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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 4th July 2024. Sonam Chhoki, featured poet

hosts: Kala Ramesh & Firdaus Parvez

A Thursday Feature.

poet of the month: Sonam Chhoki

4th July 2024

This month we have the pleasure of featuring Sonam Chhoki

Sonam Chhoki finds the Japanese short form poetry resonates with her Tibetan Buddhist upbringing. She is inspired by her father, Sonam Gyamtsho, the architect of Bhutan’s non-monastic modern education and by her mother, Chhoden Jangmu, who taught her: “Being a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.” She is the principal editor, and co-editor of haibun for the online journal of Japanese short forms, cattails


Her chapbook of haibun, The Lure of the Threshold was published in May 2021. Mapping Absences, a collaboration of haibun, tan bun and tanka prose with Mike Montreuil was published in 2019. Another collaboration with Geetanjali Rajan: Unexpected Gift was published in November 2021.

Did You Call? 


November wind thuds the shingle tiles. The clock ticks thoughts into patterned silence of poplars outside my window.


I feel you've called.


I leave the gate open to let you in. The frost lies un-trodden on the grass. Did you call in this moment when the first light smudges the edge of night?


Or did you call in the white eddies of the mountain stream gushing by terraced rice fields; or in the pearly glint on the high peaks as the sun disbands the clouds? Did you call in the creak of the prayer wheel and in the bray of a lone mule in the valley below?


 Did you call at all?


first snow 

crows explode shadows 

in the still grove


A Hundred Gourds 4:2 March 2015

We asked Sonam a few questions and she graciously made time to answer them. Here're the first two:

THG: Do you come from a literary background? What writers did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you write as a child?


Sonam: My earliest memories of literature are the oral tradition and the local folklore. The Epic of Gesar of Ling, the legendary hero and his flying steed, the Namthar (religious biography) of the Divine Mad Man, Drukpa Kunley and the legends of the local deities who often assumed human forms, were the staples of my childhood. The Jataka Tales were another mesmerizing childhood memory.


I read rather than wrote as a child. When I discovered Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Tagore, Hardy, Sholokhov there was no looking back.



THG: How do you translate experience into writing?


Sonam: This is quite a complex process and involves a willingness to understand that our experience is but one aspect of writing. Unique as our experience may be, to make it into a piece of writing, I often ask myself these questions:


Why would someone want to read and or publish this?


How can I write something that will stand the test of times and looking back on it, I can say, ‘Well, that wasn’t half-bad’?


If what I want to write about is difficult to express, how best can I address this?


We have to eschew the idea that our experience is the end all and be all of writing. To try and reproduce in faithful details every aspect of our experience can switch the reader off. It becomes tedious and unrelatable. A reader asking the question, So What? is lethal for any poet/writer.


To make a piece engaging and relevant to the reader, we need to use imagination and language to craft it. Not personal attachment to details which bog down a narrative. So, chop, change and chop some more to get a coherent piece should be our goal.


The creative use of imagination and language are quintessential to how we “translate” our experiences into writing.


Sonam's haibun evokes a deep yearning and sadness. While the reader learns little about the person the narrator mentions, this lack of detail enhances the impact. The language is eloquent, and the imagery is vivid and beautiful. We would love to hear your thoughts. The prompt for the week is STRANGER. Interpret is as you like. Have fun!

Haibun outside this prompt is welcome too.

Important: Since we're swamped with submissions, and our editors are only human, mistakes can happen. Please, please, remember to put your name, followed by your country, below each poem, even after revisions. It helps our editors; they won't have to type it in, saving them from potential typos. Thanks a ton!



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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98 commentaires

Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
10 juil.

The selected poems for Issue 33, haikuKATHA are up!


№2 11/7/24 (edited version as suggested by Sonam)

Kettle Hole

Morning breaks with muted light. The routine begins: breakfast, the clink of dishes. My son sits at the table, engrossed in his sketching, lost in a world of lines and shapes we both understand.

dawn stillness—

the hum of pencil

against paper

He mutters softly, words drifting like leaves, disjointed and delicate. I lean in, catching snippets, feeling each fragment settle like a feather on water.

morning mist—

the soft call of birds

beyond our walls

Throughout the day, I scrub the counters, stir the soup, fold the laundry. Each task anchors me in our quiet existence. I glimpse other mothers through the window, their laughter spilling out into the…

En réponse à

I love how I am carried through this piece Nalini. Such details, beautiful haiku braiding the prose, a wonderful title too.


Alfred Booth
Alfred Booth
07 juil.



A few more tender words

                                                                                                              beach moonlight

                                                                                                       and too much to drink

En réponse à

This is such a tender haibun, Alfred. I feel touched, deeply. As Lorraine said, the format is very nice. Everything flows gently, yet with a strong current of sadness and love underneath. Beautiful!



Travelling with Basho    


The railcar traces the Hida river into the mountains where eventually dams and power stations curb its flow. As you travelled, did you drink from its icy water and hear the bamboo tapping along the river’s edge? I see its impenetrable barrier and beyond, those towering cryptomeria forests that sheltered you.


shallow pool

the quiet poise

of a heron


This small train clatters over many steel bridges. As we climb higher the Hida, tumbles in the misty air. It flows past old wooden villages you may have known, huddled for centuries in fields of rice.


flooded fields

pale green shoots

spike the surface


In Kenrokuen Gardens I walk in the echo…

Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
10 juil.
En réponse à



Such a beautiful haibun from Sonam. The way it weaves back and forward is mesmerizing.

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