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Book of the Week: Dover Beach and My Back Yard: A British Haiku Society Haibun Anthology

This British Haiku Society Haibun Anthology is a biennial publication and Colin Blundell and Graham High selected the haibun and provided commentaries for this issue. A useful definition of haibun can be found on which states that “haibun is a poetic form that combines a prose poem with a haiku. The haiku usually ends the poem as a sort of whispery and insightful postscript to the prose of the beginning of the poem. The result is a very elegant block of text with the haiku serving as a tiny bowl or stand for the prose poem.”

Below is one haibun from the Anthology and editor comments:

it happened again by Jim Kacian (USA)

last night, the way it always happens—i slivered some tinder for the fire, then ramped it up into an ardent blaze that lit the undersides of the leaves, i warmed some food over the flames, ate it slowly and with attention, i washed out the pots and stared into the fire, watching the sparks rise and fall and finally go black against the black sky and earth, i felt the cool come in over the water on the winds, i listened to its white noise, I listened.

camping alone one star then many

Commentary – A narrative about retention and awareness—something that haibun does well, focusing on a kind of heightened consciousness. There is a lot compacted into this deceptively simple haibun. The description is vivid and involving and the one liner haiku balances the prose well.

It’s the poetry of ordinariness. Steeped in the ordinary, when you do things with attention and intention, the whole world changes into what you could call a minor miracle.

This is where ‘I did this, then I did that…’ (the haibun formula we are not in favour of!) wins out because it is being used for a deliberate purpose. Throughout the listing of normally insignificant events we are asking the question—so just what is it that has ‘happened again’? Even the insignificant becomes special when focussed on in this way—the firelight lights ‘the undersides of the leaves’, food is eaten slowly ‘with attention’, the ‘cool’ comes in ‘over the water on the winds…’

Deft creation of atmosphere. And the haiku is the punchline made all the more telling by its context. All the specific actions of the writer seem to tip into the massive frisson of ‘one star then many…’ And we just know.

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published in 2015 or earlier that you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details. Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by THF Digital Librarian Dan Campbell and are used with permission.

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