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April 2018, vol 14 no 1

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Bob Lucky

Random Praise Challenge

Terri L. French, our featured writer in CHO 14.1, makes a few points about writing haibun that overlap to some degree. First she notes that writing in first person all the time can get boring and writing objectively, as if every haibun is reportage of some kind, can lead to writing that's just a bit dry. Point of view is not something haibun writers play around with very much. Looking at the world through the eyes of 'not I' can be liberating, but in the last issue of CHO, after a quick skim through, I counted maybe three or four haibun that weren't explicitly (a discussion for another time, perhaps) in first person.

Point of view works two ways here – one is grammatical and one is – I can't resist – dramatical. (Ogden Nash has a lot to answer to.) I can write Joe went to the store and bought a chocolate bar. He was hungry. Third person. I can also write He grabbed me off the shelf and stuffed me in his mouth. I knew my life was over. First person but definitely a different point of view.

Writing in first person is intimately connected to the haibun form – in the moment (and often present tense), memoir/travel oriented (past or present tense), minute observations. Writing in the third person, from the point of view of a tree or an alien or the next-door neighbor, can feel transgressive. However, as French says, "This approach has opened up a whole new world of haibun to me, one that I hope will result in some exciting new work in the years to come."

And so I've picked Martin Duguay's "Moving Pictures" for this Random Praise. It's in third person and aptly titled as it reads a bit like a film treatment.

Nevertheless, I want to challenge haibun writers to expand their storytelling beyond the memoirist's gaze and reflection, beyond the detached observation. Write as if you aren't you. Be somebody else. Feel the difference.


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