November 3rd, 2007

Egrets Reading

Speculative Haibun

Today I suddenly discovered the December 2006 issue of Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society, has a nice article on scifaiku.

It also contains a science fiction haibun by John J. Dunphy, who has probably published more science fiction haibun than anyone else I know.

I found the article after googling "science fiction haibun" because I think that speculative haibun has a lot of untapped potential for haiku poets interested in speculative topics. I was thinking of this tonight when reading through the latest issue of Mythic Delirium (which contains my non-haiku, non-haibun 41-line poem, "Near Highland").

This issue of MD has one of the best speculative haibun I've read to date, "Dancing to Van Gogh" by Ann K. Schwader. The prose part of Ann's poem is imagistic and beautiful with its description of strange beings which dance to the music of a painting, music only they hear. Expert of minimalism, she paints an entire world in my mind with six short lines of prose. Her prose is not a narrative but a prose poem in its own right. The haiku perhaps doesn't link away from the prose as much as some haibun do, but it works for me because it's not a summary of the prose, it's an epiphany for the reader, which makes it a perfect fit in my eyes.

There is also a nice poem by Lila Garrott, which I'd also classify as a haibun, called "How to Hide in a Japanese Print." Interestingly enough, it also has an art museum setting. The structure of this poem is such that there are two descriptive lines at the beginning and end of the poem, framing a three stanza sequence of haiku-like verses. I suspect the author intended these stanzas as haiku because they follow a 5-7-5 syllable stanza, which unfortunately is what too many poets think defines a haiku.

Only the first one works for me as an actual haiku because it has a kireji and image juxtaposition on either side of the kireji. And, I'd even go as far as to say that it has a kigo in "origami clouds" which I would put as "summer." The next two stanzas are not as well-formed but they do advance the understanding of the situation. Even with the two imperfectly formed haiku it's a stunning poem and well worth reading.