Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 1, March 2010

An Invitation to Haibun Today

Allow me to extend a warm welcome to old and new readers of Haibun Today—to the patient audience that followed our daily blog throughout 2007-2009 and to newcomers who are delving, for the first time, into Haibun Today, the online quarterly.

Persons long familiar with Haibun Today will notice no change in our editorial position or aesthetic preoccupations. Perhaps it would be useful, to the reader only now making our acquaintance, to offer a summary of our mission as outlined in various editorials over the past three years.

In broad terms, Haibun Today remains dedicated

  • to the creation and survival of a haibun-specific journal to correct a perceived shortage of venues for serious writers of haibun;
  • to the creation, in the absence of any existing forum, of a place for critical dialogue about the haibun genre;
  • to the toleration of rival styles and schools of thought in the selection of manuscripts for publication—this, to insure balanced coverage of the haibun scene now;
  • to overcoming the parochialism of haibun writers working in isolation and separated by geographical space.

Much has changed in haibun since this journal began in 2007. More haibun are being written and published. New and strong voices continue to emerge while established figures have matured and write now with greater focus and confidence. Haibun is gradually moving away from the ready formula—one paragraph of prose, one concluding haiku, fini—and exploring other formal options.

One also notes increased awareness, on the part of many haibun practitioners, of the international scope of haibun in English, of an end to the parochialism of haibun’s past. That broader horizon has led various haibun poets and commentators, also, to the conclusion that haibun, while related to haiku, is a distinct discipline with characteristics that sometimes coincide and sometimes part with those of haiku.

It is a truism, but one worth repeating, that haibun requires the mastery of two modes of writing—prose and verse—and that this peculiarity distinguishes it from the short story or essay, on the one hand, and from the sonnet or free verse, on the other.

Beginners in haibun, as in any endeavor, bring their existing strengths and limitations to the form. The accomplished short story writer may offer exceptional prose but haiku that are so in name only, that adopt the syllabic standard of 5-7-5 perhaps but show no other awareness of haiku’s form, past or present. The established haikuist likewise may pen excellent haiku but immerse the same in a prosaic and rambling paragraph that undermines the aesthetic economy that his verses strive to establish.

What is wanted, however, is harmony between prose and verse elements, a finished composition where every syllable has its proper place, where prose and verse are viewed not as ends-in-themselves but as subordinate parts of a greater whole, haibun. I will be the first person to confess that this harmony is no easy thing and that few, indeed, achieve it. “Ars longa, vita brevis,” wrote Horace, “art is long, life short”—a suitable motto, perhaps, for the writer of haibun.

I wish, again, to reassure long-time readers of Haibun Today that our shift from daily blog to online quarterly is a matter of format and not of substance, that Haibun Today remains faithful to the same principles it has upheld since 2007. I’m also hopeful that the brief summary of our mission above will encourage those readers, now coming to Haibun Today for the first time, to study the many essays, interviews and editorials on our Resources page for a fuller explanation and exploration of the haibun phenomenon.

More than enough said, however, from the editor’s chair. I invite the reader to sit back now, with coffee, tea or spring water in hand, and to turn his or her attention to the more pleasant prospect of the many fine haibun that grace this, the premiere quarterly issue of Haibun Today.

Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan
21 February 2010




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