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July 2016, vol 12 no 2

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Featured Writer: Peter Butler

Peter's thoughts on writing haibun:

My target always, as a business journalist, was to get the facts right. While there are certain disciplines in poetry, however, there's far more opportunity to let the imagination take off. My present on retirement was to take a trip with my wife, Ruth, to a South Pacific island. Reality was the magic of seashells basking in the sun, and the moment a turtle brushed my legs and moved on. In my head that turtle becomes a mermaid. The trip also led to a haibun about losing Tuesday because of crossing the dateline, worrying how I'd break the news to Wednesday, and several other pieces of writing. In short, the vision of a moment can stay with you, if you encourage it, and be built upon.

I tend, while out walking, to get the image or storyline before writing a word. Sometimes the haiku comes first, demanding companionship. It is sitting in the wings waiting for the cue to its entrance and its merger with the prose. Ideally, the two pause, like lovers, until the exact moment to meet.

Finally, I find much of today's haibun rather too introspective. Depending on the plot and characters, perhaps a little more levity and humor should be welcomed.

Love on the Rocks

on the rocks

She prefers fish, so I feed her Dover sole, shrimps and langoustines which she finishes at speed, without cutlery or sauces, as we run through Elgar's Sea Pictures, all of which she knows, some she sings. Waist up she's uninhibited (more circumspect elsewhere), and I put a rug on her shoulders in public, draping round her neck the string of shells I buy daily at the kiosk.

She teases me, I'm shy. I say it's just I've never had anybody quite like her before. At this point she says she wants to arrange some further seduction. Third rock on the right, she specifies. I tell her fine by me. So we check the bay for speedboats and trawler nets before she heads for home, waving her usual silver-grey goodbye.

Back at the car, I prepare an announcement. My Nan has offered to buy the rings, mother insists on a church wedding. Only my father is unsure. He wonders why, sometimes, she walks kind of funny.

at the alter
oceans apart

Note: First published in Contemporary Haibun Online, April 2013


A Londoner, Peter Butler has written over 100 haibun since he retired after a career as a feature writer and editor in publishing and industry. Finding an urge to continue writing, he progressed through traditional poetry to discovering – his principal interest nowadays – haiku and haibun, having published four collections. He won the Annual Haibun Award 2014 organized by the British Haiku Society, and the Time Haiku Sakuhin Competition 2013. His work has appeared in Contemporary Haibun Online, Haibun Today, KYSO Flash, Red Moon Press in the USA; in Blithe Spirit, Presence, Reach and Orbis in the UK, and in the international anthology Journeys 2015, published last year. Last autumn, Peter staged a haibun performance with a group of readers for the British Haiku Society's Annual Convention.