Friday, December 21, 2007


Correspondent: Lynne Rees

A warm hello to all Haibun Today readers and many thanks to Jeffrey for offering me the opportunity to be UK Correspondent, although I hope no-one attaches any significant degree of expertise and knowledge to that title! I’m new to writing haibun, and haiku writing in general, having only stepped over from writing free-verse, and prose fiction and memoir in the middle of last year, but I have become quite obsessed with haibun as it brings together the two forms that I love the most – poetry and short prose. What I hope to do from time to time on this site is to share a number of things with you: publication outlets in the UK, as well as book and other news, and some of my own general musings on the form…

Today in this rural corner of Kent, in South East England, the frost in the farmyard is staying white and crisp in the December sunlight and the image is so striking I feel desperate to capture it in a haiku! For the moment, though, that image remains an image, and even if I’ve already found half a dozen ways to express it, it’s still only description, it has no meaning. As description it might charm a reader, but it won’t take them anywhere else, there won’t be that sense of ignition between my words and the reader’s imagination that enriches their experience, somehow, of their life, the world, the spark that encourages them to feel and think. Maybe I ask too much of haiku. Maybe I’m imposing myself too much. But ‘meaning’ is what matters to me when I read so I feel a responsibility to return that when I write.

When I say ‘meaning’ I’m not talking explicit lessons, long explanations, and banging a point home for the reader, but more the subtle meanings that arise from literature where language has been chosen with such care that it suggests ideas and themes, makes me consider the world and my relationship to it, helps me see things in a slightly different light. And that’s what I want to achieve in all my writing, whatever the form.

Bruce Ross [1] in his book How to Haiku, says, If a haiku is an insight into a moment of experience, a haibun is the story or narrative of how one came to have that experience. The words ‘story’ and ‘narrative’ suggest, traditionally, character development and some kind of ‘tension’ or ‘conflict’, and while character development is more or less self-explanatory, in that we expect some kind of change to take place, what about the terms ‘tension’ and ‘conflict’?

For me, these don’t necessarily signify spectacular, unusually dramatic events or crises, and I prefer to use the terms ‘connections’ and ‘disconnections’. All good ‘stories’, whether fictional or drawn from life, tend to work with physical, emotional, and/or psychological connections and disconnections (within the self, between characters, between characters and their environment, to name a few) and paying attention to these essential ingredients of prose writing in our haibun is one way to ensure we don’t just write beautiful, but potentially meaningless, description, that we engage our readers, ask them to be involved in ‘the life’ on the page.

Of course, as haibun writers we have an additional source of tension to exploit: the tension between the prose and the poetry. This is an area I’m researching at the moment in relation to the specific function of the haiku and their placing: how they can, amongst other things, work as a frame, or as intervals, or scene shifters, or reinforce a theme, or even, though I’m yet to manage it successfully, encapsulate another voice, in the way of the chorus in Greek tragedy. Lots of exciting possibilities. As w.f. owen, editor at Simply Haiku [2], says, in his definition of haibun, The haiku often is oblique, yet connected relevantly, to the narrative… a springboard toward new possibilities of meaning.

The haibun is a form that has so much potential for both writer and reader. I’m so pleased to be part of this online venture and look forward to the journey.

by Lynne Rees
Kent, England

[1] Bruce Ross, How to Haiku: a writer’s guide to haiku and related forms, Tuttle Publishing 2002

[2] Simply Haiku

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