The Haibun – Thoughts – December 30, 2015

I was “googling” today to see if I could find something particularly interesting to write about haibun, basically I was just interested in a “how to write a haibun” page but came up with a treasure trove,  this interesting article on Haibun TodayTransmissions of Haibun by David Cobb of Shalford, Esse, England in the September issue of 2013.

I found this a fascinating read about the transmission of haibun into Western society (and specifically to Britain ) … especially considering that haibun had/has become almost a dead letter until recently in its native Japan: “Toshinori (Nenten) Tsubouchi, began encouraging the genre these past few years in Japanese, partly under the stimulus of Hisashi Miyazaki, who in turn was influenced by SHG (Tito) and Ken Jones (both of Britain)*”.  Of course haibun was introduced to the west thanks to the translation of Nobuyuki Yuasa who translated Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Penguin Classics, 1966).

Before this wonderful translation though,  Jack Kerouac might be considered to be the first westerner to actually write a haibun of sorts:

“Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and On the Road have certain resemblances to haibun, in attitude if not in execution. […] In The Dharma Bums, Kerouac’s alter ego, Japhy Ryder, is bitten with the same sense of mission: ‘This,’ he said (meaning The Dharma Bums) ‘is really a book about religious vagrants . . . rucksack wanderers . . . Zen lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason.’ We might accept this, right down to the present day, as not a bad description of what haibun means to a good number of those who are intoxicated by the form.” (article cited above)

I myself only discovered the haibun in August of 2013 through a blog called Ligo Haibun hosted by Hamish Gunn which is now closed I think.  One thing I’d noticed was that the haibun has often become a sort of flash fiction or short story with haiku interspersed in it or with a more classical haiku ending and sometimes they’re tales about inner journeys, but certainly they’re rarely a travel diary (which I admit  that I myself have written in all these forms) and quite frankly, haibun today seems to have little to do with Basho’s Oku-no-hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) 

“Where might haibun stand in relation to these experimental forms? We seem to agree that haiku is a poem conceived (observed) in a flash; some also hold that it is also best recorded (written down) in a flash, though more of us—from Bashō onwards—demur that haiku should be crafted carefully over any length of time. Kerouac also, though we may associate his method with ‘action writing’ and ‘stream of consciousness’, is on record as saying ‘haiku is best reworked and revised.’ ‘Flash writing’ is not to be confused with ‘first thoughts, best thoughts’, better left untouched. The ‘flash’ is a loose measure of the time it takes to read a piece, but not the time it took to write it, or the time needed, after reading it, to absorb it. All this applies equally to haiku and haibun.

Of course, haibun is not ‘flash fiction’. From the point of view of subject matter, most haibun are ‘flash-faction’, an umbrella for sub-sets such as ‘flash history’, ‘flash legend’, ‘flash myth’, ‘flash memoir’, ‘flash essay’, ‘flash diary’, ‘flash journal’, ‘flash travelogue’, ‘flash prose poem’; though there are indeed examples that we might call ‘flash story’ and even ‘flash fairy tale’ and ‘flash science fiction’. Ken Jones has aimed to broaden his readership by calling some of his output ‘haiku stories’.

Interest in ‘short writing’ exists not least in creative writing courses—among students, and among tutors. It is for that reason it seemed to me timely to offer, in tandem, Marching with Tulips—a very varied collection of different types of haibun—and What Happens in Haibun—a study which tries to pinpoint whatever roles haiku may play when embedded in prose. (article cited above).

To be honest, unlike with haiku and other waka, I’d never really looked into what haibun is or isn’t nor of its evolution or history or even where it stands in the world of poets (Japanese and Western) today.  I found this article stimulating enough to want to go and do a little more research into this fascinating genre.

*Some background about the British haibun tradition – Icebox

What Happens in Haibun

On David Cobb’s Marching with Tulips

Icebox a blog dedicated to haiku and haibun that began publishing in 2008

**I found the photo of this panel on Art and Life in an interesting post entitled: “Haibunga!”

My Home – Ligo Haibun – November 20, 2014


First snow on the mountains – dawn November 20, 2014

I’ve lived most of my life on the plains of the world, in fact I was born in Illinois … a fairly flat land with miles and miles of corn.  There were a few exceptions; in Italy I’d lived in the Colli Albani .. the Alban Hills just south of Rome,  in my youth, Anchorage, Alaska under a mountain but I don’t know its name and in Eritrea I lived on that wonderful plateau that houses the city of Asmara.

Basically, I wasn’t born a “mountain-woman”.  I have no traditions behind me to use as a reason for my particular affection of these mountains, except if I make them up, which I do from time to time for the benefit of those who love to analyze everything. And if you’ll notice in the preceding lines I wrote “these mountains” because it’s not that I’m in love with just any group of mountains.

So why am I so much in love with these mountains.  I really couldn’t honestly tell you.

We came often to visit friends in Trento, where my husband had lived and worked before he retired and returned to Tuscany. Sometimes we’d exchange houses with a group of his old friends, we lived in Grosseto in Tuscany near the sea.  But each time we’d leave these mountains and drive into the flat lands of the Po Valley, I felt like I was leaving home and would feel sad for several days. The last time, in 1993, I broke down and cried at the site of the plains.

So we decided to buy a house in Trentino. Thanks to a good friend, we found the house  where we now live, in the Sarca Valley on Lake Garda at the end of the Lake Valley. The mountains which surrounds our Sarca Valley aren’t the huge Dolomites they’re no more than foot hills in comparison.  But they cradle our little community between them in the east and west like a loving mother.

I can’t tell you why I love this place, it’s no more beautiful than other places I’ve lived.  Her people aren’t extraordinary.  I can’t tell you why I feel so at home here.  All I can tell you is that when I leave Trentino to visit the south and then return, the mountains seem to whisper their welcome and a tear of joy has been known to roll down my cheek.  I breath in the green of her trees and feast my eyes on her peaks and crags and I know I’m home at last.

cradled by mountains
nestles the Sarca Valley –
kissed by Lake Garda

  (c) G.s.k. ’14


Linked  to  – Ligo Haibun Challenge

Modern-Day Nomad – Haibun – November 12, 2014

I’m a modern-day nomad .. no place to really call home.  I’ve lived in many countries, known lots of people but lost sight of every one of them. Forever a stranger, always an outsider.  I’ve got lots of photographs to remember moments and faces, but I don’t remember half the names of those people.

I used to lament my fate … after all it wasn’t a life of my choosing when I was growing up.  My father was a soldier and we followed wherever he was sent.  Back and forth across the Nation then from Alaska to Florida … across the wide Pacific. But when I grew up and I just didn’t stop travelling, it must have become a habit,  I crossed more oceans and seas into Europe and Africa.  I couldn’t really say then, that I hadn’t chosen to wander.

Lots of people envy me.  I’ve seen so many things, it’s true.  I’ve lived a full life.  Too bad my life is just full memories from photographs and old letters but I’ve no one with whom to share them.

endless winding road
never stopping to stay long
snapshot memories

(c) G.s.k. ’14

Me and my interests

Linked to Ligo Haibun

Summer Sunshine – Haibun – October 14, 2014

Summer Sunshine (Haibun)

Walking through Rovereto, with its high walls and cold wind, I was going to the train station. Passing the children off to school, to was going to meet my son who was coming home and would be with us for a week – I couldn’t help smiling.  Happy, a song filled my mind and soul – I felt like the world was a better, happier, place to live in.  No marching band was there to greet him, at least not one you could see, just the music in my mind.  The train rolled in.

cold autumn wind
the train pulls into the station
– summer sunshine


From: Hub Pages – Haibun

Here’s an example of a classic haibun written by the famous haiku master, Basho which I found on Hub Pages with a fine article on what haibun is, classically:

I left my rundown hut beside the river during the eighth month of 1684, placing my trust in my walking stick and in the words of the Chinese sage who said: “I pack no provisions for my long journey — entering emptiness under the midnight moon.” The voice of the wind was oddly cold.

Weather-beaten bones,
I’ll leave your heart exposed
to cold, piercing winds

(c) Basho

Written for Lego Haibun using a video prompt.

014d1-octpowrimobadge2I’m submitting this second poem today at OctPoWriMo for the prompt: “Inspiration from the Poets Who Went Before…”

Līgo Haibun Challenge – Quote Prompt

Ese’s Voice: Ligo Haibun Challenge – Quote

“In giving you are throwing a bridge across the chasm of your solitude.”

Giulio stood on the dock, wondering about the day when Mary would return.  He felt disconsolate as once again he would return to an empty house. He cat was soon out of sight.  He walked slowly towards where he’d parked his car .

A young couple had parked next to his car.  They seemed to be German tourists. He didn’t speak German, but seeing their distressed look he tried asking what was wrong in English.

“I don’t know.” said the young man, “My car won’t start.”

Giulio, after asking permission, lifted the hood to see if any wires were loose.  Sure enough, the battery cable was barely attached.  He fixed it in its place and invited the man to try again.  The car roared to life.

“Wunderbar!” they shouted together smiling and clapping their hands. Then hopped out of their car to shake his hand.

“We’re going to have dinner in a short while, would you not be our guest?” the lady asked him.

This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that lasted long after they left for home two weeks later.

out of solitude
chickadees sing in summer
a friendly gesture

The Wine Under the “Pergola”- July 8, 2014

ligohaibun_glassesSitting under the “pergola”* sipping wine, I with my white you with your rosé.  The wind gently rustling the leaves, a last streak of sun peeked through the darkening sky.

The children played tag nearby.  Soon it would be time for dinner.  Relaxing like this after a long day of trekking was the perfect way to pass the late afternoon.  Soon though, we would be leaving this corner of paradise, summer vacation was drawing to a close.  The children would be returning to school and we to our offices.

“E’ Pronto la cena!  Venite tutti!”** the owner of the guest-house called from the terrace door.

summer ends
sipping wine under the arbor
crickets chirp


** Dinner’s ready!  Come on everyone!

Written for Lego Haibun!


Haibun – The Fountain of Trevi

Fountains in Rome … there are over 2000! Once upon a time people went to get their drinking water from one of these fountains, other larger fountains were used to wash clothes as well as for other domestic purposes but some were and are celebratory monuments.

The Fountain of Trevi is fairly recent renovation of an already existing monumental Roman fountain which marked the terminal point of three aqueducts.  But anyone who’s ever visited Rome won’t be surprised by that.  Many churches, monuments and plazas have been standing since the time of Rome only to have been “renovated”,  their use converted from their former purpose by later generations of potentates, usually a Pope.  In this case, Pope Urbano VIII (1629)  felt the fountain wasn’t dramatic enough and commissioned Bernini to present plans for the renovation of the fountain.  He died though before the project was completed and the project was taken up again only a century later by another Pope (1730 Pope Clement XII)  and architect (Nicola Salvi) who kept some of Bernini’s ideas in his own project.

When I first saw the Fountain of Trevi  I was a little surprised and disconcerted.  I’d seen it in a clip from a film many years before, Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita”.  There Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroiani play in the fountain one summer evening.  I’d gotten the impression that it must be in a large piazza … I mean look at that fountain!  But no, this isn’t the case.  It’s a very small plaza, completely dominated by the fountain which is surrounded by buildings on three sides, a street circling it separates it from the surrounding buildings.

The Fountain is totally out of proportion to the size of the plaza giving me a feeling of being closed in. Of course a photographer would have a hard time capturing the reality of the plaza … unless like Anita, he took his picture from inside the fountain itself!

overpowering …
majestic grandeur
in a shoe box

Written for Ligo Haibun – Bridge or Fountain


Haibun – A life well travelled – June 19, 2014

Throughout my life travel has been the by-word.  From State to State my path was laid, learning new aspects of human existence.  Early I began to discover that long-held “truths” were not in fact truth and certainly not universal.  Each people, every nation had views that were so very different from the views I’d absorbed in my childhood.

Diversity as a concept is a wonderful thing and maybe the only truth that really exists.  We are one in life but diverse in our view of life.  It’s not always been an easy path to walk.  I’ve watched my citadel of childhood beliefs became abandoned ruins but then if you travel and live in the wide world, it’s the minimum price to be paid.

railroad tracks
passing through a village
beckoning onward

the carousel of life
spinning wild confusion

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Written for Ligo Haibun Phicture Prompt

Summer Soltice Fest – Haibun – June 10, 2014

The summer music fest of 2015 was one of the most exciting moments of my life.  That year it was held at Stonehenge.

The pipers and harpists from Scotland, Ireland and Brittany were all present with a special presentation from Galicia.  The most exciting moment of the evening though was when a group of young people from the north of India got together with a group of Australian Aborigine.  The sitar’s mystic melodies accented by the ancient whirling guttural sound of the didgeridoo enchanted us all as we greeted the Summer Solstice. Magic seemed to fill the air and we seemed to be transported into the realm of faery.  It was an evening few of the present could ever forget!

summer solstice
mystic musical greetings

Written for Ligo Haibun Challenge Word Prompt … obviously, this never happened, but how I would love to go to a summer music fest and see and hear this happen!

Haibun – June 6, 2014 – Misciui


In the warm moon-lit African evening people gathered around a large table decked with a large platter of rice.  The misciui would soon begin.  The goats roasting on the fire would soon be ready.

Someone came with a balafon and his friend brought drums.  They began to play as the rest of the guest listened.  The meat was soon ready and placed in the in honor at the center of the table.

Everyone began to eat as the music played on, eventually becoming more obsessive.  A couple finished eating stood up and began to shake with the rhyme of the drums, their dance sensual, a perfect imitation of love-making as he leaned over her and she responded.

Drink flowed liberally and as each person had his fill of meat and rice, they too began to dance obsessed with the music.  Soon under the light of the moon gyrating couples were lost in the magic of the music and the moon.  All but one old man.

A girl tried to pull him into the center of the dance area. He shook her off and refused saying: “My days of dancing are now past me!  I remember when I was young and shouted at my grandfather, either dance well or start drinking.  I’m drinking tonight!”

moon-lit party
under the skies of Africa
an old man drinks

The prompt this week at Ligo Haibun is “Either dance well or start drinking”.

* misciui is a sort of barbecue, I’m not sure how one spells it, I’ve only heard it used.