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THE HAIBUN GALLERY : 2nd June — a Thursday feature

Hosts: Akila G. and Shalini Pattabiraman

2nd June

This month we'll be showcasing haibun written by Sonam Chhoki.

Born and raised in the eastern Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, Sonam Chhoki finds that the Japanese short form poetry resonates with her Tibetan Buddhist upbringing. She is inspired by her father, Sonam Gyamtsho, the architect of Bhutan's non-monastic modern education. Her works have been published in poetry journals and anthologies in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, UK and US and also in the 2012 Olympics Poetry Parnassus and The Written Word Program BBC Radio Scotland. She's the current haibun editor for Cattails.

Old Bandit Country

A century ago, the Indo-Bhutan border was called 'bandit country'. India Office Records describe 'marauding Bhutanese brigands' pouring down these malarial slopes to 'raid' British Indian territory. We Bhutanese say the Chilip tried to invade our Dragon Kingdom. Under clouds of monsoon rain and mosquitoes, skirmishes and battles were fought; treaties forged.

Tonight, in the drizzle, the Border Highway is a wet, glistening tongue. Kilometre after kilometre it slicks us into the darkness. Fleeting shadows of fields, houses, trees and verges. Through the lowered glass at my side, the smell of cow dung and wood fires and tea bushes.

The radio struggles with Bollywood songs. Snatches of longing, prolonged crackling, sudden bursts of love. Moths, leaves, flakes of ash flit across the windscreen like debris from the past in this corridor of the Himalayan foothills.

We pass Indian army camps in skeletal jungles, tin-roofed shops, telephone booths, lorries, pot holes.

night storm – in my headlights a rhino


1 Chilip (CHE-LIP) (Dzongkha); White foreigner.

2 Indo-Bhutan border: This territory belonged to the Maharajas of Kamrup ( Assam in North East India) and Cooch Behar ( in modern Bengal) with whom the Bhutanese had treaty relations for free movement and trade. But with the British conquest of India, these ties were ignored, resulting in numerous Bhutanese 'raids' to claim our rights.

We invite you to take inspiration from history to write your next haibun.


1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt.

2. Share your best-polished pieces.

3. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.

4. When poets give suggestions and if you agree to them - post your final edited version on top of your original version.

5. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems.

We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished haibun (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly journal.


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