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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 1st February 2024 — Dru Philippou, featured poet

hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & Vidya Shankar

A Thursday Feature.

poet of the month: Dru Philippou

1st February 2024

This month we have the pleasure of featuring Dru Philippou, a multiple award winning writer with a strong and unique voice. 

Dru Philippou was born on the island of Cyprus, raised in London and currently lives in northern New Mexico, USA. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado. She writes haiku, tanka, haibun, and tanka prose. An award winning poet, her work is widely published and anthologised. She has also written two featured creative essays regarding haiku "Haiku Geometry" and "HaikuHolograms" Her haibun "Afterlife" won first place in the Haiku Society of America’s 2021 Haibun Awards. Also, her haibun "Pilgrimage" won first place in 2023 in the same contest. In 2022, she published her first collection of poetry,  A Place to Land, a memoir written entirely in tanka prose. 

Dru Philippou

Sage Monkeys

They live on the mesa without running water or electricity, huddled in hovels assembled from building scraps and used tires. They live where the wind howls like coyotes and dust devils spiral into ink-black clouds. They live in a sea of sagebrush and go by the name Sage Monkeys. They are the loners, drifters, freaks, scooping out visions at the edge of thunderstorms and rainbows. If you hope to find a mystic amongst them to reveal the meaning of life, be prepared for the endless scorn: pillock, lickspittle, milksop. If you bring them beer, one of them might invite you into his ramshackle cabin, cluttered with elk skulls and antlers, sacks of pinto beans and rice, tubs of ground coffee, and rows of drooping American flags stuck in Coca-Cola bottles. If you wait a while longer, he might describe the desert silence—a silence so deep that small sounds can seem deafening—a lizard’s chirp, a startled jackrabbit zigzagging through the underbrush, or a rattlesnake slithering from the wood pile. He might even describe the soul-stirring beauty of sunrises and sunsets as he stares at the vast, empty sky, not quite sure he’s arrived.



the barbed spines

of a star

Source: Sage Monkeys

Observations: This haibun draws attention to the skillful way Dru’s prose describes the setting, while the language conveys an emotional depth. There's instant recognition that the imagery is memorable and will remain with us for a long time. The unsettling bleakness of the land and the harsh conditions in which the people live, presented alongside the stunning beauty of the landscape, ground us, help us pause and take stock.

We invited Dru to share the inspiration behind this haibun that won second place in last year's HPNC contest.

DP: “Sage Monkeys” is an actual community in northern New Mexico, a few miles from where I live. People there make the choice to live off the grid and away from government intrusions, as the haibun reveals. I don’t initially set out to write about a theme. The images come first as inspiration, and I go from there. The creative process is the most important thing for me. I keep writing until I understand what it is I’m trying to say. 

SP: How did your haibun journey start? Is there a story?

DP: Haiku was the starting point of my haibun adventure. While I was completing my M.F.A. at Naropa University, one of the professors requested a brief poem. She commented on my three-line poem and compared it to a haiku. I had no idea what a haiku was, so I did some research. My first submission to Modern Haibun, when Lee Gurga was editor, was rejected, but Lee encouraged me to submit again. He accepted two haiku for the winter-spring issue, 2005. I then started reading haibun published in Contemporary Haibun Online, a journal that had just begun publishing in 2005. I came across a haibun by Jim Kacian and was at a loss as to how the prose and haiku blended together. The whole thing seemed very magical to me. I eventually published my first haibun in 2006, and I haven’t stopped writing them since. 

SP: How do you decide on the titles for your haibun?

DP: I prefer titles that don't give away the main idea of the piece. It should add something not present in the prose or haiku, yet still connect to both. The title often occurs to me during my writing process, but sometimes before or afterwards.

Prompt: For this week's prompt, I encourage you all to think about the endless possibilities of what you might discover, what might happen or change, if you were to ‘wait a while longer’. Haibun outside this prompt is welcome too.

Important: Since we're swamped with submissions, and our editors are only human, mistakes can happen. Please, please, remember to put your name, followed by your country, below each poem, even after revisions. It helps our editors; they won't have to type it in, saving them from potential typos. Thanks a ton!



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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