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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 27th April '23 — a Thursday feature

Hosts: Reid Hepworth and Shalini Pattabiraman

poet of the month: Sean O'Connor

27th April, 2023

This is the final week of the series featuring Sean O’Connor. We hope that you have enjoyed reading Sean’s work and the focus on craft. Thank you, Sean!

Last Christmas

bitterly cold

licking ice

a feral cat

It is warm in the café, coats on the backs of chairs, gloves on tables. I sit at a table next to a couple and their two children. The kids are running about.

The boy has a toy gun. He shoots plastic darts with rubber suckers at his father. The couple get him to stop. Both kids told to sit down, and they do, the boy in the seat nearest mine. He wheezes a little.

‘Has he got a chest infection?’ I ask his mother.

‘Not really,’ she says. ‘It’s an ongoing thing. He’s been in a lot of treatment and his left lung is damaged.’

‘Oh I see! Well, I hope he recovers well, I couldn’t help but notice.’

‘He has cancer,’ she says.

I look at her.

‘I have cancer,’ the boy says. ‘I had no hair when I was in I.C.U.’

tough words

my lungs fill

– and empty

I say nothing. The girl speaks:

‘You did have hair in I.C.U. You had a little on the top of your head.’

‘That’s right,’ his mother says, ‘you had a cute tuft of hair on your head. Didn’t you?’

The boy smiles.

‘You have very nice hair now,’ I say.

His mother repeats what she had said: that he has cancer.

‘What type?’ I ask.

She recites the boy’s condition in medicalese.

Latin and Greek

one word stands out


‘He has six months to live,’ she says.

‘It could be more,’ says the girl.

I look at the boy. He has dropped a plastic police badge that came with his gun, and he points at it. I pick it up from under my seat. As I hand it to him, I notice his sister has a new set of paintbrushes. I ask her if she likes to paint.

‘Love it,’ she says.

The boy asks his father if it is time to leave yet. It is. They gather their things and get ready for the cold.

‘Happy New Year,’ we all say as they leave.

slow falling light

melting on the window

a single snowflake

Source: From Fragmentation, Alba Publishing 2021

First published in Presence, Issue 70, 2021. First haiku ‘bitterly cold’ published in ‘I Wish’, Hailstone Haiku Circle Anthology, Kansai, Japan. Winter 2020.

To see more about Sean O'Connor's writings visit:

Last Christmas – RH: In this haibun, you have taken a seemingly innocent interaction in a restaurant and elevated it to a poignant and impactful piece. I really like your use of dialogue and how the haiku intensifies the emotional resonance in this haibun.

Can you explain your perspective on how haiku is the central figure of the haibun? And what is your process when writing?


At any given time I am working on several haibun, however, each one typically takes at least a year to complete. When considering what to write about I favour subjects or incidents that are likely to generate emotional resonance for the reader. Once I decide what I will write a haibun about, I contemplate it for a few weeks, or months, and during that process I compose haiku I think connect with it. By the time I am ready to write prose I usually have between 4 and 10 haiku to work with. I constantly refer to these haiku as I write the prose. Only a fraction (often only one or two) of the haiku end up in the final haibun draft. This helps ensure that the prose and haiku in the finished haibun are integrated – are ‘linked’. I re-edit the haibun numerous times over a long period of time.

I would like to stress that this is not my approach, it is the approach taken to haibun writing by many writers over a 400 year period. This was Basho’s method, as documented by Nobuyuki Yuasa in his introduction to his translation of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Penguin Classics, 1966). I am not saying that this is the only process for writing haibun, but it is certainly the most tried and tested one.

Bonus Haibun:


Six weeks after my father’s stroke I bring him out of the rehab unit to a café in the town. He studies passing road-signs along the way and reads place names aloud to himself.

We drink tea and chat about this and that. As we finish, I ask if he is ready to go.

‘Go where?’

‘Back to where you’re staying,’ I say.

He pauses; ‘But I don’t remember where I’m staying.’

On our way back we stop by a river, its banks overgrown, a tidy orchard on the other side.

for the time being

the swerve and swoop of swallows –

through apple blossoms

He points to something in the river.

‘Look at that,’ he says, ‘do you see that? That’s what I’m talking about; you have to strive.’

His arm is raised, urging me to look.

a fallen tree

thin branches pointing skyward

their fresh green sprouts

Source: Source: From Fragmentation, Alba Publishing 2021

First published in Drifting Sands, Issue 8, March 2021

To see more about Sean O'Connor's writings visit:


For your final challenge, we would like to invite you to incorporate the different aspects of the craft we have been working on: engaging/believable dialogue, musicality, emotional resonance. Try writing 4-10 haiku/senryu before you start writing your prose. For this exercise, you really need to take time with your work. Do not rush the process, let it unfold naturally.

We look forward to reading your best, most polished work!


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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