Monday, January 7, 2008


Correspondent: Patricia Prime

It’s over two months since Haibun Today began and the site continues to flourish. Haibun Today can only be published if it is supported by a regular and committed readership. The reaction of haibun lovers and poets has been overwhelming and I would like to thank our readers and writers for their support. It would be nice to see more poets publishing their haibun. This does not mean that the editor or staff has to like everything that is published and sometimes haibun and essays may be published that are not to everyone’s taste. But this is part of the fascination of publishing poems from such a wide readership: the sheer challenge and eye-opening experiences provided by poets is reward in itself.

An increased interest in the form may have been driven by poets’ access to Internet sites. Even so, and as so often the case, it is surely fed and nourished by timely publications such as we’ve seen recently from Australian poets: Graham Nunn’s Measuring the Depth, Julie Beveridge’s Home Is Where the Heartache Is, Jeffrey Harpeng’s Quarter Past Sometime, and Janice M. Bostok’s Stepping Stones and Silver Path of Moon. The world-renowned poet and editor of Jacket Magazine, John Tranter, recently published a collection of his poetry, Urban Myths, which includes several haibun and the Aboriginal poet, Samuel Wagan Watson, includes haibun in his poetry collection, smoke encrypted whispers.

New Zealand poets fall behind with publication of their haibun, although several poets, mainly those from haiku groups, have published haibun in their collective works. These include Listening to the Rain, edited by Cyril Childs and Joanna Preston, shadow-patches, edited by Bernard Gadd, and Richard von Sturmer’s A Network of Dissolving Thread.

These books have had the impact of introducing haibun to a wider readership in Australasia.

Japanese subjects appear with some frequency in New Zealand poems, and forms such as haiku, tanka and haibun are being adopted and increasingly adapted to a New Zealand medium. The ‘Japanese effect’ in contemporary poetry does not only refer to style, but to the various unpredictable ways in which Japan has shaped poets’ imaginations. Often, our poetry has been informed by reading. We have also absorbed Japanese culture at a non-verbal level. This is especially true of a growing interest in the visual arts, ink calligraphy and haiga. New Zealand has an ongoing association with the Japanese Embassy and the Japanese Tourist Board, which has supported Japanese poetry and, in particular, haiku.

Our shared experience as readers and writers of Haibun Today will bring new and exciting innovations to the way we write, as we explore modes of thought, feeling and imagination, within or in terms of the medium, and discover and disclose aspects of existence and experience. Any art form that avoids or denigrates innovation is bound to fall victim to a notion of ‘tradition,’ which is both complacent and absurd. This is not to deny tradition; but tradition loses itself to becoming unprogressive when it is not open to new possibilities. This openness is absolutely crucial to the strength of haibun. On the other hand, I don’t believe that haibun has to be formally innovative in order to be significant. The questions of what is being explored and opened up, and what we as poets can bring to the haibun form are important and will no doubt lead to many discussions in the future. The richness and diversity in the history of haibun should lead us to a wider range of haibun writing that is both challenging and singular.

by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

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