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July 2017, vol 13 no 2

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Bob Lucky

Random Praise: Tim Gardiner's "Skeleton Wood"

"Spend at least a couple of years learning to write haiku first and study the craft of prose writing: point of view, tone, broad and narrow focus, pace and rhythm, structure, significant detail and theme, figurative imagery and symbolism. We need the skills from both poetry and prose camps in order to create haibun that resonate with readers, that make them think and feel."

That is advice on writing haibun from Lynne Rees in the last issue of CHO. It's good advice. There may be no need to squeeze all of that craft into one haibun, but knowing what it is and what it can do and, not least importantly, when to use it, that is key to being a good writer.

At the risk of repeating myself, as an editor, I read a lot of haibun that is just is just one damn fact after another. Memoir and autobiography are the trickiest bits of nonfiction around because in order to tell the Truth you have to lie. There is artifice in art.

And as for haiku, it does take years to learn to write a good one. You may get lucky and write a good one by mistake, but if you don't know why it's good, what do you know? I read every submission a few times before saying yes or no. And I often read the haiku first. Writers new to haibun often misunderstand the importance of the haiku to haibun. And then there's senryu and tanka to consider.

Now, having got that off my chest once again, I give you the Random Praise recipient, but to rectify a mistake I made last time by choosing the recipient from the current rather than the previous issue, I return to the overlooked CHO 12.4 for this example: "Skeleton Wood" by Tim Gardiner. The imagery is sharp. Suddenly, a misstep and a rescue – but the haiku tells a different story. What's not said in this haibun is the narrative. This is a haibun, as Rees would say, that makes you think and feel.

Tim Gardiner

Skeleton Wood

The wood is always beautiful in late summer; blood-red berries hang off mountain ash, grasshoppers sing their melancholic songs. Running along the sandy path, my t-shirt catches a loose rose thorn, tearing fabric and skin. Stopping to catch my breath on the wood’s edge, I gaze through towering thistles across cattle-strewn marshes; the old mill, sails-stripped long ago, resolute against an east wind. Stepping forward without care, I plunge deep into the mire. Luckily I bob up quickly and daddy grabs my arm.

still drowning
in the old lies