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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 4th August — a Thursday Feature

Hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman and Akila G.

4th August 2022

For this month's feature we are excited to curate a collection of haibun by Marietta McGregor.

Marietta McGregor's haiku, haiga and haibun appear in international journals and anthologies, including Red Moon. Her awards include: Winner, March 2018 Ekphrastic challenge, Rattle; first and runner-up (2019) British Haibun Awards; first (2019) and second (2015) in UHTS’s Samurai Haibun Contest, and Cottage (An) prizes in Genjuan International Haiku Contests (2018 and 2021). A retired botanist and keen photographer, she likes to capture fleeting impressions of cities, coast and bush, both natural and human-made, and to share some of their spirit through her poetry.

The first haibun in this series, won the first prize in 2018 UHTS Samurai Haibun Contest.

Burn Off

willy-willy the every-which-way of a cockatoo A stewing windfall of a late summer afternoon settles into the valley. Paddock stubble shimmers. Leaves curl tighter underfoot and crackle sharply as if in pain. A red cattle dog whoofs out another shuddering sigh and wriggles deeper into a shady spot under the tank stand. The weather has been crazy — wild electrical storms, high winds, baking nights. If only it would rain, as is forecast every day. Inside the slab-walled farmhouse, someone turns on a radio, tunes it to the public broadcaster; a phone jangles in an empty hallway. The glow to the west is bigger, brighter, edging skywards with an occasional flare which is at the same time beautiful, and apocalyptic. The light is dully-brassy as the inside of an old school-band trumpet. It has been unnaturally still all morning. Now tricky little somersaults of wind sprinkle flecks of charred leaf like fresh-ground pepper into the heat, teasing here, nudging there. Eyes prickle and smart. Under the water tank, the dog sneezes. Voices come from the house, one a child’s, happy and light, the other a woman’s, grave and concerned, a sotto voce mutter, as if to reassure herself as much as the child: I’m sure they’ll be home soon. third red light a flurry of gum leaves through the crossing Birds have gone quiet, or have flown off. Even the resident corellas, which can usually be counted on at any time to flock together and screech out their banshee crankiness, are silent. The house cows are nose-to-tail tight under the big old pepper tree, although its flimsy willow droop gives scant shade. The telephone rings shrilly, again. She tells the child to wait on the verandah, and goes inside. It's bad news. Spot fires have flared in a semicircle around the access road. His route in from town, and their route out, will be blocked inside half an hour. There's a way, he says. Drive to Ten-Mile Creek, there’ll be someone there to ferry you across. Don’t worry, it’ll be OK. Her sweaty hair sticks to her cheek. Yes, she says, we’ll do that. We’ll bring the dog. The sun’s Cyclopean eye has been growing bloodshot, until now it disappears altogether in a windswirl of black smoke. The sense of early nightfall is eerie, an earthly eclipse of the day. She quickly fills water bottles, turns off the electricity, grabs her daughter's favourite worn velvet bilby toy. Collects the heaviest woollen garments and blankets she can find, soaks the blankets in water, bundles them into a plastic trash bag. The wind is stronger, the scent of a million sticks of ashy incense carried like a last-ditch offering to implacable summer gods. wildfire in the headlights tree skeletons She carries her burden outside, takes the child’s hand, and says, we’re going for a drive. We’ll take Cojo too. It’ll be fun. Child and dog in the truck, she opens the gate from the home paddock to the road. She’ll leave it open, thinking the cows will have an alternate route if they need it, that’s if they have the sense to take it. Switching on the truck’s lights as it is now three in the afternoon and almost pitch dark, she drives out, away from town. Towards the creek, to safety. The child, clutching her precious bilby and with one arm around Cojo, is singing her car song, a wordless croon that rises and falls with the motor’s drone. The dog leans in to her, protectively, ears sharpened to her voice. The mother turns up the radio, and puts her foot down, keen to put some rapid distance between them and the juggernaut. The road this way is less travelled, so has not been graded for some time and the truck hops and sidles, skittish as a show pony. An announcer comes on the radio. News from the SES fire crews. The wind has eased. It’s starting to rain heavily in the catchment. She winds the window down to the blessed scent of petrichor, and begins to hum along with her daughter. faint haze of rain pockmarks pattern the dust on the windscreen

Marietta lyrically blends rich imagery to capture a narrative that paints a stunning picture of the landscape in summer before it catches fire in the burgeoning heat. The emotion is held in check as the narrator unfolds the actions of the mother who attends to it, yet the mood is thick, 'Birds have gone quiet, or have flown off.' and 'Her sweaty hair sticks to her cheek.' Tension builds up slowly, fear and the anxiety that comes in places is evoked by the direct references which one would expect, but interestingly demonstrated through indirect references to the habitat and its occupants inanimate or animate, 'the truck hops and sidles, skittish as a show pony.' Another technique beautifully applied by Marietta is the use of linking the beginning with the ending using opposite ideas. Notice the links in 'A stewing windfall of a late summer afternoon settles into the valley.' at the start of the haibun with 'The wind has eased.' thus bringing the closure neatly. The ending haiku is yet again a splendid example of Marietta's craft in capturing vivid imagery.

For this week, I invite you to be attentive to the canvas you are painting. Similar to an artist who sets out to balance their composition with objects in the foreground and establishes a setting in the background, I want you to notice the occupants in the image you are composing. Experiment with the use of inanimate and animate objects. Include them in the narrative frame as you embark on telling a rich story fraught with some drama or tension. Consider how you might engage with pace and energy. Before you put pen to paper, listen deeply to the sounds and other sensory experiences. In fact, go ahead and sketch this out before you choose words to write it, or use a picture to trigger your senses and set your narrative juices flowing. As always, a good haibun will find its way into the next issue of our fabulous journal. Akila and I are eagerly looking forward to reading your haibun.


1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt.

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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