haibun

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October 2016, vol 12 no 3

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Random Praise: Harriot West's "A Cautionary Tale: Following a Public Figure on Facebook."

Peter Butler, the Featured Writer for CHO 12.2, makes two related comments in his thoughts on writing haibun. First, poetry allows the imagination a freer rein than other forms of writing and, second, he finds "much of today's haibun rather too introspective." He would, in short, like to see a bit more levity in haibun. Easy enough, one would think. Not necessarily.

I went through all the haibun in issue 12.2 and encountered an overwhelming amount of introspection. This can be tied to the inclination of many haibun writers to delve into their own lives, to make sense of something they find meaningful or transformative. This is serious business for most of them, as might be expected. One thing that often trips a fiction writer up is the loyalty to facts. Most haibun, I would guess, are not fiction, not even faction. Most of them are some variant of memoir, journal, autobiography. This leads to a tightening of the reins and a lot of introspection. Perhaps as a leaven to all that haibun introspection, we should encourage the creative nonfiction approach to the form. As many of you know, my suggestions for edits almost always begin "Cut…". If it adds nothing to the haibun, take it out. But I often hear back from writers, "but that's what happened!" Just because something happened doesn't make it interesting or important, even if it did happen to you.

I went back and reread the haibun on my mental shortlist to find one free of introspection. There were a few, but none seemed to have the levity and humor that Butler would like to see except Harriot West's "A Cautionary Tale: Following a Public Figure on Facebook." There is introspection in it, but self-deprecation often creates a bond with the reader, let's them in on the joke.


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