track of what is passing. You didn't leave much behind besides the malas—bone, wood, crystal, snakeskin.

by Miriam Sagan
Santa Fe, New Mexico
first published in Contemporary Haibun Online V2, N1 (2006)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Patricia Prime Interviews Miriam Sagan

Miriam Sagan was born in Manhattan, raised in New Jersey, and educated in Boston. She holds a B.A. with honors from Harvard University and an M.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University. She settled in Santa Fe in 1984.

Sagan is the author of over twenty books. Her most recent is a memoir,
Searching for a Mustard Seed: A Young Widow’s Unconventional Story (Quality Words in Print, 2004. Winner Best Memoir from Independent Publishers, 2004). Her poetry includes Rag Trade (La Alameda, 2004). The Widow’s Coat (Ahsahta Press, 1999), The Art of Love (La Alameda Press, 1994). True Body (Parallax Press, 1991) and Aegean Doorway (Zephyr, 1984). Her published novel is Coastal Lives (Center Press, 1991). With Sharon Niederman, she is the editor of New Mexico Poetry Renaissance (Red Crane, 1994): winner of the Border Regional Library Association Award and Honorable Mention Benjamin Franklin Award, and with Joan Loddhe of Another Desert: The Jewish Poetry of New Mexico (Sherman Asher, 1998). She and her late husband Robert Winson wrote Dirty Laundry: 100 Days in a Zen Monastery, a joint diary (La Alameda, 1987; New World Library, 1999). She is the author of Unbroken Line: Writing in the Lineage of Poetry (Sherman Asher, 1999) which Robert Creeley called “A work of quiet compassion and great heart.” Sagan is also the author of four juvenile nonfiction books, including Tracing our Jewish Roots (John Muir). Her work has appeared internationally in 200 magazines. She writes book columns for both the Santa Fe New Mexican and New Mexico Magazine, and a poetry column for Writer’s Digest.

Sagan, an Assistant Professor, runs the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College, and has taught at the College of Santa Fe, University of New Mexico, Taos Institute of the Arts, Aspen Writer’s Conference, around the country, and online for and UCLA Extension. She has held residency grants at Yaddo and MacDowell, and is the recipient of a grant from The Barbara Deming Foundation for Women and a Lannan Foundation Marfa Residency. She has recently been a writer in residence at Everglades National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, and The Land/An Art Site.

PP: Despite your impressive literary output, your work perhaps is not as well-known as it deserves to be. Could you please outline your background?

MS: I was born in Manhattan, raised in Jersey, have a B.A. from Harvard, M.A. from Boston University. I ran off to San Francisco when I was 26 – probably the smartest thing I ever did. I’ve lived in Santa Fe since 1984 and I founded and direct the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College – which I think of as a natural extension of my early years as a community organizer. I’ve published over twenty books; the most recent is Map of the Lost (University of New Mexico Press).

PP: How did you build your list of authors in the early years of the Santa Fe Poetry Broadside?

MS: Our mandate to ourselves was to put up as many New Mexico poets as possible. That was before many writers were web-savvy and we wanted potential readers to be able to find work by local poets such as Leo Romero. So we begged and nagged for work! And have also expanded into other areas of interest, particularly with guest editors.

PP: What is the hardest thing for you in your job as an editor?

MS: At this point, staying fresh.

PP: I often feel that women writers are in a double-bind. There is that external pressure to succeed as lover, wife, mother and, often, equal work partner. There is also an internalized, self-imposed pressure. How do you cope given this situation?

MS: When my daughter Isabel was born 20 years ago I realized that she came first – just not every minute! This was very helpful. I had rules that my study was an inviolate space – pretty soon I broke these and she had coloring books etc. in there. But it didn’t matter. We survived a hard time, the death of my first husband Robert Winson as a young man. But to be honest I haven’t felt huge conflict. I feel my writing comes from life, and Robert’s death made other people seem even more important. Paradoxically, in the last 13 years I re-married, raised my daughter, and published a dozen books of poetry and memoir – most related to my experience.

PP: What about the notion of the essential female identity which locks women writers into biological determinism?

MS: Yikes! I’ve spent a good part of my 54 years wondering if men and women were essentially the same or different – and I’ve changed my mind a few times! I’m interested in identity – as a woman, a Jew, an American, a baby-boomer – but I’m also interested in something essential that isn’t totally defined by these things.

PP: It seems to me that there is a connection between writing and illnesses like depression, which occurs in many women poets – Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, to name but two. Can writing come out of depression, illness or breaks in relationships?

MS: I think that for the trained poet, writing can come out of anything. I think about Anna Ahkmatova standing outside the prison at the height of the Stalinist purges and the woman behind her saying – can you write about this? She said yes, and wrote her masterpiece “Poem Without A Hero.” I love Sexton’s work and it seems obvious that she used and encouraged her mania to induce creative states – with Plath I sometimes think her writing was the sane part and survived despite her. Of course we’ve all known people who suffered dreadfully and were ill who weren’t artists at all.

PP: Do you think there is an inherent difference between male and female poetry?

MS: No

PP: To return to your own writing – how does the poem originate?

MS: It has been my lifelong practice to write poetry – it is a mixture of observation, image, language, word, and feeling. Then I chase that bit of inspiration as with a butterfly net – and try to get it down.

PP: How much attention do you pay to stylistic elements? In what ways do you work on syntax, phrasings, finding the right words to communicate?

MS: Colette said – “don’t wear yourself out with lying and don’t look for the rare word.” I like this advice! I’m more apt to work from form than syntax – let’s say from syllabics or meter or line length than from searching for the exact words. But I’m afraid I’m a little sloppy.

PP: The imagery you use is often quite complex, full of shifts of perspective. Do you make demands on your readers’ imagination? Is that an important part of your craft for you?

MS: Aah – those leaps are my favorite thing – I think of the poem as a trip or a place – I want to take the reader there – to see what I saw.

PP: Sometimes I find glimpses of humour in your work. How important is humour for you, with regard to your writing?

MS: It is crucial. As a young poet I was very serious. People would complain – you’re so funny – and your writing isn’t! I set about to change that.

PP: How does the editor or prose writer in you get on with the poet? Do you co-exist in harmony or do you consider yourself primarily a poet?

MS: I’ve written a lot of prose. I’ve been a columnist for Writer’s Digest, New Mexico Magazine, The Santa Fe Mexican, and Sage Magazine at The Albuquerque Journal. I love the essay form, and the review, and the constraints of commercial writing – deadlines etc. I think it is just a different muscle. If I feel like writing but don’t feel inspired I’ll tend to work on prose, which lends itself to elbow grease.

PP: Do you tend to compose spontaneously or by applying certain procedures to materials that you have previously written or derived from other sources?

MS: Spontaneously – but I encourage certain situations. For example, I was recently a writer in residence at Petrified Forest National Park. I had two weeks in a little cabin all to myself. Every day I took field trips, walked, identified wildflowers, read, talked to archeologists and paleontologists, etc. I’d go out and “sketch” in words, come home and revise. It was heaven!

PP: Do you go about writing a tanka or haiku sequence with a specific sense of structure or in the knowledge of how it will develop?

MS: Sometimes. It tends to be site specific. For example, in Petrified Forest I wanted a haiku sequence and some connected tanka. In ordinary life it might be more random.

PP: Do you want to say something about what lyric means to you? Is it something musical, song-like, or is it more about the kind of orientation towards its content?

MS: I think of lyric as coming from the Greeks like Sappho – personal, musical, brief, metaphoric. Essentially the heart of poetry that isn’t epic or a long narrative.

PP: Can you say something about your interest in haibun?

MS: I love it and was excited to realize it was an actual form being practiced in English! Of course, I’d read Basho, Issa, the Japanese poetic diaries, etc. I’m very interested in diary and journal writing, and this had a formal approach that intrigued me. Plus I’d always felt poetry and prose could not be combined – and haibun proved the opposite!

PP: Do you think that the reader identifies too often with the speaker of a poem?

MS: Absolutely – or poetry wouldn’t work. On re-reading your question, is it too much? Well, I think not – how else to enter the poem?

PP: Do you feel that women bring something to the genre that men do not?

MS: Well, of course the specifics of experience as women. And our ancestors in tanka, haibun, etc. are often women. But in today’s society in the US where women and men have close to identical educations – no “women’s language” or boys learning Greek and Latin and girls not – I think the differences would be more individual and less sweeping.

PP: Do you feel that men dominate the genre by virtue of editorial entrenchment or bias?

MS: I hope not – and I’m not aware of the bias – but that isn’t to say it might not be there.

PP: What do you think of the idea that research stimulates an incident-set that may later be used in a poem?

MS: I really agree – I love research – but it might be more poetic than hyper-intellectual. I read a huge amount of non-fiction particularly about history, sociology, biology and it is a big influence.

PP: Do you think it may create a number of possibilities that you then think about transforming in certain ways?

MS: Or even that knowledge re-shapes the way I experience things – deepens perception.

PP: What is the role of revision in your work? Do you spend a lot of time working on a piece or is it a swift process and then you re-work things?

MS: I’m fast. As a young writer I’d do about 20-25 revisions, it was a learning curve. Now I do just a few. I tend to toss something that isn’t working rather than over-revise.

PP: You are very active in the literary scene. Do you still meet other poets on a regular basis?

MS: Well, my life is full of poets and poetry. I’m just back from the STIR Festival in Albuquerque which was several days of stellar poetry – I saw a lot of old friends. And of course my students are poets in the making.

PP: How would you characterize the literary scene in the USA at the moment?

MS: I’ll just go with New Mexico – it is vibrant and inclusive here. Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces are all dynamic hubs with all kinds of poets – from slam to academic. Nationally things may be more separate – slam poets don’t dine with language school folks. But luckily things are integrated here

PP: It would be interesting to learn more about your method of working. Is there a strict time scheme you stick to when writing?

MS: I’m production oriented. My goal is to write 5 poems a month – a bit of a stretch. If I’m behind I really push it!

PP: Can you identify some poets who have inspired you?

MS: My demi-gods include Neruda, Lorca, Machado, Ahkmatova, Yosano Akiko, Allen Ginsberg. In terms of American haiku writers – Elizabeth Searle Lamb, who was a close friend.

PP: What are your literary projects in the foreseeable future?

MS: I’ve been doing some visual work – a poetry installation at The Land/An Art Site in Mountainair, New Mexico. I’ll be doing a gallery installation at their Granite Street site, writing on walls. I’m working with some letterpress printers and collaborating with a photographer as well.


Sunday, November 2, 2008


It took me a day and a half to get from Santa Fe in northern New Mexico to the Everglades in southern Florida. I left a busy life of family and teaching for more than two weeks of almost uninterrupted solitude. As I pulled up to the Park Service offices I had a moment of terror—what if I’d made the whole thing up and the residency wasn’t real? I was reassured to meet Alan Scott, the ranger in charge of the artists in residence program. He gave me a brief orientation to the park, which focused on:

The Four Poisonous Snakes Of The Park
The Two Poisonous Plants
Mosquitoes, And West Nile Virus
Why To Never Touch A Caterpillar
When To Back Away From An Alligator (if it hisses and comes toward you)

Then he took me outside to a conveniently located poison wood tree covered in poison ivy vines and had me identify each one. “Now,” said Alan, “on to the dangers of man.” Serial killers? Psychopaths? “People drive worse on vacation than they do at home,” he said, “be careful, particularly in parking lots.”

The apartment I was to stay in looked simple but pleasant, and turned out to be a great place to write. The first thing I did was move my desk—card table really—to the screened porch, facing into the forest of slash pine.

a lizard
in a rolled up shade

One day I counted almost a hundred turkey vultures riding the thermals above my house. I was just a few minutes from the Royal Palm Visitor Center and the Anhinga Trail. A few years ago, I’d made a dash of a day trip through here and part of my motivation was to come back—and simply sit and look. I walked the boardwalk around the slough almost every day. Each time I saw something new. I saw a cormorant catch a catfish—it is the only bird that has figured out how to eat catfish—bludgeon it and break its spine and swallow it in one gulp. I also saw:

tree bromeliads—
two anhingas
build a nest of twigs
man with a cane
crosses paths with
a tiny turtle
child pats the palm tree
the alligator

I wanted to make a poetic map of the park. The poem was getting bigger and bigger, then finally settled into seven sections. Some sections required actually going somewhere—some moved in time and imagination. I went to Flamingo, and out among the mangroves, to Shark Valley and to the Gulf Coast and by boat among 10,000 Islands. I saw crocodiles, a rare tree snail, a nest of baby alligators, golden-bellied spiders, and birds of all kinds—herons, egrets, ibis, purple gallinule, anhinga, osprey, hawk.

tree snail gleams
in the leaf canopy—
stolen ghost orchid

And there were things I didn’t see—a panther, not even a bobcat. No pythons, either, those unwelcome visitors. I also explored the border of the park, agricultural lands that interrupt the water flow, the Redland area and Krome Avenue, nurseries I would have simply thought lush and charming if I hadn’t been focused on water drainage and wilderness preservation.

out of the palm trees
a peacock darts—escaped—
but from where?

There was a journal that each artist had written in. Alan Scott had suggested I not read it right away, and that was a good idea—I had my own experience first. It surprised me, though, when I did read it, how similar everyone’s experience was—the bliss of being in such beautiful surroundings combined with intense inspiration to create. The only conflict described, one which I shared, was whether to work or to jaunt about. One artist had drawn a detailed image of a green leaf and one of a snail.

only the most
delicate colored pencils
draw the tree snail’s shell

I felt a familiar twinge of jealousy—the ability to reproduce the world visually. Still, I found that here I was working as a poet almost the way painters must work going out, looking at something, recording it in my notebook.

hurricane downed
tree roots, nurse log
what green comes next...
tree canopy
butterfly, and purple glade
morning glory
rare buttonwood vine
looks like any foliage—
but rare...
a leaf drops in
the mahogany hammock—
without season

The artist who was in the apartment before me had left me a big board covered in foil. The first thing I did was put up a map of the Everglades. Then came photographs by my friend Mary Peck that had been exhibited at Miami-Dade Community College. The images of the park were in black and white, meditative long horizontals. Then I added three postcards of birds, including one ibis and one egret. I had trouble telling them apart and was plagued by not knowing what bird I’d actually seen. I kept changing them in a poem, changing the sound, trying to get it right. I hung up a pair of beautiful long beaded earrings and an even more lavish turquoise, white, yellow, red and black necklace. The ladies at the at the Miccosukee Indian cultural center had helped me match them. Over it all, I pinned up a painting of a model of the solar system. Why? I guess because I felt far from home but also at home in a vast space.

On the boat out of 10,000 Islands I met a family from Pasadena. The woman and I got to chatting, and at the end she exclaimed: “I’ve never met an author before!” I, on the other hand, had never seen white pelicans before—hundreds of them taking off from a sandbar.

raindrops’ circles—
yellow spatterdock flowers
floating green pads...
two shy vultures
pick raindrops
off the car’s roof
drawn in an inky line,
overcast afternoon
drop tip
implies rain

by Miriam Sagan
Santa Fe, New Mexico
first published in
Santa Fe Poetry Broadside 54 (2007)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ingrid Kunschke: GINKGO BILOBA

One gust of wind and the ginkgo trees along the road scatter their leaves: golden birds, golden hearts against this azure sky. I snatch one out of the air and put it between the pages of my Moleskine. But I'm sorry to see its bright color vanish behind so dark a cover.

this ginkgo heart
abandoned, yet
and claiming it
this brittle, brittle me
translated from the German by Ingrid Kunschke
Ginkgo biloba
Ein Windstoß und von den Ginkgos entlang der Straße trudeln Blätter herunter: goldene Vögel, goldene Herzen vor einem blauen Himmel. Ich fange eins aus der Luft und lege es zwischen die Seiten meines Moleskines. Aber es tut mir leid, seine leuchtende Farbe hinter einem so dunklen Einband verschwinden zu sehen.
this ginkgo heart
abandoned, yet
and claiming it
this brittle, brittle me
by Ingrid Kunschke
Porta Westfalica, Germany
from Gekritzel im Maulwurfsheft, unpublished