Hosts: Reid Hepworth and Shalini Pattabiraman
poet of the month: Sean O'Connor
13th April, 2023
Welcome to week 2 of the series featuring the engaging and talented Sean O’Connor.
RH: How did you find your way to haibun?
Having spent ten years studying and writing haiku from the mid 1980’s, I was fortunate to meet Jim Norton, the founder of the print journal Haiku Spirit in the mid-1990’s. He became a great mentor to me on writing haiku and haibun and he introduced me to the late Ken Jones from Wales. In the late 1990’s the three of us co-authored Pilgrim Foxes, believed to be the first book of haibun in the English language (now out of print). In 1998 I took over as editor of Haiku Spirit for its final eight issues.
I moved to rural Japan in 2008 and spent five years there. This was a major turning point in my development as a writer in Japanese forms. Working with Japanese writers considerably deepened my understanding of both Japanese literary forms and their aesthetics. Since my return to Ireland I founded The Haibun Journal and became a professional writer.
By the banks of the Miljacka, she stepped out of a side-street into the sun. Her hair black as her skirt, her blouse all pristine white. By her side, dangling empty, a loose shopping bag. I admired her confident gait, her purposeful stride, her certainty.
roadside daffodils –
the crack of sniper bullets
anger the air
Moments later she was dead. I had seen her fall as I rushed for cover. I slouched and stared at her body lying in the open, her brown eyes looking at me, unseeing. I wanted to crawl over and lie with her, wanted to hold her in her sleep. I longed for her to wake up and tell me of her dreams. I wanted to whisper her name.
That brief time, while she lay near me, feels like a year; and the decades since like minutes. Tearlessly I mourn her, that unknown lady, whose loss I can only comprehend as a kind of love.
Listen to the whisper:
Source: From The God of Bones, Alba Publishing, 2022
First Published in Cattails, Autumn Issue, 2022
To see more about Sean O'Connor's writings visit: seanwriter.com
Sleep – RH: Two things happened to me when I read this haibun:
1) I cried. I found it to be an incredibly moving piece of writing. It’s evocative, heart wrenching and beautifully crafted.
2) I was distinctly aware of the musicality of this piece. If you didn’t catch it, go back and read the haibun again, this time aloud.
Sean, this is a brilliant haibun and I feel a good one to highlight musicality. As both a writer and a musician, how important is musicality to your writing? And, do you feel it is important for creating effective haibun?
The test of literary writing is when we hear it read aloud. Then we can really appreciate its musicality, or lack of. Both writing and music are a series of sounds, tones, and rhythms. When someone speaks to us in a language we don’t understand we can still comprehend a lot about what they are communicating by their tone and speed of voice. We will certainly know if they are angry with us. We pick up emotion from tones.
We sometimes hear people say that a piece of writing has a ‘good rhythm’. However, rhythm is not abstract, every rhythm is specific, it has a time signature. The key to the haibun form lies in the time signature of haiku. When read aloud a well crafted haiku will consist of three utterances (as if there is an invisible comma at the end of each line). This distinct rhythm in haiku contrasts with the fluctuating rhythm of prose, which is not tied to a particular time signature. When a haibun writer achieves this, then a listening audience can hear the haiku as distinct from the prose. This is central to the art of writing haibun.
For more on the rhythm of haiku see Sean O’Connor’s essay: Haiku Rhythm and the Arches of Makudo - https://haikupresence.org/essays/haiku-rhythm-and-the-arches-of-makudo/
For this week, we would like you to focus on musicality. You can write about anything that tickles your fancy, but pay attention to word juxtaposition, phrasing rhythm and tonal sounds. Think of what Sean said about time signatures. Does your haibun sound good when read aloud or do you get tripped up in places? Can you feel the rhythm? Have fun with it and see where this prompt takes you.
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.