Introduction to Haibun


Welcome to the haibun section of Simply Haiku.

What is expected of you, as an exponent of haibun?

I cannot say it better than what Robert D Wilson had said in his introductory page on haibun, in Simply Haiku, a few years back:

A haibun is a linked form. The link is between narrative, prose sections and one or more haiku, tanka or senryu.  Readers of this and other journals will see the wide range of styles of haibun writing. Content also varies. Traditional haibun have focused on such “mundane” topics as a broom or a gate or a tea cup. Some prose presents stream-of-consciousness, occasionally surreal, writing with little or no punctuation or conjunctions. Other prose sections use reflective memories set off by ellipses and still others offer autobiographical events. Bashô’s writings give excellent examples of one’s travels (e.g., Narrow Road to the Interior). All of these forms of haibun are welcome.

In the context of this flexibility, there are some common standards or criteria submitters should heed. One criterion is to limit or eliminate repetition of words and phrases. Just as haiku are sparse and economical in wording, so too are good haibun. This does not mean a haibun needs to be short in length; it means what is written is tightly constructed. Another major criterion for a successful haibun is a successful haiku. So many fine narratives fail to be good haibun because the haiku do not stand alone as solid poetry. And there is more. Haiku, especially those that end a haibun, need to relate to previous prose sections yet not be an extension of the prose. The oblique but relevant association between haiku and prose is the defining moment of the haibun. Thus, I look for an ending haiku that does not repeat, nor does it seem so unrelated as to leave the readers scratching their heads. The haiku link offers readers a springboard to multiple, and often unexpected, meanings. That is the challenge I hope you embrace.


I ask you . . .

is tradition and classicism

something that is framed in time?

Is it a movement that is long dead,

or something that is,

that should be pulsating with life?

Stagnant waters stink, we say,

but what about the classical arts,

like poetry, dance and music?

Forced in one place,

do they not they take the colours

of these murky waters?

Reiterating what has been said

again and again?

Like a snake, beaten and beaten

to death?

Tradition is a full flowing river,

the techniques and the shastras

are her banks

that hold and keep the art alive —

allowing the spirit of creation

to be unrestrained

like a meandering Ganga

to move at her own free will.

Tradition is

Ever alive,

Ever challenging!

These banks are necessary, for without them there would be complete devastations, but true art cannot be contained by excessive structure, so let’s keep pushing the boundaries that bind us.

Please read the Submissions page for precise guidelines and send no more than three haibun to:

Keenly looking forward to reading your work,

Kala Ramesh.