My Thoughts on Writing haibun and haiku

Form, Balance, Flow

I have spent the last several months researching and studying the history of both the haibun and the haiku.

For those of you interested in reading a very brief understanding of these two writing terms, I have added this information today into the Ligo Haibun section (tab) at the top of this blog.

From the research, I learned the narrative (prose) portion of the haibun began it’s life, hundreds of years ago, as mere jotted down notes and comments in the journals of Japanese travelers. Later to be used for the purpose of assisting with the composition of the haiku (poem) of his experiences.

Eventually these notes evolved into what became it’s own literary style of work along with the haiku and thus the haibun was created and began to evolve.

I have kept a journal for much of my life. It was recommended to me, when barely out of my teens. And it became a life style habit of mine.

I’d write my thoughts, of the previous day, first thing in the morning (on days I didn’t work) or my thoughts, of the day, that evening when I would retire.

The interesting thing is I always felt the need to summarize my thoughts at the end. And yes, it appears that I was doing my own version of a very rough form of the same methodology of how the haibun originally came into being.

It didn’t take me long to realize, that I enjoyed the haibun style of writing because I was very much at home with it. Perhaps in a less refined style, I have still been writing in a similar way, in my own journal, for years.

My advice to those (and I do encourage you to begin to keep a journal for yourself) who write, is to give a try to writing a haibun. Join the Ligo Haibun Challenge. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Proceeding on:

(some hints)

~ free yourself from a preconceived mindset of what you want to accomplish when you write ~
~ be there, in the moment ~
~ start with your own creative energy and think about how you feel about what you want to write ~
~ with the image in mind, view your interpretation of how you’d like to present it ~

~ write ~


My personal view:

The haibun: A meaningful narrative – ‘the body‘ and the haiku – ‘the heart’ of the piece. It is a work of art, a song in “word expressions” relating to your emotions/feelings in the form of a short story, opinions or series of thoughts. The haiku – the essence.

“In summation, to me, writing a haibun is about extending yourself within the form/balance/flow of the haibun (writing style), which can, in turn, expand the value of your presentation.

In other words you have the ability to improve both yourself and your writing skill as well as illustrate how powerful the haibun, itself, can be – through your own written words.” Penny L Howe, 2013

Thank you,

Penny L Howe

37 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Writing haibun and haiku

  1. While I see myself ready, willing and able to accomplish the first part, the haiku totally escapes me. Perhaps it is a bit of a psychological block as when I was young my father presented my poems for feedback to a Haiku poet. He in turn sent his back to me. He was so very helpful (but only in retrospect) as I was mortified at honest feedback. I have since developed an appreciation for honest feedback though I admit that I let it settle for a couple of days 🙂
    Maybe I will give it a go later on. The Pirate has been after me for a while now!
    Well done you Penny – Rock on with Ligo Haibun Challenges. (I do read them all)

    • Yes, I know that feeling, well. When we go from being sure we know what we’re doing to being sure we don’t, lol! I agree honest feedback is a good and healthy thing.

      I hope you do try. You’d be good at this, you really would!
      Thank you, For me it is several levels of exploration, one of a writing style and the other of the challenge of the quality of the piece created. Very much fun. Please give it a try, I look forward to seeing your work! xx

    • Thank you Celestine. I understand flow and rhythm in a few writing styles (a little bit) but still spending time learning the history of it all and hopefully passing on at least my interpretation of things. While there are specific disciplines, much is also interpretation isn’t it my friend (at least for me, lol!)

  2. It isn’t for me personally but I like how
    others enjoy these writing styles, hey

    🙂 🙂 HAPPY 4th of JULY 🙂 🙂

    I hope that yours is a truly
    delightful one my sweet friend 🙂 🙂

    Andro xxx

    • Hi Andro. Very busy day yesterday, but lots and lots of fun spending time with kids, food, games and fireworks! so yes a good 4th of July, thank you my friend! 🙂 xx

          • It’s been rather nice, but haven’t done any writing yet, I am saving that for when I am offline, though I won’t be off as long as I thought being that I have already got a new Internet package sorted out 🙂 Originally I was going to do that later but hey, can any of us stay off the Internet for that long? 😦 Not me anyway, but I will only be on in short bursts after the 12th as I really do need to be knuckling down for a change 🙂

            I hope that your Friday has been lovely too 🙂

            Andro xxx

              • I am going to add some new material on here soon, I have been extremely lazy of late adding older scripts, but I have been writing Flash in the Pan too but those are just too easy to write, you know I think that I am the only author on red’s website that adds FTP’s to the exact word count on every FTP, I always like to do that 🙂

                Right enough of my wittering, I am going to add another older script before I leave for the evening / morning but at least not evryone will have read it 🙂

                Andro xxx

  3. aloha Penny, your post has a lot of interest for me. haibun and haiku of course. yet your initial recounting of the parallel between what you did naturally and the form called haibun, fascinates me as well.

    this is because i have noticed this same phenomenon in my own work. that is i discovered haiga long after i began placing haiku in images i created. i was amazed a few years ago to discover that this not only had a name but also had been being done for centuries.

    with haibun the same thing happened. 10 years before i discovered there was something called haibun i began writing description, or shotgun description (of both inner and outer worlds) which was a lot like poetry because of the flow and yet was also like prose because it did not have to become poetic. i then began adding haiku to that and placing it all with in an image. i know traditional haibun is prose and haiku, and images may be included but not usually all as one work. being visual, for me to make it all one, just followed a kind of sense that i found valid for me. still, what i was doing was very similar and of course being visual it was natural for me to include the words in the image (something it turns out i have been doing for decades, now that i look back and try to find where and when it began).

    next my delight in discovering etegami. the Japanese folk art of image with words (which may be haiku but do not have to be haiku) intended to be sent between friends via a postal service. i’ve been creating postcards for decades as well. and often with words in some form or another on the image side of the postcards. i also spent a number of years exploring postal art (mail art) which of course include postcards as a strong component. etegami is often in a postcard form but it does not have to be in that form. it can be a letter or pages for instance, as long as it’s intended to go to a friend via the postal service and includes both image and writing. now of course i like to play with this postcard thinking and haiku a lot. and to know it is part of something way beyond my own doing is way cool, even tho i came to it via my own path, much as you have with haibun.

    i find it fascinating that when we do what we enjoy, and when we allow ourselves to explore in a free and open way, we often find ourselves following a path that potentially all human beings can come to on their own. at least that is the way it seems to me. just as you came to haibun because you were doing something you felt worthwhile to your own being—the journal.

    way cool on that.

    even when we push the edges there is still that base of human-ness which connects us in many ways to all human beings, past, present and i suspect future too. fun. aloha

    • Thank you Rick.

      Far more than words can express here. Your insights are wonderful to read. Your life experiences with your written words and it’s evolution. Your postcards of ‘image with words’ to another is so much more than mail art. It is a personal communication ‘greater than the sum of all it’s parts’ and very moving. It expands a feeling making it more complete, I think.

      The reason I thank you is that I just figured out another piece of who/how I am. Something I didn’t mentioned in the piece I wrote here, was that when I journal, I sketch on the same page. I always have. From the beginning. I could draw before I knew how to write. So it just seemed to be the thing to do while writing in a journal. I sketch on the top, sometimes on the sides and sometimes on the bottom. To emphasize a thought I’m pondering, a word, or what is happening in the moment. A steaming cup of hot coffee, the sun shining, a bird singing, the stars or moon glow, it is always in there too. But I didn’t think about mentioning this when I wrote comparing my writings in my journal to the haibun. I honestly didn’t think about that part of it. Because it’s something I’ve always done.

      Imagine my surprise as I read your wonderful (enriching for my soul) words when you began speaking of including an image. It so made sense to me. I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I integrate images in with my written words in my various blogs. I always just assumed it was because of a marketing background where image is usually part of the whole advertising/promotion of a thing. But now I understand that my written words are incomplete without a visual as well. When you said that to include an image seemed valid to you, honestly it brought tears to my eyes (happy ones) because I so purely get that! Never thought about it before, as in never. But now … I thank you so much for opening up a fuller part of the me that I am to myself.

      Again most sincere thanks, for your beautiful words and your time,
      With much love,

      • you are most welcome Penny. your words offer insight to each of us. that’s what i find in your words—as well as confirmation. validity in this process of trusting and following our self.

        now, to find you include image the way you do in your journal, yes, even more confirmation that this is a way of being ourself as well as being human (imo).

        words to me are important. i also think image is just as important—altho in other ways. the two together are companions that elevate each other—or they can be.

        i find it interesting and exciting that the communication in image is (at least almost) universal (imo). we can create images that require an understanding just like words require an understanding of the language. yet we can also create an image that is (again i have to qualify my thinking as at least almost) universally understood (there are exceptions of course).

        with that thinking in mind it’s easier to see how initial written languages used representation marks to create a word. i believe pictograms, and many Asian written languages follow from this route. our Western culture did as well but it also evolved even more so into the abstract it seems to me. in the earliest forms it was the evolution of a picture into a word that began to make use of image as word and then image as letter eventually too.

        okay i may be getting off topic now. oops. i do ramble at times.

        for me image and words are linked in many ways. i like that.

        it’s a complex world we create. it’s a beautiful world (or it can be) too, when we follow our own being and explore our self—which to me leads us to basic human-ness and a one-ness. a human-ness that we all share and yet we are all also unique to each of us. we are the only one who will ever be completely the way we are (at least that is the way i see it). cool to explore both—our uniqueness and our alike-ness each of which make us human. way cool and way fun on that.

        fun on. words on. image on too. aloha. rick.

        • Yes, so completely agree with all your thoughts here. I’ve studied (just a bit, I’m a mere student in life) the history of language and much that you say I believe also. I told my daughter the other day that I think perhaps (a wild thought here) that what may be happening (with the increased understandings of self and exploring these writing styles) is potentially a new language. A way to be even closer with a richer understanding when we communicate. Wild, huh! Again my sincere thanks rick, I think you and I could spend a day, month, year, etc. on this topic if we were in the same room. Much love to you, Penny

          • bwahahahaha. yes. it is fascinating. and of course we are all students of life, whether we all know it or not (i believe in this same way we are all “artists” whether we all know it or not too, as long as we are going into the wild).

            so maybe your wild thought is more perceptive than wild. yes, i believe we are all creators (which is what an artist is of course) And that we all alter the language—constantly. each of us use the language in our own ways. yes, imo, you are very right about language and new.

            in fact language is always-ever-renewing (imo). it’s always evolving. so it’s always new. even in our own time look how our own language has change (obviously the dawning of the computer and how that altered our thinking on words, yeah—mouse, click, right-click, boot-up, and of course a dictionary full goes on from there). even without the computer there is a lot of altering going on in our language, slang, and other “regional” variations alter it constantly. The industrial revolution, the space age, the cold war, Arab-Spring—all of this alters our word thinking.

            which is why of course Shakespeare’s English and ours has a fair amount of difference. . . .

            and of course with digital technology we are all pioneers (as i see it). yes, we are very much bringing new language into being (as well as a lot of other concepts)—blog, hash-tag, facebook, google, iphone etc. this in turn opens our creatives to new ways and creations as well. so, yes, our wild language evolution and the fun of exploring and pushing it is on (imo too). it’s way fun to write ku using bits of new language too:

            on my iPad the moon
            beneath my feet

            nø† †ø men†iøn–– ø†he® pøssißli†ies

            fun on. aloha

            • Hello rick,

              Close your eyes and imagine (if you will) me having the biggest smile on my face you can think of (which I do). And then think on the fact that what is now circulating inside my head is a matrix of varying degrees of alterations/additions (those oh so easily excited little neurons) on a wide variety of subjects (artistically speaking) as the result of your comments. And then imagine how many new expressive ways I’m thinking of right now as I enhance (as the result of your comments) the parameters of possible paradigms, creatively speaking of course, of communication. In a word – Nice!

              Once again,
              my thanks, Penny

              • it is fun, yes? this world wide planet of connection possibilities with people, ideas, knowledge and learning.

                one of the many things I like about the technology we are able to use today is as source and resourse that evolves into inspiration. this access which has expanded way beyond physical proximity. we are now able to access information and the edge of thinking on almost any subject, delve into the depths of thought and research and explore to the nth degree and our own satisfaction on any topic, no matter where the material originates on this planet.

                way cool on the ideas that are emerging and you are collecting from our dialogue. way fun to see them come to fruition when they surface in what you do—and that world wide smile is of course a delight across the planet too.

                fun on aloha.

                • Thank you Rick,
                  Your words across the miles have ignited my imagination (well okay, it really misbehaves much of the time, as I am not very disciplined at reigning it in – in my minds eye) still, new food for thought (your interpretive words) it does gulp in rather greedily. So my haibun for this week was inspired from our conversation here. Including a photo prompt, one I had taken and enhanced. But the words I wrote I found flowing smoothly onto the screen as a direct result of our delightful, and oh so fun, conversation.

                  As you say “cool on” and “fun on” once again, my thanks and smiles! Penny

  4. Thank you for sharing the information. I have been new to the Ligo Challenge and have posted just once. So, I look forward to participating every time you bring up a haibun challenge for all of us.
    I have been writing haiku since quite a bit of time but haibun is something I have only rarely practiced, just like tanka. Well, I aim at improving my skills. Thank you.

  5. Thanks Penny, I have been thinking about this art form and you have shed some good light on it for me. I like that it has particular disciplines, now to see if I can act on them!

  6. I started seriously reading this form only at WP. I liked it as it gave me a chance to holistically explore the prompt and then summarize it. Writing the haiku is the actual challenge for an amateur like me. The many entries to the same prompt helped me appreciate the many perspectives …. some that I could never have imagined.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and understanding.

  7. That really was interesting, with some special concepts which were very nice to read – the body/heart idea was a nice thought – time for you to dip into journals I think..there must be classics in the making there!

  8. This was a great post Penny. Yes it seems you are a natural at haibun…. a work of art relating to emotion… that is so lovely and the haiku… its essence. Wonderful for me to take this in… I’ve not understood or studied the particulars so once again ~ I am your student! Love to you my most beautiful friend… I hope it’s cooling down some for you!

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