Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound. ~ E.B. White
It’s likely that most haibun poets consider their craft to be revising, not so much as excising, but until the piece is singing. Yet, part of revising is “an exercise in excision.” After all, pronouncements abound on the haiku/haibun Internet about haibun prose being haiku-like, a bit clipped, lacking connecting words like “and” and “or” and “but” and sometimes using strings of phrases rather than full sentences. And most haibun contain far fewer words than almost all other closely related literary genres, memoirs, personal essays, travel accounts, short stories. Even most published flash fiction that I’ve read is longer than the average puiblished haibun.
Given this, it’s odd that the term “minimalist haibun” appears from time to time in the haibun literature, as if most published haibun aren’t minimalist – a paragraph or two of prose coupled with one haiku. Yet Harriot West’s published haibun are among the shortest and yet most resonant I’ve encountered in the haiku-genre journals. They’ve just enough prose to present a storyline married with a haiku that steps out in an important way.
And so I thought it worthwhile to explore several of West’s haibun to consider what she’s done with very few words to create the zest. The three I’ve selected have different storylines, which permits the conclusion that it’s not just the theme or story that counts.