Before the Blossoming: Thoughts on Haibun
I find haibun to be a cornucopia of opposites. Its canvas can be as wide as our galaxy or as narrow as a baby’s crib. Structurally, a few short poetic lines stand out against the expanse of paragraph and page. Biography rules it, or does fiction wear its crown? It’s made of—or rather breathes—through poetry and prose. But inside one, the poetry and prose complement each other rather than oppose.
Topically, its range spreads wide: philosophy, history, anecdote, memory, joke, prayer, travel vignette, song. Reading haibun, I learn many things, and travel to lands and coasts I will never visit in this life. In some, I discover the dark clouds separating cultures and earlier time periods disappear.
To write them requires an acrobat’s balance, not leaning too heavily on either prose or poetry, allowing each to offer its best, to weave between them, each amplifying the other’s graces. Like dancers in a pas de deux, their lines and energies interflow.
One reason the form appeals to me so much is that it requires a lifetime of experimenting, reading, forming and reforming opinions on what is good, what not so, pushing in new directions, always starting new, writing in the now. Choosing the haiku inside each haibun, to frame or expand it, or simply end it by leaving the door open, slightly ajar.
Inside a folder of my own haibun, I discover a patchwork biography. While writing them, I’m transported to a sense-filled world from this morning, last month, or even thirty years ago. Or one lived entirely upon the page.
As I write this, it’s early spring and the magnolia buds have just begun to fur out. They remind me of what I most like about haibun—this process of becoming, of joining prose and haiku to pin the ephemeral upon the page.
Lately, I’ve been counting acts of kindness. Mine, and especially, those of others. Today, a lady at a gas station on the interstate charges me nothing for a cup of tea. And two small children, candy clutched in their chubby hands, motion me to go first. Staring intently, the younger one presses a chocolate bar to her nose as two small fingers poke at the shiny wrapper.
“It’s tea,” I tell the clerk. “Not coffee. What do I owe you?”
“No really,” I said. “How much?”
“Free,” she says cheerfully. “Today it’s free.”
As I glide to the bottom of the entrance ramp on I-39, two semi-drivers and even a band of helmetless motorcyclists signal then swerve left. With the tea steeping beside me, I shift into third, fourth, and finally fifth gear.
over the highway pink clouds drift
song pours from a passing van
Published in Contemporary Haibun Online 8:4, January 2013.
Doris Lynch has published haibun in various journals. She won two Cottage prizes in the Genjuan International Haibun Contest, and also has published poetry and fiction in many literary magazines and anthologies. The Indiana Arts Commission awarded her four individual arts grants. She works as reference librarian and reviews poetry books for Library Journal Magazine. Currently, she and her husband, Thom, are on a quest to visit many of our magnificent national parks.