While I’ve been writing haiku—or what works for me as haiku—for 13 years, I’ve only recently worked in the form of haibun—or what works for me as haibun. It’s another traditional Japanese poetic form whose particular stylistic and formal constraints—structure, subject matter, length, point of view, etc.—“translate” from the Japanese language into the English language about as improbably as something from the 17th century does into the 21st.
The haibun, attributed to the poet Matsuo Bashō, is a passage of concise, imagistic prose, followed by one or more haiku. Conventionally, it’s an imagistic depiction that is part of a journal or journey.
I can’t read Japanese, but I’ve read countless poems in translation, as well as historical overviews of Japanese forms, and individual writer’s arguments for what, in a given form, is required, isn’t acceptable, and so forth. So even as I value the intricacies and linguistic challenges in haiku and haibun, I feel comfortable participating in the evolution of these forms—this is why I added the phrase “what works for me” above. I approach each form as a structure. As rules for a game. As a set of challenges that restricts and, more crucially, reveals content. I choose form as an inspiration rather than an institution.~ read more ~