Ray lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He's a writer and photographer. He's been editor of a number of haiku and Haibun journals. He enjoys wilderness hiking and canoeing. His collection "Landmarks: A Haibun Collection" is available on Amazon.
[other haiga themes along with examples by other haiga practitioners will be added from time to time]
As is the case with haiku and haibun, contemporary English-language haiga is only recently adapted from the early and contemporary Japanese forms to fit Western poetic and artistic sensibilities. The internet is rife with pronouncements, prescriptions and orthodoxies about the relationship of image and haiku. Does the haiku serve as a metaphor for the image, or does it jump-shift to form an oblique association with the image, or does it simply serve as a kind of caption for the image? And the usual arguments about the haiku itself are also are in abundance, e.g., whether the haiku should be able to stand on its own, sans image. For now, it’s likely that English-language western haiga practice will continue to evolve and gain in practitioners.
While the original Japanese haiga were usually a combination of monochrome (grey-scale) brush paintings with kanji-type characters and calligraphy for the poems. Contemporary haiga as shown in various publications such as Haigaonline employ paintings of various media, photographic images and digital artworks.
In short, as with any evolving form, one hopes for creative image-making and pleasing to the eye artwork along with poems that are poetic and stimulating to the mind.
Asian practitioners employed a “chop” – a symbol representing the author. If well done, the chop itself has some beauty and lends an association with the lengthy tradition of Asian art.
Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions: it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too. ~ Aldous Huxley
We’re dining on ginger beef and cod in black bean sauce, flavored with catch-up chat. My friend Kathy, leans toward me and says, “I think you’re just about to have an important birthday. Yes?”
I tell her my age and, excited now, she says: “I thought so. Why don’t I organize a party to celebrate your milestone?”
Milestone? The word was coined for the stone obelisks placed by those great builders, the Romans, to mark distances along the many roads branching out from Rome.
age-worn stone the emperor’s name unreadable
“If you set up a milestone gathering, have a good time and say hello to everyone for me,” I reply.
“What – you wouldn’t want to celebrate with your friends?” she asks.
“It’s the idea that I’ve done something extraordinary to reach my present age, like conquering a new territory, and thus deserve a tribute where I parade my army, plunder, and slaves through streets lined with cheering citizens. A milestone party would invite congratulatory comments like ‘You’ve made it to a magic age,” lead to questions like ‘What’s on your bucket list – going sky diving?”
“Do you mean you think they’d not be sincere?” she asks.
“When I look at someone my age, even when they’re still mentally and physically active, I feel a sadness about their diminishment. On my last hiking trip, a middle-aged companion said, ‘Ray, I sure hope I can be as active as you when I’m your age.’ Tongue in cheek, and secretly irritated, I replied, “I’m confused. I’m only 35.” I knew it was intended as a compliment, but I was thinking, There are downsides to reaching my age, the small infirmities that, like weathered milestones, ruthlessly mark diminishment’s path.
“Okay,” she replies, “no milestone-theme party, but I’d like to do something.”
“Agreed. I’d enjoy a gathering celebrating everyone, each person who wants sharing what’s going on in their own lives”
my winter is just this –
a pair of goldfinches
still visiting the feeder*
“You’d not want any comments on your birthday?” she asks.
“If people feel they must say something, I’d prefer honesty, preferably with humor, like Hal’s greeting the other day when I met him for coffee: ‘Damn, but you look grizzled, shaggy white beard, wild hair. Looks like you’ve been in a wind storm.’”
She laughs. “I’ll bet it was you looking in the mirror talking to yourself.”
You’re right, I looked and said: “I’m happy to be here and yet I feel guilty about having my cosmic dice roll so many 7s.”
awaiting cremation –
birthday cards line
the fireplace mantel
I don’t intend this blog to be a showcase for my published work. However, in case you want to see some writing by the guy who’s pontificating about haibun and haiku on this blog, here are some recently published haibun:
This commentary is one of several on the Haibun Exemplars I’ve selected for viewing. It follows well-known poet Robert Pinsky’s idea that to know poetry, in our case haibun, is to do close readings, at least on occasion of writers whose work you enjoy, and that close readings will help improve the reader’s range of writing styles and the quality of his or her writing. -> read more
If you want to learn about poetry — if you want to “access” it — what you need to do is find great poems you like, figure out which are worth rereading and then reread them. ~ Robert Pinsky
Is is safe to say that most writers want someone to read their work. So we send our haibun to friends and family, post it on forums, submit it to journals and publishers, and we create our own blogs to show our work. . . .
For more information and places to send your work -> go here
The Rogue River falls shown above is, in my estimation, nature’s exemplar of a waterfall. I’d also like to say that it’s a photographic exemplar, aka an excellent photograph, but for that it’s my own shot of the falls. Thus someone else will have to praise it or buy it or publish it for it to approach the lofty rank of exemplar.
On this page, over time, I’ll post a number of haibun by writers other than myself that in my view are both well done and help to show the variety of styles that represent contemporary English-language haibun.
For some of these exemplars, I’ll offer commentaries – close readings to explore what makes them work well enough to have been published by a journal editor.
Of course, my tastes in this selection are showing, which is why I think it’s important to post published works where an editor independent of the writer saw fit to select the piece for the enjoyment of his or her readers.
If you read any of these, please use the comments window where they appear to tell me what you think of them and a bit about why.
Very little has been done in the way of informed critical study of the haibun form, particularly when compared with the number of haiku studies.
While there’s been a good deal of emphasis in haibun about the importance of the link between the haibun’s prose and the link-shift with it’s important little sidekick, the haiku, almost nothing has been explored about how a haibun title might similarly link-shift with the haibun prose and haiku.
This is strange because in most other writing genres, there’s a good deal of information about the importance of titles and how to create a good one.
This post explores Du Fu’s poem “Day’s End” in terms of the key characteristics of contemporary English-language haibun composition. It also explores the value of modelling the work of writers whose poetry touches you as a way of expanding your writing repertoire.
Some years ago, I was interested in expanding my reading from Japanese Masters (Basho and Issa) to Chinese Masters and somehow found my way to Du Fu’s poems. It was frustrating that it was so difficult to find the work of Du Fu and other Asian masters in online sources, particularly in light of Harvard professor Stephen Owen’s comment: “We have Dante, Shakespeare and Du Fu (712-770). These poets create the very values by which poetry is judged.” If Du Fu is so highly regarded by the world’s literary scholars, why is it that the Chinese poet-sage Du Fu . . . an immortal in the East Asian cultural sphere, still remains largely unknown in the Western world, and particularly unknown by poetry enthusiasts?
I liked what I found in Du Fu’s writing. As with Basho and Issa, it warmed me to think I could relate to the experiences and poetic sensibilities of a person writing in 8th century China to my own experiences in 21st century Canada. He’d communicated not just from another country, but across a gap 1300 years. Perhaps it’s because the joys and sorrows of the lived life, despite all our luxuries, hasn’t changed that much.