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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 25th May 2023 — a Thursday feature

hosts: Firdaus Parvez & Kala Ramesh

poet of the month: Lew Watts

25th 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: 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.

5. And lastly, do you show your work in progress to anyone, or is it a solitary art that you keep close to your chest before letting it go for publishing?

Hmm . . . since you ask. I never used to share my drafts, and I’ve never been part of any haibun writing group (pet peeve: if I suggest edits to a submitted haibun, please don’t reply saying “Well, my haibun group thought it was perfect”). Having said that, I’ve received wonderful feedback from editors, most notably from Roberta Beary at Modern Haiku and Rich Youmans at contemporary haibun online. Even so, I wouldn’t dare show them an early draft! Those I only entrust to my friend and collaborator, Tanya McDonald (founder and editor of Kingfisher Journal) because she always tells-it-as-it-is—sure, some thumbs up, but lots of pushbacks, “I don’t understand”, and “what the hell were you thinking?” Love it, and her.

<> <> <> Now, for the final week's haibun from Lew.

Houston, We Have a Problem

The hand-written note says they are praying for me. If I were to open my heart to Jesus, he would forgive me—indeed, they have already done so, despite my terrible words. After two further paragraphs of collective love, in which I am invited to join their Bible reading at breakfast, lunch, or after work, it is signed with a flourish. The printed name below reads, “Dawn Rawlings, Mrs,” my HR manager.

marble altar

the scent of Old Spice

on a manuterge

I shouldn’t have been surprised—most of the company’s meetings started with a prayer. But at our first team-building session, when I asked my staff the two most important things in their lives, God was always mentioned first, followed by a less important thing like gun, dog, child, husband, or wife. When it came to me, it was clear that I had to say something. “Now, I know you all think I’m an atheist, but I’m not. I do believe in God,” I said, to gasps of relief. “I just don’t like him.”

voice breaking the church choir master’s grip

Presence, 66, 2020

Writing Challenge: We all go through life with certain convictions and beliefs. It gets stronger or it might drastically change as the years pass. Some keep these beliefs private and some are open and brutally frank about them. Can you write about an episode in your life that has touched you deeply and where you felt you were swimming against the current? A request: please don't post a haibun immediately. Give this challenge a few days to sink in. Mull over the possibilities of how you could take it forward.

And, of course, haibun outside this prompt can also be posted!


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.


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