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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.


THG:

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:


Kulfiwala


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


Prompt:

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!


PLEASE NOTE:

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.

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180 Comments


Susan Beth Furst
Susan Beth Furst
May 24, 2023

Adding texture to my writing? As I think of texture, right now, today, I'm thinking rough or bumpy. Something a little bit uncomfortable, like a niggling thought in the back of my brain. A physical feeling that I try to convey with language.

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lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
May 23, 2023

#1, revised, changed a bit. Thanks Diana. Feedback please. 24-5-2023, thanks all.

*

**

The Truth


Just a small hamlet, not a big town yet i find comfort in the heart of the Western Ghats where a continuous shift of conversations between all ages

transcends the ancestral connection I try to find my entity neither here nor there, as mother says 'you don't know many people, you're in trishanku' and my remarks, 'i can still thrive' leaves her with just a blank stare mood swings a total failure of summer rain


***

Original

.

Hamlet


Not a big town nor a big village,

yet i find comfort in the heart of

the Western Ghats

where a continuous shift of

conversations between all ages transcen…


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lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
May 28, 2023
Replying to

ok, thanks.

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lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
May 23, 2023

Just trying:


Not a great haibunist to comment on 'texture on haibun writing', but i can say that

The soul of the texture lies in the heart of the poet. Its like the river's flow and the movement of wind that directs the story to proceed from one bank to another. It should never stay or else it gets stagnant and then maybe it cannot flourish. Layers of perspectives one after other can demarcate the storyline but the breath of the story can never be restricted. It should have the freedom to stand on its own and also allow the readers to dive and search for the hidden surprise.

I would rather define texture as like the icecream that stands…


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Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
May 23, 2023
Replying to

Thought-provoking, Lakshmi. Let me read it again.

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Vidya Shankar
Vidya Shankar
May 23, 2023

Play-off


babies are cute

so long as they are

babies


but once they grow

from a quadruped to biped —

devils in disguise


one moment Baby is chuckling

talking in baby tongue

and you are smiling, talking gibberish


because you don’t know baby tongue

you squat because you want to get

down to its level


and Mother, trusting you

allows herself to be distracted by

something that needs her attention


when it happens. In a flash!

Baby is sprawled on the ground

on its stomach


its baby talk replaced

with a screeching that brings

Mother and other mothers too


running to pick up the wailing brat

directing angry glances at you

in good measure


and you stand rooted

alone, confused


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Vidya Shankar
Vidya Shankar
May 24, 2023
Replying to

@Reid Hepworth

Thank you for reading my work and commenting here. Please read the response I have written for Kala's comment.

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Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
May 22, 2023

seeker


many times she has had this same dream why is it always so difficult to reach this unknown place she needs to climb bend low and creep through the doorway to enter, here she always wakes with a start she’s yet to see the interior is it an ashram? a hole or …


storm-tossed

the search within

for a mooring


feedback.

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Vidya Shankar
Vidya Shankar
May 24, 2023
Replying to

@Kala Ramesh

Dear Kala,

Thank you for sharing details of your dream with me / us. A recurrent dream intrigues me since I haven't got one. And yes, if you had gone to a dream analyst, they would have profited from it, whether you got your solution or not. But having written about it now, I think you are, in some way, coming to terms with it, and so the poem will, eventually unfold itself for you.


- what lies beyond - dilutes the hunger in me. Yes, that's so true. It's your dream and only you will know what exactly you want your poem to speak about. The others can only give you suggestions.


Talking of suggestions, why don't…


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