Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Call for Submissions
Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose
Issue 1. Summer 2009
You are invited to submit haibun and tanka prose for the Summer 2009 premiere issue of Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose. The submission deadline is March 31, 2009. Submissions will NOT close earlier than the deadline.

Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose is a biannual journal-a print literary journal, a PDF ebook, and a digital online magazine-dedicated to the publication and promotion of fine English haibun and tanka prose. We seek traditional and innovative haibun and tanka prose of high quality and desire to assimilate the best of these Japanese genres into a continuously evolving English tradition. In addition to haibun and tanka prose, we publish articles, essays, book reviews and interviews pertinent to these same genres.

Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose specializes in fine haibun and tanka prose. All selection decisions will be made at the sole discretion of the editor.

Previously unpublished work, not on offer elsewhere, is solicited.

Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose, Baltimore, Maryland USA. Website:
Editor: Jeffrey Woodward. Email up to five haibun, five tanka prose, and five short works to the Editor at MHTP(dot)EDITOR(at)GMAIL(dot)COM . Before submitting, please read the detailed submission guidelines and haibun and tanka prose selection criteria on the website at
Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose looks for top quality haibun and tanka prose in natural, modern English idiom. No payment for publication. No contributor copies. Publishes a print edition (6" x 9" trade paperback), a PDF ebook, and an online digital edition.

Thank you for sharing this call widely.


Jeffrey Woodward, Editor, Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Colin Stewart Jones: WINDFALL

Surprising how a little windfall can change things. Five years of walking the walk can soon become a stagger. Not that I am complaining, for as sobriety and celibacy go hand in hand so does a beer and a good woman. Oh well, I can repent again tomorrow. Can't I?

mother's voice
in my ear

by Colin Stewart Jones
Aberdeen, Scotland

Sunday, December 28, 2008


The Note-taking Habit

Assistant Editor: Patricia Prime

I have been turning the pages of a thick octavo notebook tied with rubber bands and stuffed with photos, rail tickets and other odds and ends. I wrote in it nearly twenty years ago. I was then on a trip to China and Tibet for six weeks with a friend. At one end of the book are notes on various sites we visited: some of these were off the beaten tourist track. My friend and I were both early childhood teachers and our interests lay in seeing various places of education from pre-school to university. At the other end of the book are haiku.

When we returned from our trip my friend published a book of haiku called Caterpillar. I submitted several of my haiku to various journals. The notes lay dormant for several years until we decided to form our notes into haibun which we self-published in booklet form, together with tanka and haiku.

It is only now that I have re-read the notes for the haibun that follows. Had the notes been written last week I would rewrite them now to make the account less clumsy, stilted and repetitive. But since it was written long ago and in order to safeguard the immediacy of the record, I write it word-for-word with all its infelicities.
We are caught for a moment on this narrow rim of road overlooking the Li River. The sheer karst peaks are sewn with saplings, slender roots and half-grown bushes. Weathered cliff faces and rock surfaces are striated in various shades of colour. The wide green waterway idles below.

It is so still, you say, so still—the only moving thing a fisherman’s boat way down there; yet seeing straight away how far from true this is: everything moves, trapped with the two of us in a ripe giddiness of heat which shakes the mountains until they cheat reality. They threaten to collapse and in their downfall fling themselves upon their images floating in the Li—for it already holds them in its sway, rooted in the current.

reflecting river—
mountains shiver
In broad sunlight

And look, see how the river even now will not allow these ancient rocks one moment of repose as our guide tells us the legendary stories behind them. Most are magical and love stories. They have imaginative names that he translates as Elephant Trunk Hill, Pagoda Hill, The Emperor’s Seat and The Three Princesses.

The fisherman releases his cormorant into the water where it dives for fish. When the bird catches a fish it returns to the boat and the fisherman removes the fish from its throat. The secret is that the fisherman places a cord around the bird’s neck to keep the bird from swallowing the fish. When the fisherman stoops to release the fish, the vast pink-veined karst shudders and shakes in the silent river.

the long shadow
of a cormorant’s neck
among reeds
Once these jottings have begun to find their way into sentences, no matter how crude, the mind can find a purchase and trace patterns that gather shape. There’s a long way from the words in a notebook to the shaping of a poem, and thinking about them brings a perception that emerges involuntarily, despite the conscious effort to bring them to completion. They emerge from the untidy notebook where so many images have been stored until they reach the finality of the poem.

The words do not take me back to the reason I made the entry, but back to the felt experience, whatever it was. This is important, for I imagine the significance of the event. It is the instant I catch in a notebook, not the comment, not the thoughts. And this is what I hope to achieve in writing haibun, whether these are of childhood memories, travel experiences, nature, looking at paintings, meeting unusual people or writing about relationships.

by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, December 26, 2008


I have a friend write a note in Chinese explaining that eight days ago I had hernia surgery and the stitches need to be removed. Rather than go back to Shanghai, where I had the surgery, or trek an hour across town to the nearest hospital, I decide to check out a local health clinic.

sodden moonbeams
the smeared arc of dust
on the windshield

My wife and I pull up outside a clinic near a popular restaurant. I’m soon flat on my back behind a small partition, my shirt pulled up under my chin. There’s a video in English with Chinese subtitles about abortion playing on the other side, where two men on IV drips cough weakly and occasionally moan.

winter chill
the ping of stitches
in a metal pan

Within ten minutes, and for less than five dollars, I’m ready for dinner. The pharmacist, who also functions as nurse and cashier, laughs at my Chinese name and tells me to take it easy. The doctor waves goodbye with a pair of scissors.

the waiter’s gaze—
removing fish bones
with chopsticks

by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ingrid Kunschke: LOSE ME AND YOU’RE LOST

Once upon a time —When was it? Ah, when was it not!— there was a young man who roamed the world making his living with stories and songs. One day, it must have been around the eighth month, he happened to hit upon the oddest place. He’d asked for shelter for the night at a little house surrounded by some birches and pines. It turned out to be the home of a tired old man. Obviously somebody looked after him once in awhile, for the touch of a woman still showed around the place. But the old man lived there all by himself, spending his days on a bench under a birch tree. He didn’t care to hear stories, said the night would be short enough and they’d better go to sleep before the moon would rise and keep them awake.
That night the roamer dreamt of a track in a nearby forest, which he followed for a while, now jumping over a puddle, now ducking to avoid the lower branches.
His host however had sneaked out at the dead of night. Sad at heart he sat on his bench, playing on a flute. And in bright moon light a nymph with golden hair stood behind him, her slender arms wrapped gently around his shoulders. In a heavenly voice she sang

when, oh when
did you grow old?
what good
is my youth,
my hair of gold?

Hearing this, the young man awoke with a start, leapt to the window, and saw him sitting on his bench, the old chap. But he couldn’t discern anything else—save a birch, for a cloud had veiled the moon, forcing the nymph to reassume her guise of a tree. Puzzled he went back to sleep.
As soon as day broke, he got up and found some bread and cheese on the table. The little house looked clean and tidy and was perfumed with the scent of flowers in a vase. There it was again, that touch of a woman... And when he tied up his knapsack, he noticed a hand-carved flute had been slipped among his belongings. It bore an inscription, which read
Lose Me and You’re Lost,
Find Me and You’re Free.

Well, I’ve always been free, the reckless fellow said to the flute, but thank you all the same. As he hit the road he waved his hat at the old man on the bench, who barely nodded a vague goodbye. Poor old chap, the young man thought. But what could he do about it?

for the world
must be sung into being
time and again
with songs of longing
and remembrance

Within sight of this place was a forest, where he turned his steps, recalling his dream of that night. Indeed he found a track, which he followed for a while, now jumping over a puddle, now ducking to avoid the lower branches. The young man had walked a few miles, playing his new flute along the way, when he realized something had changed. At first he thought it was the breeze. As he had set out that morning it had been toying with his hat and now there wasn’t the slightest breath of wind, not even in the tree tops. Nor could he hear any birds. But it wasn’t just that: the light had changed as well. Slowly it had become silvery, as if the moon were shining. How very strange, he thought, and when he heard


from somewhere ahead, he was filled with even more wonder. It clearly was a song, sung to a most plaintive melody, though he could make no sense of it. Twice, thrice did it sound, before he traced the singer: a young and slender pine that stood at the edge of a clearing. Well have you ever, he thought, and eager to get to the bottom of it, he attuned his ears to this unfamiliar pitch. And this is what he made of it after a while:

how sad
to bide my time
in frrt—
would he came
to rlt-t me home

I must be dreaming, the roamer said to himself, for even if he made up stories with great ease whenever it came down to earning a meal, he wasn’t the man to believe in miraculous things. Perhaps his imagination played him a trick? Yet he was so much taken in by this simple melody, he couldn’t help but put the flute to his lips and repeat it. To his utter astonishment the flute set words to the tune:

how sad
you bide your time
in woods—
would you were
to follow me home
And before his very eyes the little pine turned into a young nymph. Dropping his flute in awe he stood and gaped at her. Oh, she was beautiful beyond words! Dressed in darkest green and with dew, still fragrant with needles, glistening in her deep brown hair, she looked bashfully at the ground and then dashed off to hide in the thicket. But the young man had caught a glimpse of her amber eyes and was already under her spell. Desperate to get his nymph he ran after her, blundering into every puddle, scratched by countless branches.

oh, those eyes
as timid as a fawn’s,
still deeper
they lure you
into the woods

For such is the nature of nymphs. And had he not been a roamer, accustomed to walk freely off the road, he’d never have caught sight of her. And had he not lost his flute, his fate might have taken a turn for the good. His clothes in tatters, bark growing over muscles that had obeyed him only a moment ago, the poor fellow felt roots shooting from his feet as soon as he got hold of his nymph. In a last effort to cry out his love, he opened his mouth — a hollow, already inhabited by a family of titmice.
The nymph however went around the mighty oak the young man had turned into, caressed its bark and kissed it goodbye. Then she picked a single acorn as a keepsake. A little later at the clearing she found the flute. What a lovely day it was! She heard the birds twitter and was delighted to feel a gentle breeze toy with her hair as she followed the track out of the forest, now jumping over a puddle, now ducking to avoid the lower branches.

oh, those feet
as swift as a deer’s,
so eager
to enter into
uncharted worlds

Within sight of the forest was a little house surrounded by some birches and pines, where the nymph turned her steps. She found out it was deserted. Surely it would make a perfect lodging for a night, once she’d have aired the rooms. But in her ardor to get started she dropped the acorn and a mighty oak sprung up where it had touched the ground. And then, as if on cue, there was this old bench she could place near her tree. All day the nymph sat there, imagining what she’d do with her newly gained freedom.

for life
is fleeting,
a dream
to be lived
to the full

That night the moon peeped through the clouds and found her seated on the bench under her oak. She had put the flute to her lips and was about to play a most bewitching tune.

by Ingrid Kunschke
Porta Westfalica, Germany

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I assess the shadows beneath her eyes, evident since the first day of this semester. The sandy blonde pelt of her head is as matted as the tricot she wears. The ever-fading pattern, paler than pale, is threadbare on the elbows. The grey of her school shirt etches those elbows, already stripped of baby fat. A smear of food encrusts the right cuff. Pumpkin, turnip, maybe pickle from a birthday Big Mac? She hands me a note, ostensibly written by a father I’ve never met. A slipped stitch shows on her waistband. I edge between the rows of desks, pocketing the latest excuse. The words are sketchy, the ink smudged. Her singed eyebrows whisper of things I’d rather not know. I gather up the class sets, today Larousse.

wintry day
the smell of rain
on a pink sweater

by Cynthia Rowe
Woollahra, NSW, Australia

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bamboo Shoot: thoughts, words, writing …

… another year
....yet still green
............................ —the ginkgo leaves
.....fall from my notebook …


24.10.97: Kew. A morning of coffee spoons and conversation, a brief Italian extravagance for lunch, and now—the brilliance of a late October afternoon as time ambles itself away into non-existence around The Gardens. The mind floats somewhere between mislaid memory and bright enthusiasm for yet another collection that would be my first; and already a small notebook is fat with coloured leaves, sketches, and some thirty poems that like as not will never see the light of print. Colours and smells of autumn swirl about me as I retrace old steps towards the Pagoda and Chokushi Mon …

.....there in my youth—
.....I can hardly look up at you

Built in 1910—a near life-size replica of a sixteenth century Buddhist temple gateway in Kyoto, Kew’s Gateway of the Imperial Messenger has changed since I saw it last. Time and the English climate have done neither of us favours; but Chokushi Mon has recently been rejuvenated by a team of Japanese master-craftsmen—themselves a dwindling breed. Copper tiles have replaced old lead and cedar shingle, finely carved panels have been repaired or reworked; and set now, jewel-like, in a newly constructed landscape—amongst flowering cherry, bamboo, acer, Kurume azalea and other Japanese cultivars—something like a former magnificence has been restored. Sunlight once again returns enhanced from the lacquers and warm-toned timbers of Chokushi Mon …

.....rain comes through my thatch,
.....and summer sun stings my head—
.....telling me something

Japanese gardens are, in general, more formal than their English counterparts; though not in any regimental sense—no merely mechanical juxtapositioning of plants and artefacts. The aim is always an aesthetic mix of tradition and balance, symbolism and simple beauty; and in designing the Japanese garden at Kew, a prime concern has been to both complement Chokushi Mon and blend in with western botanical surroundings. Old established pines have been allowed to fittingly share the stage with Hinoki—the Shinto-sacred conifer of whose wood Chokushi Mon is constructed; while in future years, the Japanese custom of severe clipping and pruning will be restrained, thus allowing most plants to grow towards their natural shape. Yet overall, a strong spiritual sense of Orient is aroused symbolically by the way the landscape is constructed. Chokushi Mon contains, and is encircled by, a fusion of principles that might seem to embody the nature of all experience.

There is a Garden of Peace that recalls to mind the roji or traditional tea garden—where one can follow stone lanterns, pebbled path and stepping stones to reach a barely audible tsukubai—a tranquil walk to rinse away the weariness of the world …

.....some samurai!
.....… aching ankles
............................forgot my thank you
.....the taste of tea

… whilst elsewhere, a Garden of Activity evokes austere mountain sceneries with clastic rock-flows that tumble incessantly towards a gravel sea—a sea forever raked by unchanging waves and the flotsam from overhanging pines …

.....Chokushi Mon.
.....Please keep off the gravel.
.....… ‘footprints’ all over …

… and linking together tranquillity and action, the constant with the ephemeral, is a Garden of Harmony – an area of general and symbolic planting intended to reflect the natural beauty of the Japanese countryside. As yet this section is some ten years immature; but few will notice when, each spring, the senses are besieged by flowering of the loveliest of trees …

.....and after winter
.....what? The white cherry blossom
.....blowing in my face? …


Beneath a canopy of low-branched flowering cherry, I find the haiku stone of bluish granite. The haiku is by Takahama Kyoshi—written following a visit to Kew made in 1936; the stone itself donated by family in 1979 – some twenty years after Kyoshi’s death. There is a nearby transcript:

.....Even sparrows
.....Freed from all fear of man
.....England in Spring

So expressed, I do not care for these sentiments—they seem to me to have an air of ingratiating formality that I do not attribute to Kyoshi; after all, Japanese haiku are not necessarily treated faithfully by their translations. And then, perhaps, for whatever reason, not all haiku may be faithful to their motivating emotions; and indeed, there is something else that bothers me. For some time I stand brooding over Kyoshi’s stone, thinking about what Kyoshi really felt he meant in his own language, and whether he too … until I am joined by two young Japanese whom I’d noticed earlier. At distance, they had had the chattering full-of-lifeness of bright birds; now—in alien presence—they fall into unfathomable silence. And for a moment, I am incautious of my thoughts—I point …

..... –Not good haiku?
..... –Yeaah! Not good.
..... –It’s by Kyoshi!
..... –Hey, yeaah—He’s dead famous.
..... –But maybe not even true?...

…and I point again—this time to where, not far from the tsukubai, the stripped body of a small bird lies cooling in its last rays of sunlight …

.....near Kyoshi’s stone,
.....the crow pays close attention a crimsoned corpse

.......................................... … old established pines …
..........................................needles and cones fall to the bridge
..........................................twixt crane and turtle …

there is a specimen of Tai Haku
the Great White Cherry—much
valued in Japan. Between the 18th
& 20th. centuries, it is said to have
disappeared from Japanese culture
only to be restored from a new clone
found in an English garden.


........................................… the flowers fade,
........................................pressed between yellowing pages
........................................of an unopened book …

The haibun is about Time and looking for Kyoshi’s haiku stone in Kew Gardens. It records the more or less immediate responses to events on a sunny October afternoon in 1997, and was largely sketched out and written over tea and fruitcake in a nearby Refreshment Pavilion. After the first haiku, the writing is sectionalised by asterisks:

The Pagoda, built in 1761/62 stands at 163ft. The flagstaff—a single trunk of Douglas Fir, 371 years old—was erected in 1959 and then stood at 225 ft; it is not the one I saw in the 1940s (almost as tall). The lifespan of such poles is c50 yrs; and sadly, the 1959 flagstaff (third of the big ones since 1861) was dismantled in August 2007 consequent to the depredations of age and woodpeckers. It will not be replaced (I know the feeling).

In section two, prior knowledge and informational texts for visitors have been reworked and transformed to suit a purpose. The second paragraph might, perhaps, be read as a desirable description of western haiku; while the whole is interspersed with spontaneous reflective haiku conjured up by a stroll around the garden. The first haiku expresses regret; the second, self-distaste at the memory of attending tea ceremony in the wrong spirit (the author blames his aching ankles for social forgetfulness). A tsukubai is a dripping water basin—situated near the tea-house of a roji, it serves a symbolic ritual purpose. The third haiku observes the disobedience of squirrels etc; and the fourth expresses existential cynicism in a section which ends up referencing A.E.Housman.

Section three is plain accurate description.

The fourth and last section foresees the future. It has one haiku and one piece of hand-script. Cranes and turtles have mythological associations with longevity in Japanese and Chinese culture, and angular and rounded islands are common traditional features of Japanese gardens. At Kew, two such islands are linked by a narrow bridge that annually receives the buffets of falling pine cones. In Japanese culture, pine trees hold some sense of good luck or the permanence of human relationships; but in the haiku, I was thinking only of the ultimate destruction of all things, given time. The piece of hand-script is a late contrivance, and imagines some future annotation of the writing. It notes a fortuitous piece of knowledge that might also be read as a metaphor for the origins of haiku in the west—except, of course, that haiku has never disappeared from Japanese culture.
The final haiku is strongly connected to the very first haiku in the haibun, making the whole piece of writing circular; feeling its way through the transient nature of both real and recorded existence—in my ending is my beginning. After all, this is the fate of all writing—it gets recycled; like us. It’s what we’re meant to do—just re-record and fade away … The haiku also references the Bhagavad Gita through T.S.Eliot’s The Dry Salvages (part3 ls.1-5). It occurred to me that these last two disembodied haiku might also be seen as ‘haiku stones’ after authorial demise.

October 2007

by Bamboo Shoot
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

Friday, December 19, 2008


A chill in the air, a slowing down, the gradual browning of the earth, but first, there is a party, a celebration, a carnival, complete with red and orange lights, ochre and gold, glowing in sunshine and shimmering even through fog and mist, and, like a carnival, the spectacle is too soon over, the performers have packed up and gone, leaving behind only their skeletal remains and memories.

fermenting leaves—
from sweaters on the line
a scent of camphor

by Adelaide B. Shaw
Millbrook, New York

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ray Rasmussen: HOW IS IT . . .

I hear her voice from time to time on the answering service—a call directed to our daughter. Like a remembered song, her rhythms and tone mirror the strong words uttered during our divorce proceedings. What's not brought to mind are memories of walking together, of shared meals over talk of children and work, of trips taken together, of love making. Instead, there's this ducking away from the phone, the need to escape.

Today, I pick up the receiver thinking the ring was on my line, and hear her voice directly for the first time in two years, asking for our daughter.

"Not home," I say.

"Oh," she says, and after some silence, "My mother has had a fall. It's serious. I wanted her to know."

Silence again ... then, "Why not call back and leave your message. She'll be in later."

How is it that after 25 years together I have no words to share? How can I have failed even to offer commiseration about her mother with whom I spent so many family meals and holidays—this woman who said at our wedding, "I always wanted a son. Now I have one."

November chill
the hammock filled
with leaves

by Ray Rasmussen
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
first published in Moonset 3:1, 2007

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jeffrey Winke: WHO KNOWS MANLY

Tired. That’s after hoisting her portly 33-pound red and white basset hound puppy up the 13-step flight. The Brute sprained his right front leg while sprinting in cottontail hunting class. Ava doesn’t hunt but if The Brute gets properly trained, she’ll have an excuse to linger at the Hound & Hare Hunt Club, where she’ll meet a proper gentleman… a man who knows manly things like hunting and smoking a briar pipe filled with English Cavendish tobacco. How tough can it be? The Brute is only weeks away from being blue-ribbon certified by The American Hunting Basset Association. Ava figures that her entire future depends on The Brute’s field trials. Her pup is the key.

candle light
her red lips caress
the cognac snifter

by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Packing for a trip to Thailand to celebrate my wife's 50th birthday, I come across my late brother's swimsuit. I've had it for almost five years and never worn it. I'm not sure if he ever did.

on the edge of the bed
wanting to cry—
happy my wife can sleep through
this unraveling of grief

There's a stack of student essays on my desk. Some examine the causes of the Seven Years' War; others explain Russia's isolation from Western Europe prior to 1700. Right now five years seems a lifetime ago.

my late brother's swimsuit—
fashion history
trunks of elephants
point to a joke

If he were alive, he wouldn't be caught dead in this. I certainly won't be. Nevertheless, I roll it up and put it in my suitcase, planning to wrap it around a coconut and throw it into the sea.
by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cherie Hunter Day: LAND’S END

The county road peters out in the parking lot of a lobster pound but the land keeps going, jutting into the bay. To get to the summer cottages visitors travel a double-rutted dirt road that narrows to a single mud-packed path around boulders on the final approach to the mud flats. Beyond a sandy spit granite ledges hold the last accumulation of soil. It’s enough to support the salt-sprayed and wind-pruned sumac and bayberry bushes to the height of a grade school child, not even the tallest in her class.

saving bits of shell
from the beach where we scattered
her ashes
the tint of red in the shale
bleeding iron

by Cherie Hunter Day
San Diego, California

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The Tanka Prose Anthology. Edited with an Introduction by Jeffrey Woodward. Baltimore, MD: Modern English Tanka Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-9817691-3-4. Perfect Bound, 6” x 9”, 176 pp., $12.95 USD.

Reviewed by Ray Rasmussen

The Tanka Prose Anthology edited by Jeffrey Woodward features 75 works by 19 good writers whose pieces I selectively read in whichever genre they appear. As someone who is well published in the haibun genre, but not very familiar with or published in either tanka or tanka prose—in short, a ‘non-expert’—I offer my thoughts about the anthology.

Woodward’s 17-page introduction and the bibliography of tanka prose serve as an useful introduction to the history of tanka in Japanese literature and of the present status of English-language tanka. It covers the relationship, historical and present, between haiku, haibun and tanka. Having already published numerous reviews and essays, Woodward is a thorough researcher and is serving in an important educative role for writers in any of the haiku genres.

I started with the suspicion that what the anthology presents as “tanka prose” is simply prose with tanka instead of haiku. However, Woodward clearly states that tanka prose is distinct from haibun prose:

“... In comparing tanka prose to haibun, I stated that it would be reasonable to anticipate that the prose element would be “written in the spirit of tanka.” This implies that tanka prose differs qualitatively from haibun—not only that tanka and haiku differ, but that their prose accompaniment does as well.”

So I read with the thought that the difference between tanka and haibun prose would become obvious as I read through the collection. I’ll begin by examining a few pieces in chronological order to address the difference issue.

Hortensia Anderson’s piece, “Maybe You Can Come Home,” leads off the anthology. Anderson presents either a fantasy based on historical record or a remembered event followed by two 5-line poems and one 3-line poem. While fantasy and remembered events are less usual in published haibun prose, as Ken Jones has aptly pointed out, they have a place in contemporary English language haibun:

“It (the haibun prose subject) may be the vivid recollection of a long forgotten childhood episode. It may even be a dream, a myth, or an imagined story collaged from fragments of our own real life. Such experiences may feel more real, more truthlike, than anything in our mundane daily round. Many fine haibun are poetic fancies, inspired imaginings, and yet the imagery is so direct and fresh and vivid, our imagination is so awakened, our feelings so stirred, that we are drawn into and enriched by the poet’s “reality”. (Ken’s Corner #3, Contemporary Haibun Online, March 2006, vol 2 no 1).

Thus, the fact that the provenience of the piece is ambiguous doesn’t lead to the conclusion that it is not haibun prose and instead might qualify as tanka prose. We can find pieces akin to this in many of the journals that publish haibun.

Marjorie Buettner’s piece, “The Presence of Absence” is a touching account written in present tense about her home empty of children. It wouldn’t be a surprise to find this piece in any of the haiku-genre journals under the haibun section. Strip the 5-line poem of its last two lines and it would be called a haibun. I’m not a journal editor, but I believe that most editors would readily accept this piece as a haibun.

Goldstein’s piece “Tanka Walk” (along with several by other writers) is an example of unusualness for published haibun in terms of its length and form. However this may simply be due to the fact that most editors would prefer to publish a number of small pieces than use a lot of space with several lengthy ones, however compelling. The piece is a mix of Goldstein’s practice of walking written in alternative paragraphs, one in the present tense describing his walk (as is the case with most contemporary haibun), the second containing his thoughts about his practice of tanka-walking practice (some philosophizing is also found in most contemporary haibun). The descriptive paragraphs easily fall into the category of typical haibun prose. It’s unusual to find a published haibun that relies extensively on philosophical meanders. Again, this doesn’t disqualify the piece as haibun prose.

The only difference I can distinguish between Larry Kimmel’s evocative pieces and haibun that I read elsewhere is that each is followed by a 5-line poem. The 5-line tanka form allows much more leeway than haiku in terms of permitting thoughts to be expressed (telling rather than showing) and therein is the key difference.

Perhaps one of the greatest deviations from “the usual” haibun that I read are Gary LeBel’s pieces. For example, in "Sea-change” we see a series of letters from his fictional character Captain William Horton to his wife. But “unusual” doesn’t equate with “not haibun.” This sort of creative work, likely based on LeBel’s imaginings about what it was to be an Englishman living in America in the 1700’s and perhaps based on LeBel’s visits to historical plantations in his region (my guess) does go beyond what I see as an important distinguishing characteristic of haibun from fiction, namely that the reader can sense the presence of the writer and feels that the account is about personal experience. The key here is whether the presence of the writer is found in the tanka used throughout the series of letters. Here I have the sense that LeBel brings us his own experiences.

Bob Lucky, one of my favourite storytellers, is clearly present in his pieces. Again, the key difference I can find is not between tanka and haibun prose, but simply in the presence of a 5-line instead of a 3-line poems. I do think that this series of pieces are among the most inventive I’ve read of Lucky’s work. In some cases, as with the other pieces in the anthology, one might ask the question whether the tanka could as easily be expressed as a haiku. For example:

all night
tick tick tick tick
from the clock—
I can’t sleep
without the tock

Would work as well, in my view, as a more understated haiku, although the haiku I’d suggest below lacks the wit of the more explicitly stated tanka:

all night
tick tick tick tick
from the clock

And so it goes with each writer. My reading of these pieces begs a question not raised by Woodward, namely, does a tanka poem that permits both greater expressiveness and expansiveness than a haiku produce a piece that is so distinct from haibun that it merits its own genre—tanka prose? I think not for reasons I’ll get to below.

Up to this point, I’ve discussed the work of a few of the 17 writers in the alphabetical order presented in the anthology. Skipping ahead, several of Patricia Prime’s and Jeffrey Woodward’s pieces deviate from the typical published haibun in that they offer a series of three or more tanka sometimes interspersed with prose in paragraph style. With respect to the tanka, we might ask the same question of these works that Ken Jones addresses to a haibun writer:

“... try folding it (the haiku) back into prose. If it reads just as well there, then leave it there; better strong prose than a “haiku” which is really no more than three chopped up bits of prose. On the other hand, if your haiku stands out as somehow different from the surrounding prose, then leave it as a haiku. (Ken’s Corner #4, Contemporary Haibun Online, June 2006, vol 2 no 2)

In these pieces I could imagine the tanka as being written in the more typical haibun prose style—as paragraphs. Whether the impact of reducing a series of tanka to one or several prose paragraphs would substantially change the piece is open to question. Certainly there’s a difference between free verse poetry and haibun, in that the line breaks are essential parts of the reading. Similarly, a series of tanka demand more of a reader than a prose paragraph does and the line breaks and two theme structure produce signals for a reader different than prose. A series of tanka, or for that matter of haiku, causes the reader to take a break between each tanka to absorb the individual tanka, but also to consider the relationship between the tanka in the series. Here perhaps more than anywhere else in the anthology, I do sense a difference between the prose typically offered in a haibun and what Woodward calls tanka prose. This begs the question as to whether the editors of journals publishing haibun would accept these pieces as haibun. I’d guess the answer is ‘yes’. And here I am suggesting that in its present stage of development, the arbitrators of what is and isn’t a good haibun are particularly the editors of our good journals who themselves have gotten to their positions by years of successful writing in one or more of the haiku genres. Of course, some of these editors accept more experimental or different work than others.

Elsewhere, haibun has been described as a unique form of poetry and writing, different than free verse poetry, essays, journals and fiction, not just because the prose tends to be whittled down to the bare essentials and descriptive in feel, but also because of the presence of a haiku. In addition, Ken Jones suggests that haibun prose is akin to haiku. I would add that by implication such prose is itself different than these other forms:

“This is the haiku-prose of haibun, where all the work is done by careful and feeling observation expressed in concrete imagery. As in haiku there is little that is superfluous and almost every word has work to do.” (Ken’s Corner #2, Contemporary Haibun Online, Part 2, December 2005, vol 1 no 3)

In my view, it’s not just the distinctiveness of the prose style or the presence of a worthy haiku that makes a haibun. There’s also the break between prose and haiku that causes the reader to shift from one kind of receptiveness (as in reading a short story or account) to being receptive to a presentation of an image, brief like a snapshot, that carries an association with the prose. Reflective time must be spent not only with the haiku (or tanka), but also with the relationship between haiku and prose. In my experience, the shift from one form (prose) to another (short poem) causes a shift in the reader’s mental state. I don’t experience this need to shift when reading free verse poetry or fiction.

Coming back to the present volume, my experience in reading the pieces in this anthology is much the same as in reading haibun in any of the contemporary journals. The need to shift receptive states is strong when the short (5-line) poem is encountered and is not essentially different as I read these pieces than when I read haibun and encounter a haiku. However, I do generally find tanka poems more assessable than haiku poems – perhaps because tanka, as I read them, are often a mix of showing and telling. This is not meant to denigrate the tanka form which I find quite refreshing and in which this anthology has sparked my interest.

I might have suggested that this excellent anthology be labeled “The Haibun with Tanka Anthology” (yes, that’s a very awkward title) so as to avoid adding yet another genre to the collection of works written by today’s haiku-genre poets. Trying to distinguish between the prose found in this collection from that found in any of the haibun journals is a difficult exercise at best and perhaps best left to more scholarly minds than mine. Such speculation might be important in the haibun vs. tanka prose question; it’s just that there’s not been a convincing case made that there is an essential difference. To make the case, I would suggest that Woodward produce an essay that shows similarly themed pieces, one tanka prose the other haiku prose, and let us see the difference (show us) rather than simply tell us. The anthology doesn’t permit this sort of comparison.

This isn’t to suggest that Woodward’s introductory essay is trivial speculation nor that the collection isn’t worthwhile. The essay is not only an addition to the understanding of the history of tanka, haiku and the practice of combining prose and short haiku-genre forms. It also invites an examination of the issue whether there is a difference in the prose found in what this collection labels as ‘tanka prose’ and that found in haibun. The more important question of how haibun/tanka prose differs from the various other genres such as free verse, short stories, flash fiction, personal and travel diaries, essays, etc. is not addressed in the essay, but it has been and will continue to be addressed elsewhere. Speculation about the differences in tanka and haibun prose may eventually lead to a distinction between the two forms that goes beyond “one has a tanka, the other a haiku.” Meanwhile, the number of haibun writers, while growing, remains small and to split that genre into two separate sub-genres is premature at best and perhaps even counter productive. In short, there is a need to grow the readership and understanding of the haibun form whatever the type of short poem is utilized with the prose.

In closing, I do want to congratulate Woodward and his colleagues in bringing out this volume. There needs to be more print and online space devoted to the haibun form for the genre to grow and more critical analysis is needed for the understanding of the genre to grow among haibun writers and people who read the more established forms of poetry (e.g., free verse), but not haibun. This volume contains a collection of creative writing that is unusually good and that goes well beyond the normal descriptive prose found in the great majority of published haibun. One would hope that Woodward would continue to edit and publish similar collections. Perhaps a good reason to call the collection “tanka prose” is that the writers were evidently motivated to submit what Ken Jones calls “literary haibun” or what I’d call experimental or unusual haibun. In short, the anthology breaks us out of the orthodoxy that is already being established in the relatively short life of English language haibun and allows us to consider greater variation in both form and content. That being the case, I’m all for such collections whatever the collection is called.

by Ray Rasmussen
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dru Philippou: OFF THE LIP

A day when I pack a sandwich, sit on the beach—a day in which I hypostatize God in a flash of lightning, too far off for sound; in a woman staring as though she’s looking through me; in this wave ruffling at my feet; thro’ the words of Truman Capote: The wind is us—it gathers and remembers all our voices . . . .

into the rip
my pin tail surfboard
sings me to my idols
sings the wind
from Waimea to Piha Beach

by Dru Philippou
Taos, New Mexico

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


It could be that there is a hole nearby, its entrance hidden by untended grasses. And time, like a steady limpid stream, is flowing into its depths never to surface again. The sun no sooner rises, than it yields to afternoon, then twilight hurries into darkness. Our planet, seemingly, spins faster with each year I walk the earth and swim the rising seas.

hermit monks said
be quiet in the moment
slow down—
did they manage hectic days
and myriad things to do?

by Kirsty Karkow
Waldoboro, Maine

Monday, December 8, 2008


Don’t come another inch closer, I mean it. What gall to show up here like this today without an invitation, to steal away my summer (and all my ridiculous dreams): thief! Why, if the Shakers were here, they’d grind you into paint and be done with it.

In years past, I always dragged my feet through autumn, but now I go kicking and screaming—and you with your history, oh, such history, a knee-buckling load you refuse to lift for like a lazy student you make no distinction between Stalin and Gandhi, shooting straight up through the ‘white bones’ we scatter with a cardsharp’s wrist across the blood-soaked meadows of battles,

waving your little heads during executions, thriving in the backyards of killers, and bursting into color outside the firewalls where tired old lawyers and generals change the wording in constitutions and plan wars for post-adolescents to fight, your quiet reason always swaying to a light breeze within sight of their round-tabled bunkers,

an enfant sauvage, eyes at the edge of the wilderness,


field of goldenrod.

Today, Chronos, I laze
and with a death-grip on your robe
refuse to walk: you’ll have to drag me
tooth and nail, slobbering drunk
with Sirens’ wail.

by Gary LeBel
Cumming, Georgia

Note: ‘white bones’ is from a poem of Tu Fu, originally ‘white bones, blue smoke’.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ynes Sanz: BIG TED

In a recurring dream I am opening a toybox, or sometimes it’s a cupboard, to rummage through mounds of toys that are unfamiliar, though all have the soft contours and faded colour of long use. Have I forgotten them? Perhaps I never owned them at all, but coveted them when they belonged to little friends whose names are lost.

In the gardens of my childhood there were often bomb shelters half buried in the soil. Inside, in the dusty shadows, we children could sometimes find, like family secrets, small traces of the people who tried to rest there night after night. Overhead, flying bombs had made their erratic grinding passage or suddenly cut their engines, to drop in an instant, or drift on, with a faint noise like wind, over the hundreds of hidden upward-gazing heads.

in the air-raid shelter
a plastic brooch.......shot
from a Christmas cracker

In a recurring memory, my father lifts me up to press a button in the blue Police Box at the corner of our road. I am only a toddler but already I know that I must do it right. If my small finger wobbles, the siren sound will not come out in the steady ‘All Clear’ of the test signal, but will make the terrible undulating wail that means an air-raid. I will frighten all the people for miles around, and young as I am, I know they have already been frightened more than enough.

playing on the bombsite
she cradles
a one-legged doll

At the Op shop again, I search with a kind of hunger for the thing that will reveal itself as what I am looking for. Ribbons, a silver christening cup, a walking stick, a cushion with a sentimental verse? A huge square wooden market fruit bin overflows with discarded fluffy toys. I systematically work my way through the pile. Whatever it is, I can’t find it here.
battered photograph
trying to see the face
of the toy in my arms

by Ynes Sanz
Brisbane, Qld., Australia

Friday, December 5, 2008


lift off—
the dash to business class
for empty seats

40,000 feet over Cambodia, heading home. One thing the flight crew neglected in going over safety procedures was how to latch the toilet door. I’ve seen enough flesh on this flight, and from some very unflattering angles, to induce pornographic nightmares.

into tiny seats—
the high cost of fuel

In a few hours I’ll be in Hangzhou sitting in my local restaurant in the alley, cracking sunflower seeds between my teeth and spitting the shells on the table and floor with the rest of them.

loud belch
squabbling for the honor
to pick up the check

by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Thursday, December 4, 2008


You speak German? She asks while biting her lower lip in faux perplexity while staring at the well-worn splayed cover of Traktat über kritische Vernunft, by Hans Albert. He quickly gathers the volume up and inserts an old St. Louis MetroBus transfer stub to hold his place. She giggles a bit as he deftly unhooks her vintage charcoal pencil skirt, releasing her from her afternoon appointment, while steering her hips to the nearby rolled-arm silk-upholstery white settee.
penthouse view
sound of seagulls

by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stanley Pelter: EXCORIATION

want to listen, want to hear what this chair is saying to that. feel here is a once-in-a-lifetime chance of over-hearing table wood communicating with an old door bleached of suffocating paint.

the Large Glass breaks
and in the right places
the copy also

silent, She isolates.
Her eyes pin me to the crucifix wood of the floor. Randomly probing, they divide into dark estuary shadows, squeeze inside most of my most ecstatic fears. Job done, her eyes close tight, like stitches fusing disconnected bits of skin, like rivets that only flesh in flames can melt. She leaves, taking with her significant particles that belong to me; pieces I miss. I mean, really miss.
i only ever saw her once again. but once again those translucent eyes stripped me bare, even. body runs away but her fixed look remains. unexpected guests, i on one side of the reconstruction, she on the other. Large Glass. ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even’¹. i am pulped, will, through all time, pour through that symbol of a coffee grinder; complex love machine that can never work, that frustrates those who join in, who want more than desire. joined without contradiction, empty of each other, we remain, and forever will, unresolved protagonists. i alone. U alone. we yearn even for what is not ever possible.

even he knows it
iconography of sex
always comes between

again again again U writhe, turn me on a spit of indulgence. again, i bare U stripped bare, smile back grimly, even.

¹ La Mariée mise à nu par ses Célibataires, même.....Marcel Duchamp 1915-23

by Stanley Pelter
Claypole, Lincolnshire, England

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.