haiku

Bonsai:
Morikami Japanese Gardens
South Florida
In 2006 I started researching and writing two particular forms in contemporary english language haiku writing: haiku and haibun. My collection, forgiving the rain, a fragmented memoir of home, was published by Snapshot Press in 2012. See 'my books' page.

1.
HAIKU will be familiar to many as a form of poetry exported from Japan, although I am sure that its western counterpart will, for most people, be refreshingly and surprisingly different, its deceptive slightness, ripe with suggestion, capable of engaging with the contemporary human experience at particularly profound levels.

Take a look at the following haiku by three of the best haiku writers in the english speaking world today:


still life:
the pear’s
pitted skin

Helen Buckingham


finally getting
the why of loneliness —
bright sun on ice

lorin ford


snowy night
sometimes you can’t be
quiet enough

John Stevenson


2.
HAIBUN are a blend of prose and haiku, where the one form is dependent on the other to suggest and communicate an overall theme, or themes. They can be constructed around memoir, journal entries, dreams, streams of consciousness, prose poems, and even flash fiction, but the inclusion of haiku sets this genre apart from anything else in western literature. The tension that can arise from the relationship between prose and poetry offers the haibun writer the opportunity to create multiple voices, shifts of scene, internal or external commentaries. The haibun, as an evolving genre, still defies a precise definition, but its ability to engage a contemporary audience is undoubted.

Here are two haibun from forgiving the rain:


Wherever We Go, There We Are

moonlight the shadow of a tree masks the crack in the path

It is 3am on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Already 9am in France. My body says it’s time to start the day yet the darkness outside says, ‘middle of the night, go back to bed’.

Recently, there has been too much impatience between us. Kinks and ruts in the road we cannot avoid or fill, that see us blaming each other. Even the smallest roads since we arrived: filling in our immigration forms, a luggage trolley, the small trunk in the rental car.

Things in their right place at the right time. This is what I try to do too often. Like pinning butterflies to boards.

The clock is too loud. It keeps time too stringently and that is what we need to be away from: days marked by so many jobs to be done, what must be completed in the hours between waking and falling asleep.

Then I hear it. A background hum, a soft engine shifting gears. A sound present at the moment I was born: the sea.

high tide in a dream you write the word ‘reef’




Breakable
  
For a week our roles have been reversed. I have been looking after them, checking they’ve slept well, making sure they eat enough. And they have allowed me to be the one who cares, the one in control. ‘Where does this go?’ my mother asks, standing in the middle of my kitchen with a white dish and a tea towel in her hand. ‘I had some orange juice,’ my dad says one morning before going to buy his English paper at the Bar Tabac on the corner. ‘Be careful crossing the road,’ I call after him. When I kiss them goodnight they feel breakable, in need of protection. I pull the shutters in their bedroom closed.

And now at the airport I can hardly bear to watch them moving away from me. I wave one last time as they pass through security at the Departure Gate, so small now I could pick them up between my thumb and finger and slip them in my pocket.

sunlit garden
when did my father grow
an old man’s neck?


If you'd like to find out more about haiku writing and link to some exceptional resources, please visit my haiku and haibun blog, an open field.