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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 9th February '23 — a Thursday feature

Updated: Feb 9

Hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman and Reid Hepworth

poet of the month: Roberta Beary

9th February 2023

Roberta is a prolific writer and editor. The length and breadth of their writing demonstrates an intense style that expands on haibun as a craft and experiments with it in many ways. Additionally, as an editor, their work offers an insight into their sensibilities lending a valuable commentary on the nature of contemporary haikai writing. I highly recommend reading their work.

Given the diversity of Roberta's work, I had to ask them about their approach to writing across various forms and genres.

Q: I came across some flash-fiction of yours which is crafted very much like a haibun, albeit without a haiku. Do you decide whether you are writing one or the other or do you allow the emotion to lead you?

RB: Although flash fiction and haibun share similarities, such as crisp, concise, and clear prose, no haibun can exist without haiku. For me, flash fiction is more about a story I want to share with the world. Haibun is about the emotional resonance I want the reader to feel, of the haibun as a whole, and of the interlinking and layering of its three parts: title, prose, and haiku.


I find haibun a very elastic medium that is open to wide experimentation both in form and scope.

Q: As an editor, what are some of things you are happy to see being done with haibun while some that you think are not quite right.

RB: Modern Haiku sets a very high standard for haibun. Each submitter has the opportunity to send up to three haibun. Often submitters send three haibun that are interchangeable in style and subject instead of a submission that showcases a range of writing styles and subject matters. I would advise all submitters to pay close attention to the haiku in their haibun. For me, all haiku must be able to work as standalone haiku, rather than something that works only within the context of the haibun.

Reflections on the curation this week:

Grief is an important element in Roberta's work. When they write about loss or trauma; it swells with feeling, sometimes lucidly offered as an emotion lingering on the surface and other times just hidden, flowing underneath like an undercurrent. These haibun tell powerful stories of loss.

For this week, I want you to consider nuance and exceptional craft in the three haibun presented here. Also consider restraint, demonstrated by two techniques we have emphasized all along—Show, not tell and Keep it simple. Next, focus on how Roberta navigates the subject itself. How each of the three haibun explore grief in completely different ways. Roberta doesn't repeat an idea. This expansion of subject matter to explore the emotion is essential for a writer. To move away from what they have already done and create a different pathway into the same emotion.

Although they look like very short haibun, all carry an element of sincerity or rawness that makes the emotion truthful and heightens the reader's experience of the moment.

Here's the first one which was nominated for the Pushcart.

Roberta Beary


Your eyes are big and round like your father’s

but while his are the color of the Irish Sea

yours are the color of the muddy fields

on my father’s land

fit only for the peasants who worked them.

abortion day

a shadow flutters

the fish tank


The second haibun is one that resonated with me a lot. It brought back memories of my father's last days.

Roberta Beary


tonight her breathing’s more shallow. i try to find her favorite songs. search quickly on my iPad. “mack the knife ” by Bobby; replays of Vera’s, “we’ll meet again.” but mostly i just talk and she listens. eyes glued shut in coma-land..well past morning i kiss her rice-paper face. stroke her white hair. a voice is crying, calling mama, mama. a word back from dead. executed in the land of assimilation. just after noon mama curls in fetal position. i keep watch: rise and fall of out-of-breath beats. too soon it comes. ebb tide.

autumn coolness

enters a hand

long held in mine


Here's the third one.

Roberta Beary


the funeral was months ago and i want the big buffalo plaid jacket which i

find gone from its usual place on a back hook in the dark of the front hall

closet maybe it went to the maintenance man for his help with the boxes or

maybe one of my brothers took it and then conveniently forgot to tell me

but the more i think about it the more i realize that never again will i feel

its scratchy red and black wool as i inhale the sweet pipe smell of him

since like much of my life i have left it too late

parade over

one last twirl

of her baton

Source: First published in Modern Haiku 38:3 Autumn 2007.

Additional link:


We would like to see haibun that captures the central conflict in a person's life like a plot unraveling the heart and presents the emotion in a way that it appears raw.

We would encourage writers to use the same emotion to write two haibun, but tell completely different stories. This will push you to step outside of your comfort zone when navigating narratives that explore similar themes.

Roberta advises:

My advice is to take a subject that has been close to your heart for a long time, perhaps decades. And it has become something you carry with you always. Write about that subject in a way that speaks its core truth. Once you do that, you will feel it and so will your readers.


Here's a list of publications where you can explore much of Roberta's work.


Haiku (individual collections)

The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, UK)


Finalist, Poetry Society of America

Winner, Haiku Society of America

Winner, Snapshot Press Contest

available for purchase:

Carousel (forthcoming, Snapshot Press, UK)


Winner, Snapshot Press Contest

nothing left to say (King’s Road Press, Canada)


Shortlisted, Touchstone Awards

available for free at The Haiku Foundation Digital Library

One Breath: Notes from the Reluctant Engagement Project


Shortlisted, Touchstone Awards

available for purchase:

Haibun (individual collection)

Deflection (Accents Publishing)


Finalist, Touchstone Awards

Finalist, Eric Hoffer Award

Winner, Haiku Society of America

available for purchase:

Haiku Anthologies

Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press)

Edited by Roberta Beary, Ellen Compton, and Kala Ramesh

available for purchase:

7 (Jacar Press)

Edited by Roberta Beary and Lenard D. Moore


Finalist, Haiku Society of America

check availability to purchase:

dandelion clocks (Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2008)

edited by Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton


Special Award for Anthology, Haiku Society of America

Out of Print

fish in love (Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2006)

edited by Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton


Finalist, Haiku Society of America

Out of Print

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.


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