top of page

THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 18th May 2023 — a Thursday feature

Updated: May 19, 2023

hosts: Firdaus Parvez & Kala Ramesh

poet of the month: Lew Watts

18th May 2023

Happy to present Lew Watts, and there's a lot waiting for you this month!

Who is this haibuneer, who won the Touchstone Award for his haibun, Spacial Concept: Waiting

Lew Watts is the author of Tick-Tock, a haibun collection that received an Honorable Mention in the Haiku Society of America’s 2020 Merit Book Awards, and Eira (in press), a collection of haiku and haibun (both from Snapshot Press). Lew is also the co-author, with Roberta Beary and Rich Youmans, of Haibun: A Writer's Guide (Ad Hoc Fiction, forthcoming). He is the haibun co-editor of Frogpond and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Bristol University in 2016. Born and raised in Wales, he now lives in Chicago with his wife, Roxanne Decyk. His other passions are fly fishing and gin martinis.

We asked Lew some questions and he has been kind in answering them. Read on! THG:

3. What is your writing process?

I keep an active file of “haibun ideas” or things that interest me. Originally, these were personal memories, but over time, and as others have observed, they have become increasingly fictional. Weeks may go by when I write nothing. And then, usually in an afternoon, I will sit down and write the prose for several of these “ideas.” I let each prose piece ferment for a while before starting to edit. I search for something at the core of each, asking “what’s this really about?” Once I find it, I cut everything around that core and then re-build my prose to illuminate that core. Other times, an “idea” may call out for the use of form (a concrete poem; a sonnet if the argument shifts, as in a volta; a villanelle for a voice that echoes) or rhythm (my haibun, “Mwg Hallt,” is written in trochaic meter to mimic plodding drudgery). As for the haiku— how many and where—I have no idea how they come. But I can wait days, weeks, even months, and when the right haiku surfaces it’s like a huge release.


4. Would you share some tips on editing?

I’m not sure what we’re talking of here. If it is editing my own work, all I’ll say is that I am relentless and ruthless. But if it’s about editing at a journal, perhaps a few comments. The first is that I “love” every haibun that I read. I may not like it, but I love and respect that it has emerged. If I can’t give birth to it as a haibun at Frogpond, I wish it well (I’m more than willing to give feedback to any poet). It's rare that a submitted haibun is perfect (mine aren’t!), and so I will offer feedback and suggestions. These may involve some honing of the prose, or a re-think of the title. But invariably, the problem rests with the haiku. Pitfalls are weak haiku that are unable to stand alone, that are mere repetitions of the prose, or haiku that leap so far from the prose that the reader is lost. In other words, there is no spark.

Forty Years . . . Same Gray Doors

Don’t let the voices come to me at night

he pleads with the wall over and over each day.

Or, Keep ‘em silent ‘til the dog’s first bite,

which makes no sense unless he means that shite

of a nurse, the one who scoffs each time he says

Don’t let the voices come to me at night,

as if he can control his words. Despite

the meds, he says he’s tried so hard to pray

to keep ‘em silent ‘til the dog’s first bite,

but nothing works, nothing works. A slight

pause, then a cough, and off he goes again . . .

Don’t let the voices come to me at night.

As I leave, I tell him it will be all right

if he can see the breath of stars—but will they

keep ‘em silent ‘til the dog’s first bite?

They won’t. I’m home, the curtains closed. The lights

are on. They’re always on. Please, stay away . . .

Don’t let the voices come for me tonight.

Keep them silent ‘til the gin’s first bite.

almost dark ...

Mother calling us

from the woods

Contemporary Haibun Online, 19.1, 2023

Let me add one more example of what I mean by conversational haibun-in-verse. Give us a story:


On Saturday nights we wait

for that man on his old bicycle

his voice most peculiar

unmistakable even in my dreams

hearing him again tonight

my mouth begins to water —

breathing in, the scent runs a marathon

coming out through my skin

he opens a terracotta pot

from which he digs out

a small cylindrical aluminium cone

as each clamour to be the first

he gives that all-knowing smile

as he hands me, the youngest of us all,

the first plate

made from areca leaves

with neatly sliced ice cream on it

I hold it precariously

not wanting to drop any of it

nor want to be the first to begin

for then I’ll be the first to finish

and I will have to see my siblings

eat, lick, and eat, and ...

my eyes would refuse to look away

“Kulfiwala!” mother calls out

to give him the money

for our once-a-week sin

— an almond, cashew

and cardamom mix

of home-made ice cream

the bestest in the world

the joy in her voice

I remember as a child

Mother’s Day

bronze temple bell

the mingling undertones

of myriad thoughts

Kala Ramesh taken from the book - beyond the horizon beyond


I first read haibun in verse in 2007! Yes, as early as that and it was probably written much before I chanced upon it! It was Michael McClintock's haibun in verse. I loved it.

So you know what the prompt is going to be - a haibun in verse. Cap it with an effective haiku. Think of different emotions. Have you ever tried to bring texture into your haibun? We can easily get texture in one's voice when singing. An artist can show texture in her brushstrokes. In acting, one can show texture in one's body movements and in the tonal quality of the voice.

Have you ever tried to bring texture into your haibun?

1. First give us your answer on how you can bring texture into your writing. It's something I've been searching for and have not found a satisfactory answer yet. 1. First give us your answer on how you can bring texture into your writing.

2. Then give us your haibun!

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.


443 views180 comments
bottom of page