Haibun – Why I Write the Way I Do

Whiskers from shaving
Sticky with soap
In the sink

Like the stubble
Of Autumn’s harvest
Thatched with mud –

I think I understand
These words

Butcher-bird calling
Poems that visit my grave –
Shakespeare’s hungry ghost



For dVerse Haibun Monday



21 thoughts on “Haibun – Why I Write the Way I Do

    1. Thanks.! I think you can have the kigo in any line, but I tried to have one in all three lines just to make sure (and also work it back to the Autumn stubble (also kigo) in the first part.

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    1. I don’t know if I can express this more *efficiently* than I did in the poem, but I will give it a try. BTW, I was certainly not expecting anyone to unpack the below in any kind of linear way after reading the poem! I intended these ideas to be near the surface, but not bobbing in open water.

      Here goes. I am always interested in the immediacy of the world, and attempt to use vigorous and vibrant language to connects us with that – the shock of finding ourselves alive, even in small ways. Throwing whiskers and sticky soap at the reader has that sharp start. It puts the reader straight into strong, unexpected imagery, maybe even a slight physical response (yuck! in this case).

      In the second stanza, I try to carry the image of the whiskers and shaving onward to that of stubble and harvest. Again, attempting to attenuate the reader further from expectation. And I love the power of metaphor — in this case, there has been some kind of harvest, and there are stalks that will be ploughed under to fertilize what is to come. While I try for my imagery to be vivid, I like to keep my meaning limnal, just beyond edge of obvious.

      So these first two stanzas are in essence my proposition, what I care about in poems: immediacy intertwined with suggestion.

      Then I get to the heart of it. By following my physical response to the world and allowing metaphor to express something at the edge of my consciousness, I seem to be able to know something new — the language has brought me to a place that was previously unknown. But I don’t *know* this, I only *think I know* it. I’m unsure if this is knowledge in any real sense, but damn it, feels close, right?

      And of course in closing, I have to feed my hungry Shakespeare’s ghost. What poetry has given me haunts me, and is insatiable.

      Apologies if that is all a bit much and overthought. I *hope* that without being explicit, those ideas are somewhat available in the poem, even on light reading. Sort of “WFT is this about shaving and harvests? I don’t get it.” I would hope then that “I think I understand these words now” could bring the reader up short, and for just a moment, “WTF is he on about here? He understands things now? Crikey!” Then the unexpected butcher bird, poems, death, and the Bard.


      1. @qbit:
        Fantastic explanation, thank you. I too am interested in the immediacy of experiences instead of reification into idealized abstractions (“Nature”, “God”, “Love”, “Evil”, “Beauty” etc).

        So, I see, you gave an EXAMPLE of the type of poetry you like but did not tell us, WHY you want that style.

        I like Haibun because it is prose in the beginning and the writer is usually more straightforward and less allusive — not expecting us to unpack the bobbing objects.

        I did not want to guess. So I deeply appreciate your explanation.

        Your poem made sense to me on a simple level — I laughed at the whiskers and harvest comparison — laughed at connecting the grossness of daily life with what most would consider real poetic beauty. “Shakespeare’s Ghost” however, totally alluded me.

        But no, your hope that readers like me would get what you wrote here may be false hope. Maybe the other readers are much better — my guess is that it is not so, but I am assuming others to be dull like me! *smiling. As in many poems, when I read comments but still have no clue what the poem is saying, about WHY you chose your style, I assume they don’t get it either.

        I did look up the “Butcher Bird” — Australian, I imagine? I just wondered about a Butcher and a Ghost — but it took me know what. Puzzle Poetry is not my forte — but seems very satisfactory to many, probably because they have different reading skills than me.

        Thank again


        1. Thank you for even having the interest! If you laughed at the whiskers and the harverst stubble, then I’m happy.

          You are exactly right, the first two stanzas are examples. Then I tried to answer the WHY with “I think I understand these words now.” Too much it seems to ask the reader to pivot that into anything sensible. I did understand there was a lot of that risk.

          Some of the clash with expectation comes from my reading of the prompt — “to write in the style of your poetry”. I assumed that meant I should keep in voice, which for me would mean proceeding as I did and trying to illustrate more than explain. I too enjoy Haibun for the same reasons you noted, so was sort of surprised that we would be asked to go this route. Maybe a bit too literal a reading by me, LOL! Most people responded with a prose narrative, alrhough I did see a few other examples of poems in place of prose.

          Terribly sorry that the Haiku was completely opaque. It was intended as a reprise of all the above, not a puzzle! Certainly, for the pure pleasure of the Classicists there are three Autumn kigo in it (Shrike – aka butcher bird, visiting graves, and hungry ghosts). While they each have longstanding usage in the canonical Japanese literature, I did not want to require any knowledge of that.

          I think you’ve read a number of my Haibun-haiku, and you know I work super hard to both honor the form and to push the edge of expectation. I’ve read a lot of Basho and Issa (and a lot about them too), and after 300 years I’m pretty sure Basho is sick of Basho. Talk about reification!

          Net the “Butcher bird” was meant to shock the reader away from flowers and foxes and nightengales, while still being a bird calling in nature. “Butcher” is such a strong, Anglo-Saxon word, along with all that it connotes. What is that bird calling to us? I thought poetry was a good and interesting answer to that. Visiting graves and Shakespear’s ghost? As before, just a straight nod to poetry and death, LOL!

          Thanks again for putting up with this long screed, hope it was interesting.


  1. Right, I remember being confused in her prompt too. She included a lot of constraints and thus telling us more about her and confusing the prompt a little. Tell us at one point to write in the style of our poetry was odd.

    Thanks again for this explanation — very fun. Thanks for your time.


  2. This is great, now when I see whiskers in the sink I will first think “ugh” and then of a Van Gogh landscape. I think Shakespeare’s hungry ghost has such an appeal it could almost be shorthand for the writerly affliction.

    Liked by 1 person

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