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January 2017, vol 12 no 4

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Glenn G. Coats

Some Thoughts about Haibun

A friend once told me that you have to be passionate about your subject in order to write a quality haibun. That is true of all writing but especially so when writing a haibun. As an editor, I look for passionate writing, pieces that kept the author awake at night, tortured dreams, nudged and prodded until he or she finally put pen to paper. I want more than just beautifully written observations. I want to be startled by all the elements of a haibun (title, prose, haiku, tanka). I want haibun that compel me to read them again and again as I strive to learn something new about what it is like to be a human being.


Glenn G. Coats

He never read “Once upon a time” to his daughters, never filled out a form or an application, never checked the newspaper for sales, never followed a map to a place he had never been. Never heard the sound of his reading voice.

years of silence
I give the geraniums
a full glass

His reading voice stayed underground, dormant like a root deep in frozen earth. Says he waited a lifetime for this and he holds each book as if it is sacred.

Charles is reading now and his voice rumbles like a freight train. It is a big voice, crosses the room and you hear it outside the door. Each word chimes alone like he is calling role: the names of every doubter, every teacher, and every tutor shaking in his voice. You get what you expect and nobody expected much.

I’m not about to stop him and say, “You need to read the words smoothly like someone who is talking” or “You have to read the words all together.” No, I am letting him go, letting him open all the windows, all at once. He deserves that much.

empty classroom
desks still warm
from the hands

“Expectations” first appeared in Haibun Today

Glenn G. Coats is an educational writer whose articles focus on adult literacy. He served as co-editor of haibun at Haibun Today. He is a three-time Pushcart nominee. His poetry collection about children who struggle with reading and writing, Trying to Move Mountains, was published by the Reading Recovery Council of North America. Glenn’s work has been published in many magazines and journals including: Haibun Today, Contemporary Haibun Online, The Heron’s Nest, Acorn, Frogpond, among others. He is the author of two haibun collections (Snow on the Lake, Beyond the Muted Trees) which are published by Pineola Press. A new collection of haibun (Waking and Dream) has just been published by Red Moon Press and is available from the author: glenn.coats5@gmail.com Glenn lives with his wife Joani in a rural part of Virginia.