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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 22nd June 2023 Ray Rasmussen: Featured Haibuneer

hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & Reid Hepworth

poet of the month: Ray Rasmussen

22nd June 2023

A Thursday Feature Ray Rasmussen presently serves as Encore editor for contemporary haibun online, and Technical Advisor for Drifting Sands Haibun. His haibun, haiga, haiku, articles and reviews have appeared in many of the major print and online haiku genre journals. Ray’s Blog is “All Things Haibun” and his haiku genres website is “Haiku, Haibun & Haiga.” His collection Landmarks is available on Amazon.

Links to his blogs:

Haibun writing is often seen as a balancing act between title, prose and haiku where link and shift adds nuance, complexity and depth. We would like to draw attention to Ray’s essay in the link below:

As an example of the various ways in which writers create link and shift, see the haibun, “What are you up to?” we have featured this week. The title is a question we often encounter from people no matter how old we are. There’s an immediacy to this question seeking a response that automatically becomes both: a literal question and a metaphorical one. In this case, Ray’s prose and haiku respond equally to the literal and the metaphorical creating a deeply layered piece of writing.

What are you up to?

Ray Rasmussen

The sun’s rays filter through a stand of spruce where twenty horses are hitched. As we unpack them, Dave, a lanky outfitter, and I chat about the grizzly we spotted earlier in the day and how the horses are holding up.

men’s talk –

the smell of

sweat and manure

Dave asks, “Ray, what are you up to these days?”

I’m embarrassed to say that I receive a monthly check without having to work, that I no longer wake up by an alarm clock, that I feel guilty about those who have to rush breakfast and fight traffic, that I view my avocations as luxuries in a world stressed by war and poverty.

Finally, I say: “Well, I write a bit and do some photography.”

Dave replies, “Oh, do you sell your photographs?”

“Some, but not enough to pay for the camera.”

So there it is. I can’t simply sit on the back stoop and admire the lawn growing, the shadows lengthening.

“Well,” Dave grunts as he hefts a 60-pound load off the horse, “must be nice to have time to pursue your interests.”

How many times have I heard that I now have time to be the writer I always wanted to be, to travel as much as I want?

In younger times I was a jock, a professional, a dad, a leader and a teacher. Now I’m a retiree, a senior, a grey beard, all of which carry undertones of geezer, hints of useless.

The horses don’t like being corralled, and I don’t either. When we release them, they race out into the meadow, roll in the black loam, shake and begin to graze.

I wish this rawness I feel could as easily be shaken off.

monkshood bloom –

the whine of mosquitoes

seems diminished

Note: Haiku first published in Modern Haiku. Haibun with haiku later published in Lynx Haiku Journal.

Q: How do you navigate between these elements and techniques?


My composing Sequence:

1 A stimulus (something visual or spoken or on the news or in an article or in another person’s writing, etc.) catches my attention.

2 Prose ideas, I start writing the piece in my mind or a draft on a computer.

3a Title ideas, I want something that will catch a reader’s attention, 3b Search for haiku, something that links with the prose and title, but not too obviously and also not too obliquely.

4 Revisions, Revisions, Revisions

5 When it feels right or finished (mine almost never do), send the piece out to one or more writing/feedback partners.

6 Write the final draft(s)

7 Select submission place and send it out.

8 Cross fingers

9 If accepted, think “What a great writer I am, glad s/he recognized my brilliance.” If rejected think, “What a jerk this editor is, who needs that journal, I’ll never submit my work there again.” (accompanied by curling up on the floor and sucking my thumb).

10 After a reasonable period of sulking, try to figure out what went wrong. Ask friend and even the editor for suggestions (many editors won’t provide them – most are volunteers and don’t have time for coaching)

11 Go up to #4 and follow through the steps again or toss the piece in a drawer or computer folder titled “Unfinished.”

Stimulus: Working across from Dave, the outfitter, I was struck by his question, and throughout the day I mused on the psychodrama of retirement. I had just retired that year and this two-week hiking trip was my first major experience out of the routines of paid employment.

Title: I figured the question made for a good title because many readers in their near or actual retirement years would identify with it. And even those in their second and third quarters might respond to similar questions asked at social gatherings, as in: “What do you do for a living?”

Prose: With a title in mind and my personal feelings about retirement, I decided to create a dialogue that spelled out the dilemmas of retirement, as I experienced them.

Inner Monologue/Outer Dialogue: In order to avoid making this piece sound like an essay about the psychology of retirement, I varied the external (spoken dialogue) with an inner monologue – the stuff that comes to mind but that isn’t spoken (and, if as it happens, I have two or more voices rampaging in my mind, I’d call it an inner dialogue – or maybe even the beginnings of multiple personality disorder. As Walt Whitman wrote in “Song of Myself,” ‘I am large, I contain multitudes.’

Descriptive detail: I also take great pains to balance the prose inner/outer comments with descriptive detail.

So the three prose elements are: descriptive detail, spoken dialogue, inner monologue/dialogue.

Some readers will identify with my thoughts and feelings expressed in the inner monologues and dialogues and some won’t, as in “Get a life … enjoy this freedom while you can.” In fact, that voice was part of my inner thoughts.

When writing this kind of piece, it’s important to keep the outer dialogue (conversation) and the descriptive detail flowing because they are what holds the reader’s interest in the storyline. Too much inner monologue and dialogue and the piece becomes more distant and abstract than I want my haibun to be.

Haiku: Some writers start a haibun with a haiku. An expression of an unusual or intense moment of time. I guess you could say that’s what I did in this case because the trigger for me was the moment the outfitter asked his question. But I didn’t start by writing the haiku. I first fleshed out the three elements of the prose and then began the search for title and haiku.

I usually search for material in the story’s environment that might work for a haiku, one that shifts a bit away from the prose style and content. I’m a photographer so when Dave and I finished unpacking the horses and releasing them to the meadows, I followed them out into the meadow with my camera and photographed them. They were rolling in the dirt to get rid of the stinging flies and I was grumpily swatting at the swarm attacking me. The insistent whining seemed impossible to ignore. And then I took a walkabout in the meadow and noticed a fresh bloom of Monkshood flowers backlit by the evening sun. Then came the associations: a monkshood bloom looks like the cowls (head coverings) worn by some sects of monks. Monks, meditation through photography, release from the stresses of life, and I realized that my attention had gone from the whine to the flowers and to my joy in being there, no longer whining about being a retiree, useless in some eyes and full of self-reproach. And in the haiku, I tried to liken myself to a meditating monk. Later, saturated with the fullness of the day, I wandered back to camp for a great dinner and fireside chatting with my companions.

If you’d like to see another piece that includes outer and inner dialogues, with a reach for a provocative title and environment related haiku, have a look at “The Whole Works,” Contemporary Haibun Online, July 1, 2011, vol 7 no 2.

In closing, here's a related story that may be of interest. I submitted this piece to Modern Haiku and was surprised when the editor said he’d like to take the haiku, but not the full haibun. I’d not yet had anything published in MH, so I was very pleased that the editor liked the haiku as a standalone. On the other hand, I was a bit miffed because he seemed not to like the prose storyline and didn’t explain why (to be fair, I didn’t ask him about his decision). So I jumped at the offer and later submitted the whole piece to Jane Reichhold’s journal, Lynx: A Journal for Linking Poets, where it was first published with an acknowledgment of the original publication of the haiku. Why the Lynx journal? Haibun is a complex linking form, multiple links between title, prose and haiku and linking strategies within the prose passages and within the haiku itself.

Prompt for the week:

Write a haibun that uses a literal question to answer or respond back to a larger metaphorical one. You don’t need to use the question in the title, unless you want to experiment with Ray’s style and see where it might take you. If this isn’t challenging enough, I will invite you to consider one of the twelve questions raised in Bhanu Kapil’s phenomenal book, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers.

1. Who are you and whom do you love? 2. Where did you come from / how did you arrive? 3. How will you begin? 4. How will you live now? 5. What is the shape of your body? 6. Who was responsible for the suffering of your mother? 7. What do you remember about the earth? 8. What are the consequences of silence? 9. Tell me what you know about dismemberment. 10. Describe a morning you woke without fear. 11. How will you / have you prepare(d) for your death? 12. And what would you say if you could?



1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt, and only one haibun in 24 hours. 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.


364 views130 comments


lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Jun 26, 2023

#2, revised, thanks all. Hope the revision is okay.


The long wait for dear ones at the border

birthday memories

in the spring album

lost and found




The long wait for the dear ones at the border

old memories

in the spring album

lost and found


feedback please

lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Jun 28, 2023
Replying to

Yes, i couldn't find any other word for that. Thank you.


Anju Kishore
Anju Kishore
Jun 26, 2023


(feedback welcome)

every time they ask me how i am, i say i am fine

the flow

of a dammed river

that will not swell

Anju Kishore
Anju Kishore
Jun 27, 2023
Replying to

Thank you so much Kala. Humbled 🙏


Bonnie J Scherer
Bonnie J Scherer
Jun 25, 2023

Jun 22 #1 Feedback welcome 🙂

Final: after additional feedback from Reid to minimize the prose.

𝗗𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝗦𝗲𝗮 𝗗𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴

“What delicious meal have you prepared lately?”

My friend Debbie always asks this question.

“Last night I made a veggie loaf. No meat. Beans and a lot of fresh vegetables”.

After a pause, she says, “it sounds delicious and healthy”.

I have no idea why she asks. She never wants my recipes. Her idea of cooking is ordering takeout from a local restaurant.

Today when she drops the line, I clam up.

not all oysters

have pearls …

treasure hunt

Self Revision following feedback from Anju

𝗗𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝗦𝗲𝗮 𝗗𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴

“What delicious healthy meal have you prepared lately?”

The question always comes…

Bonnie J Scherer
Bonnie J Scherer
Jun 26, 2023
Replying to

Thanks Reid! You have a great way of being politically correct in your feedback yet nudging me to a better product. You and @Anju Kishore are very helpful with your insightful comments. My thanks to both of you. 🙏


Jun 25, 2023

Beautiful prompt