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Introduction: Haibun
Paul Conneally, Editor (effective February 2005)
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Most of this edition's haibun were selected by outgoing haibun editor Allen McGill and I'd like to thank Allen for making this section such a vibrant place during his editorship.

I'm looking forward to your submissions as we explore haibun - what it is, what it might be, and what it can be. I favour haibun where the prose element is 'haikai' in style - terse, imagistic - often with elements of shortened syntax leading to some phrase and fragment type phrasing, and with haiku that generally link more renku-like with the prose than simply continuing it.

Don't let this put off those of you that write haibun differently—a well written piece that the author wishes to submit as haibun will always be read and could very easily be featured here in our haibun section. For instance, in this edition we have a wonderful photo-haibun from Anita Virgil and a haibun from Ed Markowski that is set out more as prose-poem followed by haiku than straight prose followed by haiku. I'm interested in hearing how you feel this works, not only as a poem, but when labelled 'haibun'. We perhaps need to remind ourselves of the fact that Basho strove to make his prose go beyond 'prose' ... to be recognizably 'haikai' in style ... to be poetic. I believe that however set out, as a paragraph or in single lines, Ed's piece with the linking haiku is haibun!

I look forward to your submissions which can be sent to me at: paul.conneally@ntlworld.com.


Haibun is the relating of a journey, using the language of poetic prose joined with haiku. The journey may be physical, mental, imaginary, wistful . . . virtually any sort. The narration, however, is not merely a description of this journey. Its emphasis should focus on the thoughts and emotions evoked by the experience and how they have been changed or modified by it. Haibun is a very personal form of writing, a poetic expression of an experience intended to describe and project to others the internal and external reactions intrinsic in it.

For this reason, haibun is, in my opinion, most effective when written in the first-person present point-of-view, even if the journey took place in the past. Haibun from other viewpoints are not uncommon, however, and the results of many are quite effective. A present-tense haibun strives to make readers feel as if they are sharing the "journey" with the author, with all the attending emotions and reactions involved--the feeling that the action is taking place in the "here and now."

Written with economy of language, haibun's prose should be succinct, yet highly descriptive of the physical world and of the senses. Syntax may be abbreviated to reflect human thought, which is often not expressed in complete sentences. Every word should carry the story forward to an epiphany of sorts. Flat narrative and sentimentality are to be avoided.

Prose sections are preceded by, interspersed with and/or followed by haiku, usually. Tanka or senryu may be substituted when appropriate. There is no limitation as to the length of prose or the number of haiku--except, perhaps, by the editor. Personally, I prefer haibun of under 300 words. The current trend seems to be a one-verse prose paragraph followed by a single haiku, but variations are numerous. An easy flow between prose and haiku sections throughout is to be striven for. Some new writers of haibun tend to overdo the number of haiku, placing one or more after each short sentence or paragraph, often creating a choppy and disjointed read.

The purpose of the haiku is to emphasize the prose (and vice-versa) through the use of juxtaposition, not to summarize or repeat what has already been stated. Repetition is to be avoided as much as possible--as in renga.

While haibun's popularity has diminished in Japan, it has been growing in favor in the west, particularly among English-speaking haijin. Since "rules" are flexible, experimentation with style and content is common. The selections I plan to display in Simply Haiku will be a cross-section of styles and lengths, but concentrating on the traditional.

I also welcome other styles of haibun including experimental though I have to say that I'm with Allen very much in that I like best haibun that feel haikai in that the prose itself has many of the characteristics of other 'haikai' forms and might be recognised as 'haikai prose' or 'haibunic prose' even without the inclusion of even one haiku!

~ Paul Conneally


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