Hosts: Reid Hepworth and Shalini Pattabiraman
poet of the month: Sean O'Connor
20th April, 2023
Welcome to week 3 of the series featuring Sean O’Connor.
RH: The Haibun Gallery has members who are brand new to haibun and those who have been writing for a long time. What advice would you give haibun writers to keep their writing fresh, and putting their work out into the world?
Studiously read a lot of literature. Learn from all literary forms. Study books on the craft of writing and on how to edit your work. As the haiku form is a defining component of haibun, it is particularly important to develop the craft of composing them. Editing is not only a matter of ‘paring back’, it also involves knowing what to add to your writing. This is true for haiku too. The Japanese see the removal of a word or two from a haiku draft as an opportunity to add more to the poem. Be careful not to underwrite your haiku.
See the use of kigo, not as simply a reference to nature, but as a technique for injecting emotional resonance and atmosphere into a haiku. Write to the best of your ability and seek to extend that ability. Take the time to develop every piece you write to its maximum potential, regardless of how long that may take. Never rush to publication.
Above all, enjoy both reading and writing.
By a static lake, the God of Water says Reach. So I pick up a stone, hand-sized and round, made smooth by the constant caress of the Water God. Reaching back, tilting to the transfer of weight, the finding of fulcrum, eyes fix on the shadow-shape of an island, a holy place. Not a sound but an out-breath on swing of stone, arching high and away into darkness. The God of Water watches, waiting. Absorbed into the nothingness the soundless stone arcs unseen. I wait for a kerplunk that does not come. No rolling ripples reach my feet.
Into the forever waiting, almost inaudibly, the God of Water whispers, Look!
hidden, and revealed –
in the sway of bullrushes
tonight’s only star
Source: First published in The God of Bones, Alba Publishing, 2022
To see more about Sean O'Connor's writings visit: seanwriter.com
Reach – RH: You really bring the God of Water to life in this haibun. Your use of alliteration is lovely! I can imagine standing on that lakefront, listening for the kerplunk, listening for the voice of this God.
How important is the lived experience in writing believable haibun? Do you draw mostly from personal experiences with your writing?
It is a widely held view that writers benefit from having a wide range of lived experience that they can bring to bear on their writing. However, not every experience we have is relevant to readers. It is unlikely that anyone would be interested in reading about what a writer had for breakfast. Furthermore, the notion of what constitutes human experience is a tricky one. For example, when we dream during our sleep our dreams are real experiences. Our experience of the world is filtered by our cultural life, our background, the symbolism we have internalised. Reality is not something we understand, per se. We intuit reality.
And reality is not frozen – it is in flux. One of the striking lessons I gained from working with haiku and haibun writers in Japan is that they do not see ‘a moment’ as being entirely in the present. The past is in the present. The future is too. I write this sentence at a particular point of time, yet you are reading it in, what for me now, is the future. Well-crafted haiku capture more than the present moment. They go beyond both our thinking and interpretations of experience. They operate at an intuitive level.
The notion of ‘personal experience’ is not very useful. It implies that our experiences are somehow unique. While we may have different specific experiences, we all share the same core experiences of being human. We all suffer pain, loss, joy and so on. Readers connect to writing on this basis. Writing is an act of empathy in which the writer is of no importance. This is why there are great works of literature that are admired and enjoyed over centuries despite us not knowing who wrote them.
For this week, we would like you to explore writing from a dream-state or conjure up something from deep within the depths of your imagination and see where your muse takes you.
The writer, Stephen King said, “In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives”. From On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
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.