|Xiao He chases Han Xin by Yosa Buson (Nomura Art Museum via Wikimedia)|
Haibun poems are used to write autobiography, diary, essay, prose poems, very short stories. It was used as a kind of travel journal when it was first used by the 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō. It was a form he popularized. He wrote haibun as travel accounts. The most famous are in Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Interior).
Haibun continued to be written by later haikai poets such as Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa and Masaoka Shiki.
Not all of Bashō's haibun are devoted to travel. They also are character sketches, landscape scenes, and occasional poems to honor a specific patron or event. His "Hut of the Phantom Dwelling" is a quite long prose essay followed by the haiku:
Among these summer trees,
something to count on
(A pasania is a tree species of Asia, sometimes called in English a "stone oak" because of its very hard acorn-like nuts.)
Traditional haibun typically took the form of a short, precise prose description of a place, person or object, or a diary of a journey or other events in the poet's life, followed by a related haiku.
Haibun is now wriiten worldwide and the form has been adapted into different variations. The basic rules for the haibun are simple.
- Unlike haiku, they begin with a title.
- The prose portion is terse, descriptive and written in the first person singular.
- It is in the present moment. Imagine the experience is occurring now, not in the past.
- Although this is prose, it is poetic, understated, with all excessive words eliminated.
- The accompanying haiku follows the traditional rules of that form.
- The subject of the haiku does not repeat, quote or explain the prose, but reflects some aspect of the prose with a detail that is more juxtaposition - different yet somehow connected. That connection can be a surprising revelation for the reader.
She told us that although Bashō coined the word haibun for the form as it is today, it already existed in Japan without that name as a kind of preface to poems and as mini-lyric essays. He wrote a guideline for the form and Aimee points out that he was quite concerned with aware (pronounced ah-WAR-ay), a term for the spirit of haiku or the "quality of certain objects to evoke longing, sadness, or immediate sympathy."
In "Don’t Bring Me to the Fireworks, The Fox-Wife Asks," by Jeannine Hall Gailey, we have a modern day haibun. I discovered Gailey's poetry in an article Nezhukumatathil wrote which includes another one of her fox-wife poems.
Don’t Bring Me to the Fireworks, The Fox-Wife Asks
Keep the copper smoke
and saltpeter, the dim trails
of chrysanthemums in the sky.
That poem is from Gailey's collection, She Returns to the Floating World, which explores motifs in Japanese folk tales:, persona poems spoken by characters from animé and manga, mythology, and fairy tales. The story of the kitsune, or fox-woman, is one that occurs throughout the book.
This month's prompt is a haibun following the simplified and traditional six rules stated above.
The submission deadline is the night of the New Moon, August14, 2015.
Further Reading On Haibun
- haibuntoday.com has a good selection of contemporary haibun. Two you might look at are "Night Fishing" and "Frozen."
- naturewriting.com has a good article on writing haibun