“Bashô’s ‘Narrow Road to the Interior’, a world literary classic and probably the most crucial work of haibun was written at the end of the seventeenth century. Today, more than three hundred years later, the form is experiencing a renaissance world-over, even if it is sporadic and in insulated pockets. Red River Book of Haibun, with a collection of 102 haibun by 61 poets across the world, aims to help the form along this path of resurgence. With haibun’s relatively fluid nature in mind, this anthology has sought to represent writers of every ‘persuasion’ and every ‘school’. And thus it is – in scale and ambition – quite unlike any haibun book in the world.” reads the introduction of the Red River Book of Haibun Vol 1 edited by Paresh Tiwari and Steve Hodge.
If you are unaware of what haibun is, check out this haibun journal for an idea. For me, a haibun is a threesome of an event, a moment, and you. Standalone, a haiku is a moment and a haibun, is a prose poem followed by the moment in your presence! When I got my hands on this anthology, I explored it in one breath and voila, all that beauty I consumed camphored into a new energy that’s still sustaining me through this lockdown of an international crisis. And there I wondered what must have been the genesis of these evocative pieces? I asked the poets to share the story behind their select haibun in the Red River Book of Haibun Vol 1, and here I have got seven of them shared those moments that put together their drop-dead gorgeous haibun.
During the First World War on the Western Front, one inconclusive campaign after another would typically sputter to a halt with hundreds of thousands of casualties. But in between battles, some 5,000 British soldiers died per week merely in occupying their own trenches. Chillingly, this was referred to as “normal wastage” in Wastage.
♥ Wastage ♥
…the British High Command called it: non-combat deaths from disease, mishaps of trench life, and sporadic enemy shells that seemed anonymous, somehow, like accidents or heavy weather.
in The Times:
There have been a series of rapes, incest and in plain and brutal language the complete disrespect and disregard of the girl child and young women’s rights and dignity in today’s India. There have been newspapers and media coverage recently and this prompted and inspired me to write this haibun. peace of m.i.n.d is written in a concise and brief manner, retaining the spirit of the haikai language and the genre.
♥ peace of m.i.n.d ♥
guarded secret …
once again his hands
not easy to escape a mental prison for tears unshed don’t stain the cheeks but stories kept locked breathe on pulsating thoughts — in and out and out and in of each cell in the body what and where is this thing called the mind
swollen vulva …
in her eyes the stretch
of the border camp
In 2018, I arrived at Amitofo Care Centre in Lesotho to serve as the orphanage’s new director. Many there had treated the children as if the place were a Buddhist monastery rooted in discipline, but I chose instead the way of compassion. Ricochet is meant to capture that dynamic.
♥ Ricochet ♥
The marble slips from his jacket pocket. Bounce, bounce, bounces toward me. Rolls to a stop against my booted foot. He halts his playful chase. Looks up. Afraid. No games in the dining hall. A rule he has learned well. But this, I know, is an innocent mishap. I grin. Lift up to his tiny hand the blue orb flecked with gold. He offers in return a tentative tooth. Before a full-mouthed smile.
of an orphan’s crutch
I was hit by a devastating neuroimmune illness in 1990 and have been weak and housebound since. Before that, I was a clinical psychologist, sailor, bicyclist, pianist and enjoyed gardening and the company of friends. All of that is gone so I center my life at home around creative activities and occasional rides the twenty minutes over to the ocean when I feel up to it snd my husband can take me. This new life inspired Riding the Wind and I was so pleased to have it accepted into such a fine anthology.
♥ Riding the Wind ♥
Too dizzy and weak from a long-standing illness to drive, my husband bundles me up and takes me over to the ocean I once sailed from Boston to Florida. Despite the chilly South Florida day, snowbirds from up north splash into their waists pretending the sea isn’t freezing. Gulls ride the wind, swooping down briefly to fight over dropped crumbs, only to soar again like giant mammatus clouds, hovering over us locals huddled together on the high green benches on the walkabout.
A distant sailboat fades into blue. My heart follows.
with yesterday’s tears
a tern’s cry
I’m occasionally struck by the way someone says something. A bell rings in my mind, just as it does on a nature walk, when a bird song rings in my ears. In writing about Spicy Noodle Soup, my aim is to share a sense of the person and to reveal my reactions in the conversation, things said, but also unsaid. I believe haibun should be about real encounters, from nature or human settings.
♥ Spicy Noodle Soup ♥
‘I’m okay with living alone,’ she has often said. ‘I can’t give myself over to one demanding man.’
Yet, it has been a long dry spell for her: no romance, no lovers, none of the physical contact that she craves. She had become increasingly resentful that the world of men renders women in their ’50s invisible. That resentment may be a reason why some men hesitate to cast an amorous look in her direction.’
But today is different. In the dimly-lit Thai restaurant, she sports a hint of a smile and even giggles, a sound that I usually associate with teenage girls, as she announces, ‘I have a lover. I met him several weeks ago.’
Good for her, I think to myself. We slurp noodles from our spicy soup, our foreheads beading with sweat.
Her eyes are sparkling. ‘It maybe love, I don’t know, I don’t care,’ she says. ‘I’ve jumped off the cliff.’
I smile and think, I hope it finally works for her, and if not, that it’s a long, pleasant, butterfly-flutter to the bottom.
late spring romance
the wild rose
flush with buds
I am struck by how the greatest of gifts are often given casually. A lover who tosses dreams on your wingback chair. Or books on your quilt-covered bed. Gifts of time, love, learning, and friendship. Precious and priceless gifts, more than mere tokens of affection; they speak to the importance of the receiver, the moment and the memories. This is about Legacy.
♥ Legacy ♥
There is no gravitas in your gift-giving.
We’re drinking at a dive bar downtown and you casually place on the table the matchbox from the inn we first summered at.
Another time, when I’m about to tuck into a delicate temaki, you slip my favourite candy between the chopsticks.
In bed, in the middle of a can’t get enough don’t stop kiss, you pull away and place a box of macrons on my breasts.
At the beach, it’s a palladium chain. At the opera, it’s the handkerchief I’d lent you years ago.
In the woods, as we forest bathe, you extend a hand with an exquisite kadupul flower and say nothing at all.
In the church, it’s a squeeze of my hand. In the temple, it’s a look in your eyes that only I recognise. At home, it’s a foot rub in your usual absentminded way.
You are generous with your gifts. Why, even your heart was given to me, so carelessly.
the quest for plum blossoms
lost in wine
Susan Beth Furst
I remember the time before Gagged happened. They said it was just a clump of cells. When Seals and Crofts recorded the song Unborn Child, I felt hope. Then the song disappeared. As a pro-life poet, I want people to remember the song, and that there was a time before.
♥ Gagged ♥
One day, they just stopped
Then they took it off the shelves.
I found it forty years later,
in a bin
in the back
of a used record store.
I play it
in the dark,
spinning the sound