Skip to main content

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 'Books' page above.

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.

Popular posts from this blog

Pie, pie glorious pie

So often when we talk about food we are talking about family. In fact that was how the hungry writer blog began, nearly six years ago: weekly memories or life stories linked by the theme of food. Food is nurture and love. It can be celebration and anxiety too. It can also be a battleground, as the parents of young children know so intimately! Which is rather a satisfying segue into the family featuring in this week's blogpost: The Radfords. Because if anyone understands the feeding of children, really, really understands, it has to be Sue Radford who, with her husband, Noel, has 19 children. You can read about the family on their website but don't rush off yet as what I really want to talk about is pie. And specifically Radford's pies.
Noel Radford has been a baker for 25 years and opened his own bakery in 1999 in Heysham, Lancashire and makes pies with locally sourced ingredients. That, along with his skill as a master baker, means that the pictures of the 'filled to t…

Eat, laugh, cry, remember: Baked Camembert

Once, on a holiday in Malta, I dressed Tony up in my gypsy skirt and stretchy white vest, used two satsumas for breasts and made up his eyes and lips with the brightest colours I had with me. Then I took a photograph. He didn’t seem to mind, in fact he seemed quite tickled by the fuss and attention to detail, but the quantity of rosé we’d shared at Snoopy’s restaurant on the seafront in Sliema earlier in the evening might have had something to do with that.

This was 1988. There were no digital cameras for instant viewing (and, praise be, instant deletion). The only instant photographs at the time came courtesy of Polaroid, with their packages of square film and box-like cameras, and slid out of the front of the machine on shiny thick card that everyone huddled over and watched develop. But they tended to be party cameras, appearing at Christmas, birthdays, engagements. You captured your holiday photos on a proper camera, one you had to load and feed film into, then unload and drop off…

The Mythic Biscuit: Oreos

My childhood biscuits were mainly plain but had lovely names: Marie, Nice, Rich Tea. Quiet biscuits. The kind of biscuits that would never interrupt a conversation. Polite, not pushy. At the other end of the spectrum, and only irregularly present, probably a result of practical economics, were cheeky Jammy Dodgers, irritable Garibaldis, and self-contented and reliable Bourbons. And even more irregularly, the flashy inhabitants of a Christmas Box of Biscuits: Pink Wafers. I ate them at the same time as not liking them very much, a bit like Miss World Contestants in sparkly dresses, too much eye make-up and a saccharine idea of world peace. 
I'm in the mood to think, and personify, 'biscuits' because the lovely team at Oreo sent me some samples of their new Oreo Thins. I hadn't heard of Oreos until the early 1990s when a friend asked if I would bring him back a packet from a Florida holiday. I forgot and pretended I couldn't find them. 'But they're everywher…