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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 20thJune 2024. Tito (Stephen Gill), featured poet

hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & Vidya Shankar

A Thursday Feature.

poet of the month: Stephen Henry Gill (haigō: Tito)

20 June 2024

This month we have the pleasure of featuring Tito (Stephen Gill).

Stephen was born in Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. He began writing haiku and haibun in 1972. He studied in Kyoto between 1974-75 and graduated from London University in Japanese Language & Literature in 1979. 

Stephen spent much of the early 80s in Tokyo; in the late 80s, he worked as a radio script writer for BBC and thereafter created 21 programmes mostly about Japan, all featuring haiku/haibun. His ‘Insect Musicians’ won the Sony Prize for Best Documentary in 1989. In the 1990s he edited ‘Rediscovering Basho’ (Global Oriental) and served on the British Haiku Society Committee as national events officer. In 1995, he moved to Kyoto, working at Ritsumeikan and later Ryukoku Universities. 

Most recently, Stephen has been lecturing on Haiku in English Literature and other topics at Kyoto University and lives in the now-rural ancient capital, Asuka, in Nara prefecture. He founded the Hailstone Haiku Circle, Kansai, in 2000 and launched the Circle’s website, Icebox, in 2008. With Nobuyuki Yuasa in 2012, he founded the Genjuan International Haibun Contest. 

His books include ‘1 Poet on Mt. Ogura, 100 Poems in a Day’ (haiku & tanka collection) and ‘100 Poets on Mt. Ogura, 1 Poem Each’ (bilingual haiku & tanka anthology, HSA Kanterman Prize for Best Anthology, 2011). The list also includes ‘Stone Birthdays’ (in Japanese, illus. for children), ‘Enhaiklopedia’, ‘Meltdown’, ‘Persimmon’ (Eng. haiku anthologies), ‘From the Cottage of Visions’ (Eng. haibun anthologies).   

Tito (Stephen Gill)

A Reverie of Kings

A black pleated cloth hat hangs on a hook in one corner of the studio. Through the embroidered eight-pointed star on its flat top, my mind goes back to a time spent hitchhiking … from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass to Jalalabad, and on westwards to Kabul, Bamiyan, Band-i-Amir and Herat. Kandahar was a turbaned chai-house with a few travellers’ messages, in various languages, pinned to the dried mud wall just beneath a portrait of the Afghan King. At that time, the Raja of Nepal, from where I’d come, was the beloved Mahendra, father of the family so horrifically assassinated this summer in Kathmandu. In Iran, where I was headed, the Shah of Persia was preoccupied with the spectacular celebrations of his nation’s 2,500th year. Yet what has become of Afghanistan? What of Nepal? What of the Persia of the Shah? And what of tiny Sikkim? I recall the Chogyal of that last kingdom slowly stroking his whitening beard in a most matter-of-fact way when I told him I had just levitated in the palace guesthouse. Identities change, regimes change, royal houses fall, roads are closed, then years later reopen. Who was I?  I wonder, … then remember. And who were you? And what is the wind going to do? My old Afghan hat just rocked ever so slightly. Didn’t you see?

Rickety bus’s

plume of dust

having settled …

a stack of ravaged tyres

(published in ‘Modern Haiku’ 35.1, USA, win.-spr. 2004)

SP: As a writer with much experience in your capacity as an editor and judge, what do you look for in a winning haibun?

Tito: I look for good haiku; for counterpoint between the haiku and the prose; an element of risk - in the diction, the linking, the subject matter. Basho said, 'Newness is the flower of haikai'. Probably because the average age of contestants is usually rather high, I tend to look for irrepressible joy rather than unremitting sadness. I had much fun with fellow judges Nobuyuki Yuasa, Hisashi Miyazaki and Nenten Tsubo'uchi debating over the Genjuan Contest candidates. There had better be, not only latent philosophical depth, but a twinkle in the eye somewhere! 'Hai' means 'light-hearted', not 'heavy-hearted'.

Prompt: Time travel into the world of a historical incident or event and write as a person caught in the middle of something going out of control. 

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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The map in satellite view zooms in a row of small, rectangular roofs in a familiar neighborhood.The street has been extended across that vacant lot where we used to play stickball, but our house looks much the same.

If I went down there—as I often do in dreams—would I find the front door's been left wide open? Could I steal from room to room in search of some small thing the moving van forgot?

Who owns it now? Would they say, "Please come in," or smile guardedly at this stranger from a distant past?

squirrel’s nest

in a leafless sidewalk tree

the street lights fizz on

Linda Papanicolaou, US

(Not quite on-prompt but it is a sort of time…

Replying to

Oh, yes, thank you for catching the typo Lorraine. I’ve corrected without reposting the haibun.


mona bedi
mona bedi
Jun 24

Post #2



The courier is neatly packed in a yellow envelope. My name is written in a beautiful handwriting on the top. On the bottom left side the senders name reads as ‘’ Ved” . I am curious as this was my dad’s last name. It’s been 20 years since he passed. I carefully open the package so as to not damage its contents. Inside are a few legal papers. The print is very fine. Shuffling through the mayhem in the house I fail to trace my spectacles. At that instance my daughter comes running and lifts the sheath of papers from the sofa. ‘’ Mom, someone has left you a cottage in the hills” she shouts.


mona bedi
mona bedi
Jun 24
Replying to

Thanks Joanna!




Places where magic may die

I know broken. I’m an expert with glue. Vases. Words requiring separation. Love triangles and the triage after friends betray trust. Who goes, who stays? Yet broken souls, like the one mamma crushed with a hair brush, well that’s another matter. There is no glue. Sticky doesn’t work. Just words, words, and more words spoken, spit, sworn as we lie on a shrink’s couch and pour tears into our wounds hoping the salt will cauterize them one last time. All I can tell you about the outpouring of tears is that I welcome their sting, like a hornet's, like a swig of vodka when you’ve eaten too much lobster, caviar, or chocolate and…

Replying to

Thank you Lorraine.


#2 6-23-24


If wishing could make it true, then this would be my today.

I wake up in your backyard. I drink coffee with you, talking like old friends ... although we've only just now met. We walk the woods by your house side by side, soaking in all that nature has to offer. Hearing your voice, your laugh, your thoughts ... is just what I thought it would be, and yet so much more. Your energy is palpable, seeing things with fresh eyes, like no one else has seen before. I walk through your modest home, reveling in your prodigious talent. And to my utter delight, we paint together, experimenting and commenting on each other's techniques. Layer on…

Replying to

So beautiful Jennifer.

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