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Bob Lucky, General Editor & Ray Rasmussen, Technical Editor
January 2020 Vol. 15 No. 4

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Featured Writer

Joan Zimmerman

I can bring a haibun to my Western poetry-writing group and have participants appreciate it and respond to it, even though those participants might be flummoxed by a solo haiku or a haiku sequence. A haibun has the potential to crumble their defenses against haiku and slide into their hearts. This is because the prose portions of a haibun approximate the prose poem, a tool in the repertoire of practicing Western poets. The haibun is thus a powerful bridging tool between the craft of haikai and the sensibilities of European-style poetry.

My aim is to spend at least as much time studying the work of the great haikai writers as I do on creating my own poetry. That research led to two articles published by CHO:

"What Haibun Poets Can Learn From Non-Haikai Western Poetry Practices: The Valentine’s Day Skywriter Spells Out His Own Name," Contemporary Haibun Online, vol 9, no 3 (October 2013).


"What English-Language Haibun Poets Can Learn From Japanese Practices: the Mysteries of an Almost-Heard Birdsong First Autumn Abroad," Contemporary Haibun Online, vol 9, no 4 (January 2014).

In haibun all topics are possible, just as in Western poetry. However I am especially fascinated with the trickiness of how small we are in the universe, and whether we are here for a reason or simply as a result of a game of hazard. My lack of knowledge and belief are both terrifying and consoling. I admire Modern Haiku under editor Paul Miller, and the openness of his haibun editor Roberta Beary to exploratory forms: my haibun below received Modern Haiku's Best Haibun of Issue award. I hope I shall one day write something else that approaches this in its sincerity of exploring particle physics and our purpose in this elusive and beautiful world. (My horizontal layout of the haiku (using slashes to indicate phrasing) is merely my preference to give a more balanced appearance to the haibun where the prose sections are so short.)



witch hunt in the third millennium the deeds of the dead exhumed the strings postulated

spring again / the race continues / for supersymmetry

finger-snapping the ruined sheets and power suits that can be triaged into toss piles – if we give them the vote they could still be beautiful

ocean breeze / instead of missing mass / let's change Newton

supernovae always being superseded in the heavens by the recognition of spin and gaslight

haystack-high leaf pile / a lost neutralino / too cold or too hot

Jupiter glitzy in the pre-dawn grey – no memory of walking the last half block or handing out the coins that used to jingle

Christmas morning / the rumor of dark matter / just a rumor

published in Modern Haiku, 2017, 48:1

Short Bio

J. Zimmerman earned her doctorate from the University of Oxford (UK) through her research on solid-state physics with applications to archaeology. Her post-doc work was on the moon rocks at Washington University (USA). She was featured in the 2013 New Resonances haiku anthology and was the first Poet in Residence for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (2014). She came to haikai after three decades of being published as a lyric poet and being awarded the Mary Lonnberg Smith Poetry Prize. As well as reviewing books, she writes articles on Japanese poetry forms. Her archival website on poetry includes a summary page on haibun.