8:32 a.m. — Atlanta
Yo-kay! Here we go. I hope everyone is well. I thought this might be a good time to present the haibun form to you, as I know many of you participated in haiku month. Now you can take your haiku skills and expand them.
Basho, the 17th century Japanese poet-monk, was a proponent of this form and wrote haibun as a narrative on his travels. Haibun is still used as a travel narrative, but has expanded to include narrative on ordinary moments in life.
List moments from your past few days that are specific, single aspects of an object, person, place, or event. They do not have to be earth-shattering, only a moment, or experience, you want to share.
Haibun fascinates me as a form. It is a combination of poetry and poetic prose. The relationship between the two, has been described as elliptical. Most of us can probably write a haiku and a bit of poetic prose, but to write them so they have an elliptical relationship? This is the tricky part.
Two parts of the meaning of elliptical pertain: that the language is concise, no irrelevant words, or comments; and that the relationship is not necessarily obvious, often ambiguous, cryptic, or obscure. At the same time we want our readers to be able to take away a truth from the poem.
From your list of moments, pick one of the aspects and freewrite the epiphany/scene/vignette/moment. This can, and probably will, form your prose. What aspect of what you are writing about do you want to point to, or emphasise, or shine a spotlight on? This will be the basis of your haiku.
Robert D. Wilson editor of Haiku Today tells us: “Haiku [must]… relate to previous prose sections yet not be an extension of the prose. The oblique but relevant association between haiku and prose is the defining moment of the haibun. … The haiku link offers readers a springboard to multiple, and often unexpected, meanings.”
“The one rule, which seems to have come down over the years, is that the [haiku] should not qualify the prose…the haiku should “leap” to a subject which might compliment the prose by juxtaposition.”— Janice M. Bostok in an interview with Rosanna Licari, Stylus Poetry Journal, August 2003.
The prose does not explain the haiku, but should add a layer to our understanding of the haiku. Depending on its position, before or after the prose, the haiku should not act as an introduction to, or continuation of, the prose. Each part can stand alone, but working together they provide a larger whole for us to understand.
Decide which should lead in your haibun. For yourself, try both, haiku first, haiku last. Your inner ear will help you know which one works best for your haibun.
The building blocks of haibun are one prose paragraph + one haiku; or, one haiku + one prose paragraph. The paragraph can be from 50 to 180 words. Sometimes, writers sandwich the prose with two haiku, but that is rare. Read the example below and then try it with the haiku first. Figure out why Zimmerman placed the haiku after the prose. What difference does it make to the poem, when the haiku starts it?
Mid-November after I rake the leaves I stand at Central and First,
holding the Stars and Bars. All of them died in Nam — my brother Joe,
my cousin Freddy, mom’s youngest brother Jack. Sometimes I just have
to come out on the streets and stand with my flag. There’s no parade.
The smell of burning
could be diesel
could be napalm
First published in Frogpond 34:1 (Winter, 2011)
Note in the above example that the haiku loosely follows the traditional form. Probably, before starting you will wish to read examples of contemporary haibun. You will see that many of the haiku loosely follow the form, especially with syllables. I think, with haiku, the most important part to keep, is the caesura, the stop point, which occurs after either the first, or second line, like a momentary holding of the breath.
So, go to it. I think this form will be fun to play with. Remember that it’s fine to post first drafts and that you do not have to get a form spot on while learning it. If you are worried, include process notes that tell us what you think works, and doesn’t work. Then we all learn. So, please do post. Anytime is fine, including weeks later [but not if you are using the loose deadline to put it off!]. I am happy to give personal deadlines to those who need them. Periodically you might wander back to a previous Tuesday Tryout to see if anyone has newly posted.
I shall see you Friday for the prompts roundup [yes, I do envision myself with a lasso]; and I will be dark next week — it’s Fall Break and Disney World. My first visit.
Happy writing, all.