hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & Vidya Shankar
A Thursday Feature.
poet of the month: Richard Grahn
12th October 2023
This month we are extremely excited to present the work of Richard Grahn, founding editor of Drifting Sands. We hope that you enjoy reading his work and are stimulated by the use of language, pace, mood and energy within the themes Richard explores in his writing.
Richard Grahn Richard grew up in the bucolic atmospheres of Wisconsin, Maine, and Indiana. His travels and many adventures provide much grist for the mill in his mind. His work derives primarily from life experiences or is loosely based on real people or events. He has been writing haibun since 2018, embracing the form and writing in general as a means of coping with illness. He is the author of several poetry books, the most recent of which is, Longevity: Poems in the Key of Helen, a collection of haibun and tanka prose. His other artistic passions include sculpture, painting, photography, and making music.
South of Tomorrow
A peaceful country road winds its way through the quiet fields and pastures just south of the Mason-Dixon Line here in Maryland. This lazy pathway is not encumbered with bumper-to-bumper traffic, the honking of horns or the sounds of marching armies. In fact, the only real commotion here is caused by a few red-winged blackbirds flitting about, squabbling over whatever piece of real estate they’re hell-bent on plundering next. The occasional tractor chugs by and, every so often, a car. The Doppler Effect seems very noticeable here or so I’ve noticed. I was aimlessly driving my own car down this road when I just had to stop, get out, and listen to the view.
dragonflies stirring . . . imprints of wind on a cloud
The scent of hay, corn, fresh-tilled earth, and cow manure mingle together and saturate the warm summer air. It’s a country thing. As you might guess, there’s a lot that goes into concocting the average bucolic day but I’m just a tourist passing by. What do I know?
A grasshopper jumps out of the tall grass beside the road and lands at my feet. I’m careful not to step on it as I get back into the car and start the engine. The noise shocks the air and the grasshopper wings away. I pull back onto the road, lost in the sound of the waves I’m making, semi-oblivious to my own existence, and overcome with a sudden urge to turn on the radio and listen to some country music.
contemporary haibun online 14.1, March 2018 Source: Longevity: Poems in the Key of Helen, Red Moon Press
Observation: I absolutely enjoyed the slow shift of mood in ‘listen to the view’ to ‘lost in the sound of the waves I’m making’. I think this shift is significant to how I read this haibun. The attention to detail is allowed to mature through the sensory description of sounds and changes within it.
SP: I find haibun a very versatile form that offers writers many opportunities to experiment with form, shape, structure and theme. When it comes to your craft, how do you approach any haibun? What is your process?
RG: By definition, haibun is Title, Prose and Haiku. That, to me, is the form and I don’t like messing with it for the most part. Themes come about in two ways for me: completely off-the-cuff or preconceived. An off-the-cuff poem sometimes starts with a single word or even a single letter. I can sit and stare at that word or letter until something comes of it or until I delete it and write another. Sometimes, I write a stream of consciousness string of words and phrases until something clicks. Some themes come to me in dreams. Some from my past and some from slivers of reality mixed with pure fiction. The narrative is an unfolding process. It evolves as the theme unfolds. It is quite common for me to shuffle sentences or entire paragraphs or more to get the story into the right flow.
We are happy to include a bonus haibun to stimulate you further.
Light as Air
I don't know much about butterflies. I can recognize a Monarch when I see one, but other than that, they're just nice to look at. Today a white one, with a wingspan of only about an inch and a half, was flitting around in the garden from hosta to vinca to sunflower to rose but never landing. Maybe it was looking for the best place to rest its wings. To and fro, lifted by the wind occasionally up to twenty feet or more, then zigzagging its way back to the flower bed—it seemed to be searching, but for what? Maybe it just likes to fly, enjoys the garden view. Maybe it's safer in the air.
I have felt like that insect for most of my life, flitting around, looking for the perfect place to rest. We are different as I wear shoes; it doesn't have holes in its socks. But we are both travelers, navigating our way through the flowerbed of life. It caught the wind; I chose the road, but now I have a roof and it has the sky. As I watched, I realized there was nothing between us but the rays of the sun.
dressed for the milonga . . . across the dance floor, she glides, pauses, glides again
Contemporary Haibun Online 17:3, December 2021
Source: Longevity: Poems in the Key of Helen, Red Moon Press
Prompt for members: Two options—either create a haibun that experiments with a soundscape or find a creature that you have never seen before and write a haibun drawing some connection with it. And, of course, haibun outside this prompt can also be posted!
1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt. Please put your name and country of residence under your poem, it makes the editors' work easier. Thanks.
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.