Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Writing Tips: Haibun

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This is the third and final installment (for now) of Writing Tips from the Gifts of a Wordsmith poetry workshop led by Tina Mozzelle Braziel* at the Birmingham Public Library. I have used “Writing Tips” as a means of celebrating National Poetry Month and also for celebrating the local opportunities we have to learn more about poetry. The poetry workshops continue, on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, in the first floor conference room at Birmingham Central Library downtown.

Writing Haibun

For a couple of years now, I have been writing haiku on my blog, with a new poem each Saturday. That endeavor began when I received so much reader interest in a post about writing haiku. Later, I increased my knowledge of haiku and posted what I had learned in Notes from a Haiku Workshop.  I was not acquainted with the haibun genre, however, until it was covered in a session led by Tina Braziel at the Gifts of a Wordsmith poetry workshop.

The haibun is a genre that combines prose and haiku. It was developed by the famous 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō.   Bashō was a master of the art of haiku, and would often use the haibun form for what me might call a travel log today. He would write brief accounts of his journeys accompanied by a haiku.

In writing haibun, there is a brief prose reflection followed by a haiku. The haiku and the prose will serve to enhance one another, but each could stand on its own. In other words, they are related, but the haiku does not repeat the prose, and the prose does not explain the haiku.  

Here is one example of a haibun that I found online at Poetry Form – the Haibun: 

    Missing Man
    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)

So that evening at the poetry workshop, after Tina explained haibun and offered some examples, we each set out to write our own. I was impressed with the work that came from that small group. When I went home, such was my enthusiasm that I shared my first haibun with my wife and had to tell her about others that were written and shared that night.

When I first wrote about haiku on my blog, I did so with the intent of encouraging others to get involved with writing poetry. I saw the haiku as a form that anyone can write. Moreover, it can become a kind of meditative process to allow the writer to pay attention to his or her surroundings. I think the same is true of the haibun form. It is a form that anyone can begin with and it provides some structure for meaningful poetic expression.

For a more detailed introduction to haibun, see Writing and Enjoying Haibun, by Mary Mageau

Tomorrow, I will share a new haibun that I have written, Portal.


*Note: Tina Mozelle Braziel and Alicia Clavell lead Gifts of a Wordsmith, an adult poetry workshop and Birmingham's Central Library downtown on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. It is free and open to the public. Tina Braxiel is also the director of a creative writing program for high school students which will take place in June, in connection with the UAB English Department. Check out the details at http://www.uab.edu/cas/english/about-us/events-and-series/ada-long-creative-writing-workshop

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