Haibun (literally, haikai writings) is a prosimetric form of writing. The verse of this form is haiku. I have always believed that any reviewer should read the book as a reader first, and not as a reviewer. This book is different. As a student of haiku and haikai forms, as I read this book, it’s as a student first, then a reader and finally, a reviewer. Quite simply because the form that this book showcases, haibun, is one that I’ve attempted quite a few times, but have never been completely satisfied with the outcomes.
There are definitions of haibun in this book. I read through them, and I think the words of Jim Norton are what remains most remembered. Norton says “… prose and verse should mirror each other without duplication, the haiku appearing out of the blue with an intuitive logic beyond the rational, giving us as it were glimpses of a skylike space for which the prose is the ground.” I kind of see it as yin and yang, interdependent on each other, completing each other but without being complete opposites.
They say one can learn by experiencing the work of others. This book has the works of twenty five stalwarts, internationally renowned haijin from across the world. I find it to be an excellent guide, a motivating factor to try and experiment with the form again. The ability of the artwork to take me into contemplation is excellent. One of the haibun I remember even now, after I’ve finished reading, is titled Eastertide and penned by Jim Kacian. Perhaps, inadvertently, I’ve been looking at haibun as Norton defines it. This piece, I feel, keeps to that very well. The prose was quite serene, but I think the haiku is what made me think, “Do I believe in God?” The last line aids the other segment of the haiku well, and makes the word deep mean something more. The images in both prose and haiku are evocative too.
George Swede’s work The Puzzle is perhaps a lesson about brevity. The challenge of a haiku is to say a lot in less. The brevity of the form is what I find challenging. This haibun keeps the prose very short, and yet it has a depth to it, a stark contrast of what the haiku expresses. It’s one of my favorite pieces in the book. A third piece that struck me was Autumn’s Depth, from the pen of Kala Ramesh. I felt it plays on the word autumn, taking it both literally and metaphorically. And it made me wonder about the term “aging gracefully” as well, just like the daughter wonders in the prose.
To critique a form I’m still learning more of is difficult. Do I understand every piece in the book? I do not. I hope to, someday. I felt they were well written, each of them. Some pieces marry prose with multiple haiku. They were interesting. For the connoisseur of haibun, I feel they’ll make excellent reading. The editor Angelee Deodhar mentioned in her introduction to the book that she hopes this collection will display many styles and encourage the reader to experiment with the form. It does. I mentioned that earlier too. The collection is a rainbow, covering various hues of life and emotions. The title is apt. To read through the book is like a journey… one that I hope to take again soon.
|Title: Journeys – An Anthology of International Haibun|
|Editor(s): Angelee Deodhar||Genre: Poetry/Haikai Forms|
|ISBN/ASIN: 9788192900216||Publisher: Nivasini Publishers|
(© Vinay Leo R. @ A Bookworm’s Musing
6th July 2017)