Tuesday, March 22, 2011


For World Poetry Day, I thought it would be fun to look at haibun. This is a lesser known form which incorporates haiku and prose. Any discussion of this form should probably start with The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Narrow Road to the Interior by the Japanese master Matsuo Bashō. It is considered to be one of the most important texts in Japanese literature.

This is a section:

I patched my torn trousers and changed the cord on my bamboo hat. To strengthen my legs for the journey I had moxa burned on my shins. By then I could think of nothing but the moon at Matsushima. When I sold my cottage and moved to Sampū’s villa, to stay until I started on my journey, I hung this poem on a post in my hut:

kusa no to mo
sumikawaru yo zo
hina no ie

even a thatched hut
may change with a new owner
into a doll’s house.

Bashō's hut on Camellia Hill. No. 40 of the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Hiroshige (1856-58)

You can find more about Basho and his haibun here.

There are many contemporary writers embracing the form with great success. I found this haibun at Simply haiku and I thought it was quite beautiful.


the smell of the sea
a memory
in black and white

A classic snap. Three of us in deckchairs on the shore of Aberafan beach—Dad in sunglasses framed by my sister and me—and Mammy invisible behind the shutter's click. These are the years when his hair was dark and he could still pick us up and spin us around. When Mammy could run faster than anyone we knew.

They will never be the same again. My father will learn to walk slower, his slippers dragging along the garden path. My mother's heart will grow tired.

But for now the horizon behind us is clear. The sea calmer than I can ever remember, and if I close my eyes I can hear them both laughing when the sea, unexpectedly, licks around our feet.

the old songs
sunlight breaks through
winter rain

~By Lynne Rees

Do you have a journey to tell us about?