Hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman and Reid Hepworth
6th October 2022
This month we have the privilege of presenting Keith Polette.
Keith Polette has published many haibun, haiku, senryu, and tanshi in both print and online journals. His first book of haibun, Pilgrimage, received the Haiku Society of America’s Merit Book Award in 2020, and his book of haiku, The New World, was on the shortlist for the Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Award in 2017. He has been a guest editor for Drifting Sands Haibun Journal, a judge for the first San Francisco International Haibun Contest, and is currently a judge for the Touchstone Awards with the Haiku Foundation. He has also published four children’s books and numerous articles and books on Language Arts pedagogy, literary criticism, and Jungian studies.
“Watch out for largemouth bass,” my grandfather said, “especially the lunkers, they’ll eat anything: frogs, mice, muskrats . . . I even saw one leap out of the water and pull down an eagle whose wingspread was as wide as a paddleboard. Those fish see everything with their dragonfly eyes.” That was the day before he left in the hour of the wolf to row to the middle of the lake where he cast his line deep. Just as dawn pulled itself up over the horizon, like a pink-crested bird struggling out of a trap, a behemoth bass hit his boat and swallowed it whole. All that was left was my grandfather’s straw hat bobbing on the water like a buoy.
Three days later he returned, smelling faintly of fish, but with a light in his eyes that I had not noticed before. When I asked him, he would not say what happened, only that he’d been somewhere that was like the inside of a cold coal furnace. After that, when we fished, we kept close to the shore, pulling in perch and bluegill, walleye and bass small enough so that they wouldn’t break the line. One evening as we were rowing back to the dock, he said, “In a few years, it will be time for me to take you out to the middle of the lake while it is still dark. In the meantime, and this will take a while, you’ll need to learn how to breathe underwater.”
the creak and groan of wind
in the old boat
On where he finds his inspiration, Keith shares, 'My writing is often motivated by a word or phrase that appears in my mind, an image from a dream, a memory, or an idea that springs forth after I’ve read a poem. I try to remain as open as possible to the urgings of the creative imagination. And my poems often begin with a line or a partial line that may suggest an imaginative path to follow.'
I have read this haibun a few times now and in each reading I find something interesting to think about. Although the speculative theme is self evident here, it was the phrase, 'hour of the wolf' that caught my attention the most.
Scott Fitzgerald describes the halfway place between midnight and dawn as the dark night of the soul. In a brief note, Ingmar Bergman calls this the "Hour of the Wolf," and explains: "It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are more real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. The Hour of the Wolf is also the hour when most children are born."
Additionally, I remember Roald Dahl using a similar phrase in his children's book 'The BFG', where the opening chapter is titled, 'The Witching Hour' and establishes a fabulous setting for the unraveling of this exciting story.
For me the entire haibun becomes something more, a deeper and layered piece because of the use of this phrase. 'Resurrection' becomes a distinct idea. Nuance is heightened by such allusions. Of course as always allusions can be missed if it is not a significant marker in our cultural and social fabric, yet, the turn of the phrase itself is so engaging that our curiosity is piqued by it.
Prompt: For this week, I encourage you to pick a word or a phrase that you have never used before. Let the word itself be a journey—a new opening that may clear a path for you to discover something. An interesting way to engage may be to pick a word or phrase from a dictionary or another language.
Have fun writing something eerie and exciting. Perhaps this is an invitation to dabble in the mystical, the mythical or the speculative. This month as people in many parts of the world enter a season of darkness, let's seek light to break its tenacious hold on us.
As always, a good haibun will find its way into the next issue of our fabulous journal. Reid 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.