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April 2016, vol 12 no 1

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Random Praise: David J. Kelly's "Once upon a time"

Bob Lucky

In CHO 11.4, Jeff Streeby, the Featured Writer, presented an intriguing and somewhat demanding list of points he tries to remember when he writes a haibun; some of them are related to craft and others to the nature of language and reading. I admire his image for the relationship between the prose and the haiku in a haibun: "the two elements of a haibun [that] can pull the trigger of epiphany." That's more visceral than "link and shift."

However, another point caught my attention. Streeby writes, "I try to remember that every haibun tests a new hypothesis of reality, a new hypothesis of understanding, a new hypothesis of language." This statement brought David J. Kelly's haibun "Once upon a time" to mind.

Kelly's haibun isn't testing hypotheses so much as ruminating over versions of reality; in that sense his haibun is reflecting on understanding, our grappling with the conundrum of 'something out of nothing.' He starts with a fairy tale title, and his opening line "in the beginning" is biblical. After a brief description of the Big Bang, he gives us the explanation of theoretical physics, and wraps up the prose with a theological take on theoretical physics. Of course, what ties it all together is the haiku:

unable to stop
wondering why
the wreck of matter

Kelly brings us back to the fundamental aspect of human nature that makes every story we tell a new hypothesis of reality. No matter what, we can't stop wondering why, wondering how we wound up here in this miraculous mess, "the wreck of matter."