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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 15th June 2023 Ray Rasmussen: Featured Haibuneer

hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & Reid Hepworth


poet of the month: Ray Rasmussen


15th June 2023

A Thursday Feature Ray Rasmussen presently serves as Encore editor for contemporary haibun online, and Technical Advisor for Drifting Sands Haibun. His haibun, haiga, haiku, articles and reviews have appeared in many of the major print and online haiku genre journals. Ray’s Blog is “All Things Haibun” and his haiku genres website is “Haiku, Haibun & Haiga.” His collection Landmarks is available on Amazon.


Links to his blogs:


As I delved into Ray's book of haibun, Landmarks: A Haibun Collection, I was struck by his haibun that were mainly autobiographical. Ray's voice comes across as honest and reflective, often looking back on time and the insight of a lived experience that comes too late in life. Some of the haibun are funny and some deeply poignant.


For this week, we bring to you a haibun charged with the moving experiences of a man who cannot let go of his relic of a bathrobe.


The Bathrobe

Ray Rasmussen


One rack in the men’s shop contains richly coloured robes with fancy lapels, threads a James Bond might wear while romancing one of his many women. I reach for bold red and gold plaid with shiny black lapels.


Suddenly awake, anxious, I glance at the hook on which my robe hangs. Relief! Still there.

There are large patches where I've had my seamstress salvage it after large holes grew in the wrong places.


“Robes aren't that expensive. Why not just buy a new one?” my seamstress, a very practical woman, had suggested.


“No,” I replied, “I like this robe.”


“Do you want exactly the same kind and colour of cloth?”


“It’s just a robe. Do your best.”


Having had it patched didn’t relieve my fears. When my wife looks at it, I see the rag basket in her eyes. When it falls to the floor, the dog happily sleeps on it.


Men reading this know that the robe and I won’t soon be parted. No one else sees it and only my wife is concerned about a little flesh hanging out here and there.


I pull the comforter over my head and drift back to sleep.


lucky moon –

even when waning

no one threatens to replace you


From: Landmarks: A Haibun Collection



SP: You have often put emphasis on the role and influence of autobiographical elements in a haibun.



Q: Given the mundane lives we sometimes lead, how can we make the ordinary become something interesting for others? Or how do we avoid repetition, familiar tropes and cliché in our own work? Is there a specific task, routine or strategy you employ yourself?


Ray: Well, that’s a good question. You didn’t tell me these were going to be tough questions.


First the all-important question in my mind is the issue of fact vs fantasy. For me haibun writing needs to have the feel of ‘real’ (even if it isn’t). It’s easier to produce the feel of real experiences when they’re based on real situations. My stories are what one would call embellished reality … real, but as much as possible made interesting, poetic, story-like, entertaining, etc. without going overboard.


So, what in “The Bathrobe” was real and what was invented?


Real:


The robe was real, pretty much as described, as was, alas, the state of my body. My partner would indeed look at the robe and at times diplomatically hint that I might be getting a birthday present. Non-Diplomatic translation: “I can’t stand that thing you wear, please get rid of it and let me replace it.”


And when I’d drop it off next to the bed, the dog would indeed happily settle on it.


I did have my hiking pants and shirts patched by a seamstress. Utah’s canyonlands are made of sandstone and it doesn’t take many hikes and rump-slides down steep pitches to wear the backside out. In truth, I can’t stand to toss out workable clothing! When I first brought a pair of pants to the seamstress with backsides worn through, she looked and said, “Oh … what did you do?” I’m guessing she was wondering whether I had fallen down or a dog had attacked me. She really suggested I buy a new pair. When she realized I wasn’t going to discard them, we discussed matching patches with fabric, and she’d said, “can’t match exactly.” I did say “do your best, it doesn’t have to look good.”


And my partner did have a very active rag bag.


Aim: How to tell a story about it without straying far from the truth? And how to kick off a story I want to tell? I could have started the story with something like, “She looks at my robe with her ‘rag bag time’ eyes …,” but ho hum.


Content: I ask myself, what’s my theme here? Is it a legitimate theme that will interest people? Will they be able to relate to it?


I think clothing and hairstyles constitute a common conflict between men and women, a ‘vive la difference!'. I know that some men feel as I do, why bother dressing up every day, at least my guy pals say so. And our women seem to want to dress us up a bit, particularly if we’re going to be seen in public, but even if not. One female friend, not my partner, said something like: “It’s important to keep shaving and combing and dressing in the morning." (I have a beard now and do trim it from time to time, my hair is daily in the bad hair category, and I have holes in more than my robe). Otherwise, she thinks, we kind of slump our way into an old-age passivity. And I confess that I think she’s partly right.


Is this an important theme? I think so. Do you, reader?


Structure: How to present a story so that it’s not ho hum, every day, mundane, even when it is. What makes an event stand out?


I select instances in life that evoke an emotional reaction in me. When my partner suggests I retire the robe, it evokes feelings of possession, comfort, conflict. When a seamstress suggests I’m a little crazy to spend money on patches in a rather charming way, it stands out.


I decided to start by fabricating a fantasy dream to build interest at the start (at least I hoped it would). I wanted a dream that stressed social dress conventions, particularly the ‘well dressed’ male in the eyes of the female and the wife who wants her man to look “decent.” Who doesn’t relate to the James Bond franchise 007 spies? I might try dressing like them if I had the money, but I also know it wouldn’t work for a number of reasons.


I used the dream as a stage on which to reflect, what some would consider, my abnormal fears about losing my comfy bathrobe.


Humour and Self-Denigration:


I don’t mind poking at myself a bit because I see this piece as primarily taking a laugh at myself sloping around in this old bathrobe as a person who often lives at the other end of the well-dressed continuum from 007. Not that I wouldn’t like to look like those guys, at least, once in a while!


I find humour very difficult to write, especially about male-female relationships. I had to write a piece without demeaning my partner or my seamstress and I don’t think you can be overly self-denigrating. Otherwise, the humour pinches.


Dialogue:


Then I tried to carry the story through dialogue.


So, I imagined putting the robe into my seamstress’ hands and wrote what she might have said as she worked her mind around the mystery of the man who wanted to pay good money to have the robe patched when he could have bought a new robe, probably for less money. I think she comes from a culture of ‘don’t throw good money after bad’ and one of parsimony.


That’s a lot to think about when writing a piece. My initial approach is, get it going, spin something, anything, out; then edit it a few times and if you have them, ask a writing friend and/or partner (I did both) to see whether it tickles any funny bones. Be prepared to rewrite fantasy humour pieces many times. Tinker, tinker, tinker … until something tells you, ‘It’s close enough.” After that, it will be up to the editors. If one editor says ‘no’ ask for suggestions and rewrite it and try it elsewhere. And don’t ever lose some sense of truth in your storyline.


More about writing humour:


The authors of this Masterclass website series have some good ‘how to write humour’ information. They raised many relevant issues.



Prompt for the week:

Write a haibun that explores a deep connection with an ordinary object in your life. Consider the relationship you have with it.


***

PLEASE NOTE:

1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt, and only one haibun in 24 hours. 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.

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125 Comments


lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Jun 20, 2023

#2 gembun, revised, Is this okay?

21/6

.


The many questions unanswered and yet the fulfillment in her eyes

a tiny spring

smoothens the rough edges

of rocks


.

Original

.

The many questions unanswered and yet the fulfillment in her eyes


moonlit parijat

blossoms the scent

of her first date


.

Feedback please


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Reid Hepworth
Reid Hepworth
Jun 21, 2023
Replying to

I like where you are going with this.I agree with both Anju and Kala. I wonder if this would work or if you might consider this simple tweak to your L2/3:


perfumes the scent

first date

?


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Anju Kishore
Anju Kishore
Jun 20, 2023

#1

(Trying out a gembun for the first time inspired by Lakshmi. Feedback most welcome)


Revision 2

(Thanks Kala, Lakshmi. I have changed the ku)


The idli spoon is my mother-in-law's gift to me forty years ago.


a breeze

scooping up curls

of his white hair


****************


Revision 1

(Thanks to Diana's view further down this week's thread , I have cut short the prose to fewer syllables)


Thirty years ago, my mom-in-law first gifted me her idli spoon.


at breakfast

the smile in his eyes

warms my coffee


*************************


Thirty years ago, my mother-in-law's first gift to me was her idli spoon.


at breakfast

the smile in his eyes

warms my coffee

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Reid Hepworth
Reid Hepworth
Jun 21, 2023
Replying to

I really like your revision, Anju!

Please do keep the original ku though for future use as I think it’s lovely!

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Unknown member
Jun 18, 2023

Spell wish ( revision)


The waste paper turns into a cauldron. She stirs and stirs making all kinds of sparks.

'What are you doing ? All that stuff I just put in there is back in the floor.' Her husband is glaring.

'I'm looking for something.The glue stick. I need to remember'

'But you used it all up. Barely a smidgen left for a postage stamp'

She gathers the waste paper and a tiny container that's rolling away, before marching to the kitchen, leaving a trail. The man sighs, fetches a broom,while his wife deposits the fragments on the worktop and plays with them, this way and that. She holds the small cylinder to her ear and shakes it.

'I…


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Unknown member
Jun 21, 2023
Replying to

Thanks Reid

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Gauri
Gauri
Jun 18, 2023

Have written after quite some time. Feedback appreciated 🙏🏻

Edited based on feedback from Anju and Reid.


***

Blast

Safety pins at the frayed edges of the fabric tying us together give out, taking pieces of us along. Debris, grief and survivor’s guilt adorn the ground zero.

coloured sand settles

at the bottom of the stream -

another mandala


***


***

Blast


The pins at frayed edges of the fabric tying us together give out, taking pieces of us along, leaving human debris, grief and survivor’s guilt on the floor.

coloured sand settles

at the bottom of the stream -

another sand mandala

***

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Gauri
Gauri
Jun 20, 2023
Replying to

Thank you Anju for this detailed feedback. No amount of suggestions are too many, specially when I am trying to get back to writing after a break of couple of months.


I used pins for safety pins / pins that are hastily stapled etc. Would think about use of safety pins instead of pins. The floor to me resembles a bombing site, maybe a micro one and I used human debris, will think about using something else here. Suggestion for the ku is perfect .

I have revised the haibun based on the feedback, does it work?

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Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
Jun 16, 2023

gembun:

Revised:


if only the world had remained a green globe


in the evening assembly

a bulbul sings

our prayer song


<> <>

Original


if only the world had remained a green globe


we live

on the breath of trees and yet


#2

Feedback, please.

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Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
Jun 20, 2023
Replying to

This is too close to each other.

Plus, I later realised the haiku is published in Modern Haiku :))

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