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July 2018, vol 14 no 2

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Bob Lucky

Random Praise: Lew Watts and J. Zimmerman

Melissa Allen, the Featured Writer in CHO 14:1, gives us much to think about as writers of haibun. Why do we do it? I've distilled some of her points down to this abbreviated quote:

"The brevity of haibun, and the way they exist outside the mainstream of both prose and poetry, made me feel brave…. Haibun, whether you write strict realism or the flightiest fancy, are a chance to be brave. They’re a chance to be an explorer of your own life, the way it was and the way it should have been and the way you were always afraid it would be."

I hadn't quite thought of it that way before, but we haibun writers are a combination of traditionalists, as revivalists of an older Japanese form of writing, and rebels straddling the realms of Western prose and poetry. Presently, English-language haibun seems to be covering exactly what Allen mentions – everything from autobiographical realism to surrealistic imaginings and fantasies.

As an editor, I've seen two distinct kinds of bravery. One, of course, is facing the facts of one's life, a literal bravery. But this is possible in a variety of literary forms. The other bravery is literary. Haibun is a hard sell in so-called mainstream prose and poetry journals because it is neither and it is both. So I applaud those who continue to write haibun and continue to push its boundaries (though I'll admit I'm still partial to a good haiku and a clear link and shift).

In CHO 14:1, J. Zimmerman's "Elsinore 1:1" continues her haibunic – I think I've just coined a term – exploration of Hamlet, and Lew Watts embeds a bit of found poetry into "Lost in Translation." What did they brave? Rejection, which isn't a terrible fate but nevertheless unpleasant. However, I think both of these pieces – with their sampling of core texts and unsung field reports, and, lest we forget, haiku, could have found a place in more mainstream literary venues. And that bodes well for the future of haibun.