Updated: Feb 2
Hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman and Reid Hepworth
poet of the month: Roberta Beary
2nd February 2023
This month we have the privilege of sharing haibun crafted by Roberta Beary.
Roberta Beary’s poetry books have been honored by Poetry Society of America, Haiku Foundation, Haiku Society of America, and Eric Hoffer Awards. After 60 rejections, their prose poem 'After You Self Medicate with Roethke's The Waking Read by Text to Speech App' won the 2022 Bridport Prize. The longtime haibun editor at Modern Haiku, they are Roving Ambassador for The Haiku Foundation and also serve on its annual Touchstone Awards Committee for Best Haiku. They recently co-authored Haibun: A Writer’s Guide; a collection of haiku, Carousel, is forthcoming from Snapshot Press, UK. Born in New York City, they divide their time between the USA and Ireland with their husband, Frank Stella. They identify as gender fluid and write for the silenced and other survivors of trauma.
This week we will be presenting an extract from an essay by Roberta and a haibun that demonstrates the ideas in the essay.
Here's an extract from the essay.
Why I Write Haibun, or
The Holy Trinity of Haibun—an extract
To write haibun I had to know what makes a good haibun. But my definition of a good haibun evolved over the years. It has three requirements: a title that grabs the reader but doesn’t reveal too much of the action ahead; prose that is short and engaging; haiku that reflects or expands the prose but does not repeat it. And all three parts must be linked in some way. The Holy Trinity of Haibun.
In the past few years my haibun repertoire has expanded from childhood reminiscences, both good and ill, to encounters with chemo patients, bullies, spouses, lecherous teachers, ex-husbands, and election results. For me, no subject is off limits for haibun: a conversation overheard in a hospital or on a bus, a news story, a tale told by a friend. An authentic haibun includes no artifice or device. The emotion must be real. Which is why as a haibun writer I am not concerned about revealing family secrets. Not because I don’t have any. But because I don’t believe in them. There is nothing more fatal to writing haibun or any artistic form than the fear of offending.
I try to make sure that something happens in my haibun. An experience that will engage the reader so that she will join me on my haibun journey. Once that is accomplished in the prose, there is still the haiku. I write my haiku after completing the prose because the prose generates the haiku. I set a high bar: the haiku must be able to stand on its own. To be strong enough to appear in any haiku anthology or collection without any reference to the haibun. This isn’t easy.
A haibun can take weeks to write before I am satisfied with it. Or days. I think in 15 years I have written three haibun that took one day. Once the haiku are written, I decide where to place them.
Should a haiku begin the haibun? Should it break up the prose? Or should I follow the standard haibun dictum of title, prose, haiku? Should several haiku be interspersed throughout the prose? The answer depends on the individual haibun. Many practitioners’ haiku repeat the haibun’s theme, or even its words. To me this means the writer is not working as hard as he could.
The last leg of my journey is the title. The title should grab the reader’s attention. A signal that a worthwhile experience lies ahead. A promise of authenticity that will make the reader sit up and take notice. Sometimes the title is the hardest part of the haibun puzzle for me to solve. But when I do, the time I spent figuring out how the pieces fit together makes all the challenges worthwhile. So I go on, telling haibun stories and shaping myself in the process.
For the whole essay, please go to the link source given below to read it in its entirety.
Here's a haibun that demonstrates this powerfully.
all day they drink and argue. argue and drink. then come looking for me. find me hiding under the bed. break me into pieces. some say they bury me in the woods. but those are only my bones. look for me in the night sky. cradle of stars. softly he rocks me. man in the moon.
baby teeth rattle
a pink jar
—Essay was published previously in Blithe Spirit (Vol. 29, No. 3, August 2019), and “Verisimilitude,” the haibun story, was first published in KYSO Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018)
One of the things I notice about Roberta's haibun is how it doesn't waste a single word. Every word in this haibun counts. Its tight and powerfully packed shape evokes a strong emotion. The haiku expands on the narrative frame brilliantly with the juxtaposition between earth tremors and baby teeth. The massive versus the tiny, the powerful versus the vulnerable. The haiku on its own packs a punch and given the prose, it adds layers to the extremely poignant narrative. This haibun clearly exemplifies the importance of the relationship between title, prose and haiku.
This week focus on three aspects. Powerful emotion. Effective language. Compact form. The subject and theme can be inspired by any real event currently in the news. Looking forward to this week's writing.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As always, a good haibun will find its way into the next issue of our fabulous journal. Kala and I are eagerly looking forward to reading your haibun. Keith Polette is the MENTOR for THE HAIBUN GALLERY from 16 December 2022. Thank you, Keith PLEASE NOTE: 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.