top of page

THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 8th June 2023 Ray Rasmussen: Featured Haibuneer

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & Reid Hepworth

poet of the month: Ray Rasmussen

8th June 2023

A Thursday Feature Ray Rasmussen presently serves as Encore editor for contemporary haibun online, and Technical Advisor for Drifting Sands Haibun. His haibun, haiga, haiku, articles and reviews have appeared in many of the major print and online haiku genre journals. Ray’s Blog is “All Things Haibun” and his haiku genres website is “Haiku, Haibun & Haiga.” His collection Landmarks is available on Amazon.

Links to his blogs:

An accomplished writer uses many tools and devices to evoke a specific emotion in the reader. For those who have enjoyed reading Ray’s haibun, and admire his work, keep an eye out for Ray’s second collection, a follow up on Landmarks which will soon be available.

The featured haibun for this week curated from his forthcoming collection, draws attention to the lyrical use of language and a gentle pace lending to an overall effect that is soft and infused with tenderness. The speaker’s eye is drawn to the lover’s gaze and tracks what she follows, making the exchange intimate and moving at the same time.

This haibun also reminds me of another favourite poem ‘First Meeting’ by A. S. J. Tessimond. Link is attached below for those who might be keen to read it.

The Ask

Ray Rasmussen

My lover asks me:

"What is the difference

between me and the sky?"

~ Nizar Qabbani

After reading Qabbani’s poem together, my lover smiles and asks: “What’s the difference between me and the sky?”

The difference, my love, is when in spring, you guide me to view the purple crocus poking above winter’s leaf litter.

And when in summer, you put your canoe paddle aside to pick up your camera, and my eyes follow your gaze to a tiny bonsai-shaped spruce growing from a sawn stump in an Algonquin Lake.

And when in fall, you see ATV tracks that have scoured the forest path we love to walk, and I see your eyes flood with pain.

And when in winter you hush me and stop to gaze at deer tracks in the snow.

And when today, you gasp and your face lights up when a red fox gracefully crosses Moss Stone creek on an inches-wide log that no human would dare walk.

And when minutes later, a second fox follows, bark-yips, receives a bark-yip in return, and together they cavort in spring’s warming sun.

All that, my love, is how you are of the Earth, and different from the sky.

warming sun –

her hand slips

into mine Notes:

The epigraph is the first line of Nizar Qabbani’s poem, “My Lover Asks Me,” translated by B. Frangieh & C. Brown.

The haibun was modeled on Qabbani’s poem, but with my content in answer to the question posed by the poet’s lover.

Source: First published in Cattails 2019

Q: There's a lot of tenderness when you write about your partner and not just in this haibun. Is this a product of careful editing or does lived experience play an influence here?

Ray: In the previous two weeks I’ve emphasized that my starting point is based on personal experiences that stand out in an otherwise routine daily life. With this piece, there are two influences:

  1. daily experiences with my found-late-in-life partner, Nancy, and

  2. inspiration from a poet I bumped into somewhere on a written page, Nizar Qabbani.

If you’d like to read the entire poem it’s here:

My lover asks me: "What is the difference between me and the sky?" The difference, my love, Is that when you laugh, I forget about the sky. Translated by B. Frangieh and C. Brown © by owner.

“The Ask” follows my usual approach, write about the real and embellish to make it interesting. The new aspect is that it adds a reference and tribute to another writer’s work.

The lived experience is that Nancy and I often work and walk in the forest near her home. As we walk, she’ll often mention things she hears and sees, or stop to closely examine something on the ground, vole tracks, a trillium bud. I’d have walked right by or over most of these while doing the usual mind-running-amuck buzz. One at a time, the foxes did actually cross the log over the creek we’ve named “Moss Stone.” It was an amazing moment.

The embellishment is that we didn’t really have this conversation. I created this piece as a “love poem” and sent it to Nancy on her birthday. I put the words into her mouth after a paragraph about sharing a poetry reading.

The new aspect is the interaction with the work of Nazir Qabbini. In many pieces over the last decade my pieces are interactive with the work of other writers including free verse poets, essayists, prose poets and writers from other cultures. I enjoy dialoguing with them in this way, using their work and building on it, just as Basho’s haibun often contained allusions to earlier Asian poets whose works he had collections of.

In this case I was struck (I think our Oz haibun pals would say gob-smacked, yes?) by Qabbani’s haiku-writing (one of Basho’s terms for haibun was haiku writing). Succinct and each phrase is haiku-like in its simplicity. I can’t think of a word I’d change.

And I confess I have a romantic feeling for the work of Asian and Middle Eastern poets. Their work goes back many centuries. Sometimes I feel as if I’m speaking to them.

Here’s Qabbini’s biography and some of this other work.

Nancy and I would often share poetry and after sharing Qabbini’s poem (we often read aloud to one another) I put Qabbini’s lover’s words into my lover’s mouth and had her ask me: “What’s the difference between me and the sky?”

And the rest flowed out, or more honestly, a lot of words and phrases flowed out (would you like to see the larger earlier drafts?), and after many drafts and comments from friends and the Cattails Journal’s editor who kindly accepted this unusual derivative piece, what you see is the published result.

A problem with drawing on the work of great poets is that I know I’m not of their calibre. So necessarily, my less than great writing stands beside the work of some of the greats. How could a reader help but make a comparison. Qabbani said it in so few words … why were all my words needed?

My answer is that I wrote this piece for my lover. I wanted to acknowledge some of the many gifts and insights she has brought into my life.

Very often a single line in a prose passage or haibun or poem strikes me, and I use it in the same way – as a jumping off point for my own need to write about my own experiences. I did this with Paul Conneally’s “Around the Rhubarb:” You can read Paul’s haibun here:

Around the Rhubarb

Paul Conneally

I miss them the rag-and-bone men of my childhood. Taking things out to them to be rewarded not with money but perhaps a balloon. In my head a green balloon although I know it wasn’t always so. The smell of the horse and the wonderment when it chose to peacefully urinate outside the house. My grandmother’s house. The steam.

dragonflies I dig in some fresh manure around the rhubarb

The prompt I used for composing my piece, “Warmth,” was the phrase “I miss them …” I borrowed from Conneally’s haibun. I let my memories and pen flow and after multiple redrafts ended with “Warmth.” To my surprise it was accepted at Modern Haiku, my first publication there in 2007.

Warmth I miss them, my daughters when they were young. Reading The Hobbit in wintertime, snuggled in close, bodies and fire keeping us warm, rewarded with their pleas ... just one more page. I’ve nearly forgotten my reluctance to pick up the book in the first place. I don’t remember being read to, but when I was sick, my mother sang lullabies while tucking me deep under the covers, only my nose and ears sticking out. I remember the melodies, but not the words. old friends – I place more wood on the campfire

Prompt for the week: We invite you to write a haibun that is an ode to someone you love, or write a haibun that explores the idea of intimacy and what it can mean to us, or tracks the event of falling in love, or reflects over that first meeting. Consider tone, pace, voice, and imagery. More importantly, show, not tell! One of the ways I can recommend is to find the intimate in the ordinary. You may decide you want to follow Ray's style and use a quote from someone to inspire your writing. Remember to give them credit, if you do so and acknowledge it in your work.


If you wish to read some of Ray's articles, reviews and commentaries, then these can be found on the resources pages of Haibun Today:

and contemporary haibun online:

You can additionally read his book of haibun, Landmarks: A Haibun Collection.


1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt, and only one haibun in 24 hours. 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.


477 views151 comments

151 Komentar


Compassion double-decker the many stories of childhood Ma saw this book about growing bonsai trees in suburban homes. She bought it and did everything it said. There were dreams – a set of bonsai trees, exhibitions, suburban fame. Anything to escape suburbia. Next day, a few drops of water. Bonsai has to grow painfully slowly. Then there was the matter of sunlight - only for a couple of hours. This lasted for exactly a month. Ma felt that she was violating the ‘human rights’ of the plant - it had a right to get all the water it needs, all the sunshine and to grow as tall as it can. She removed it from the pot and planted it in the garden. It put…


lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
14 Jun 2023

#2, a gembun


All that I can ask for from my childhood memories.

June rain

father's gumboots

reach my thigh


feedback please

Anggota tidak dikenal
16 Jun 2023
Membalas kepada

Beautifully succinct


Kanji Dev
Kanji Dev
14 Jun 2023

Thank you so much for sharing this, My Lover Asks Me is simply exquisite!

Membalas kepada

Thank you Kanji. Hope you submit something too.


Thanks for the kind comments about my writing.

Unfortunately in this writing business, no matter your genre, submitting your work is a bit like tossing a message in a bottle into the ocean. At best you can expect an occasional 'accept' from a journal editor. To get comments is a treasure.

One think I like about triven haiku is that it encourages exchange and feedback.

It took me a long to find writing partners. You have a great writing companionship here.

Here's a suggestion. When you read someone's work in a journal that allows comments, pick up the bottled message and make a comment. Tell the writer what you appreciate about his/her writing. Do this once a month. It will…

lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
14 Jun 2023
Membalas kepada

Thanks so much for your kind comments.


Pris  Campbell
Pris Campbell
13 Jun 2023

Haibun #2 Suggestions welcome

edit per confusion in my meaning 😀


In our own warped version of Show and Tell, the little boy next door and I pull aside our shorts legs, revealing the rocks we had carefully hidden beforehand. Our plan was to make the naive little girl down the street think she was seeing our most private parts . We giggle at how easily we fool her as she also pulls her shorts aside. Face white with horror already, she's speechless. In the early days of discovering our childhood power, we don't tell her our secret.

Years later I wonder if when she first saw a real penis she thought, based on those rocks, that…

Pris  Campbell
Pris Campbell
13 Jun 2023
Membalas kepada

Yes, naughty me.

bottom of page