Jeffrey Woodward: “Time with the Heron”

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Time with the Heron

The angler will do well to set his fly-rod aside and forget for a time the alluring ritual to-and-fro rhythm of a cast, to sit on the bank beneath an inviting willow, to watch the current slur over a sandy shallow or ruffle above a rift in the rock.

Time will allow one to study the blue heron not far from the willow’s shadow, to learn the skill that is his by concentrated patience and poise. The heron stalks his prey—stepping lightly upon stilts now—with a deliberation given only to one for whom time has no meaning. Even so, the heron’s painstaking stealth muddies the stream. Even so, the heron pauses, stares.

Time will allow one to repeat the lyrical names of hand-tied flies—Blue Quill, Royal Coachman, Pale Evening Dun, Yellow Sally, Gray Hackle—until the syllables become a meaningless babble, having only their own inherent musical properties, like the voice of the brook before the first man came.

Time will allow the angler, also, to study that maze of light everywhere at play with the water and to gaze, without ease of penetration, at the cloudy trail a heron makes.

when the water clears,
the mind, also, of
a great blue heron

From Jeffrey Woodward, Evening in the Plaza: Haibun and Haiku, Kindle Edition, Tournesol Books, 2013.

Jeffrey Woodward is well-published in several poetry genres. He became interested in haiku and haibun and in the early 2000s, founded Haibun Today. His haiku, haibun and tanka prose have been published widely in various journal and carried into a number of anthologies.


I published this piece because in my view Woodward is one of a very small number of writers of literary haibun – haibun that employ many of the poetic devices that free verse and prose poetry poets use in in their work.

I’d be interested in your reactions to this haibun if you’d care to not only say why you like it (or don’t – literary haibun can be too oblique and formal for some readers’ tastes).

Try reading it aloud and you’ll get a feel for the rhythms that Woodward has built into the piece.

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