Writers Workshop: Haibun

Once or twice a year I’ll put together a guided writing workshop for our adult education time at church. I’ve found that introducing different forms and themes each week limbers us up to experiment with something new and gives us a nudge to get started rather than staring at blank sheets of paper. No one feels the need to write something expert in a form they’ve never encountered before or on a subject they just started thinking about five minutes ago. The writing is fresher, and people are consistently surprised by what they come up with. I think I have enough material to share at this point that I’ll make my intros to these forms and themes into their own “Writers Workshop” category.

The haibun form combines haiku and prose poetry. Originally it was a form of travelogue or journal writing. Writers pause in their poetic narrative or description of an event, person, place, or thing to compose a haiku that captures the emotions of their experience or encounter. The effect is that of a transfer of memory, whether real or imagined. The descriptive narrative evokes the senses with concise, poetic langauge, usually in the present tense, drawing the reader into a dreamy immediacy. The haiku functions to further the narrative or comment on it through summary or juxtaposition. Good haibun, like haiku, favors impressionism over abstraction. Don’t muse about how children grow up and leave us. Tell me about how your hand, now stuffed in a pocket, used to be both colder and warmer holding hers in this park. Then show me the indentation in the grass of the empty nest.

There are many examples to be found at Contemporary Haibun Online, and I’ll post one I wrote tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Writers Workshop: Haibun

  1. Interesting. I may have to consciously try this. There have been times when I’ve been writing prose and found the thoughts more geared to poetry and vice versa.


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