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January 2019, vol 14 no 4

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Random Praise by Bob Lucky

To All Haibun Readers

As the Featured Writer for CHO 14.3, Paresh Tiwari writes eloquently of the importance of the link and shift between prose and haiku in haibun – "If the prose is a meandering path, the haiku are birdcalls." This is something I believe all committed haibun writers strive to understand and accomplish in their work. It's as integral to haibun as the volta is to the sonnet.

What interested me most was Tiwari's angle on point of view. Many haibun are written in first person; a lot of haibun are some combination of travel account, memoir, reportage – a nonfictional mélange of facts. However, at least since I inherited the editorship of this journal, fiction and fantasy and surrealism and a variety of other approaches have been making their way into haibun. Tiwari, writing specifically about his haibun "Ragdolls," notes that "the 'I' in haibun is…ubiquitous. Even when the poet writes in a different voice, he/she becomes that voice – the person whose story is being told…. I would never be able to decode where 'I' ends, and 'she' begins."

Echoes of the confessional poets but with a twist. Not only is the "I" not necessarily the poet, but the third/person "he/she" can't be completely independent of the "I" of the poet. This puts the reader in an interesting position as regards the narrator or speaker – is she or he credible? In many ways this is what gives fiction and poetry a certain edge. It's absence also has a certain power.

In CHO 14.3, readers of haibun will have immediately accepted the factual grounding of Matthew Caretti's "Love and Light": The dedication to Angelee (and no last name was needed for intended readers to know it was Angelee Deodhar) and the title that was her closing in letters to many haibun writers. Caretti's shared experience with many of his readers established the 'truth' of that haibun and the reliability of the narrator/speaker. On the other hand, we have Michael Ryan's "Missives." In his haibun, the premise is relatable to all of us, but we have no way of ascertaining even the existence of either the narrator/speaker and the person being addressed. Did this ever happen to poet Ryan? Is it pure fiction? How do we know? Does it matter? And what about Robert Baum's "The Cock Fights," a straightforward linear narrative grounded in a reality that may or may not have transpired? I suspect most readers never questioned the 'veracity' of that haibun. I didn't. But what if Baum had made it up? What if it was fiction?

Ultimately, it ends up in the reader's lap or court – pick an image that works for you. And so for this issue my random praise goes out to all haibun readers who care enough to ponder those questions, to read and reread haibun as if squeezing that last bit of juice out of an orange.