Haibun – Writing the Essence (the method of)!


Would you like to understand the written style of haibun a little better?

A brief disclaimer: “When it comes to the history of the written word, I do not have a formal education. My study and research into haibun writing is just beginning. Some of what I write on this written art form is of a speculative nature and my own opinion”.  Penny L Howe


Consider viewing haibun, (a classic Japanese style of creative writing), as an introspective approach to the written word.

The haibun is composed of two elements 1) one or more paragraphs, written as prose (without metric structure). AND  2) haiku (short free verse poem) on a subject, theme or prompt!

Prose -The approach is to convey a specific message or feeling (experience or thought – there is a strong relationship of most haikun to the nature of things.) while restricting the overuse of adjectives and adverbs, using your word power so each word adds an emphasis to the whole.

Use the word “the” only when it adds extra meaning to your thought and less use of sentences that explain what you just wrote. No verbosity, only using words that add value to the whole piece. If you write precisely enough, you shouldn’t need to belabor the point – written haibun flows as a result of this method.

Each written haibun piece is a stand alone! Concise, explicit and strong in content (so we’re clear on the definition of strong – you can be gentle in your written approach but everyone should clearly know when they finish reading that “gentle” was the goal).

Another key element is interpretive. A well written haibun can seem simply written, but is complex or even sophisticated in the understanding, and can have several values or levels to this awareness. Much like an internal thought process.

Haiku – is a Japanese poem – free verse, 3 line, with no caps. It is “generally understood” there is a total count of 17 or less syllables in the entire poem, again, popularly considered to be written in a 5-7-5 format (5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second line and 5 in the third line). It is not essential or necessary to rigidly adhere to this formula) but the middle line is longer than the first and the third lines. Rule of thumb approximately 17 or so syllables in all three lines, total. View syllables as “soundings”. Recall that a syllable is organized units of speech sounds. Say (outloud) this potential first line of a haiku. Feel the sounds from the words.

“flowing haibun’s essence”

The haiku becomes vivid and alive when sentence connectors or “words that link” (words like: also, therefore, however) also prepositions and conjunctions (such as: of, to, in, but, and, or) are used in a discriminate manner. This is also true in the haibun.

Think in terms of the value of each word you use. Prepositions, conjunctions and sentence connectors should only be used when they help to emphasize or carry forward an expression.

The haiku can be a summation of the prose portion of the haibun or it can be an illumination that occurs as a result (understanding) of the written prose. The haiku can appear at the ending of the piece or placed in between the paragraphs to add emphasis. There can be more than one haiku in the haibun.

In summation, there exists a connection between the haiku and the prose of haibun. The connection may be clear and obvious or subtle bringing home a point, an awareness, an illumination or other thought process.



Though small in stature, glistening diamonds of moisture confront me during early walks through nature. I revel in luxury. The warmth of my skin embracing dewy, cool and moist softness. I see and feel the sensation of dewdrops.

Dewdrops suspended from blades of grass, wispy cobwebs, sturdy leaves, and delicate flowers. Each encounter experienced while travelling through morning’s meadow.

An arrested view of life, focusing on the nature of dewdrops. Beautiful to view, suns golden rays shimmering on these minute whispers of water. The substance of liquid.  Quintessential to well-being of all life – my life. My relationship with water, reduced in the moment to all encompassing dewdrops.

Elemental need
entire world suspended
dewdrops expression


Thanks for stopping by and reading. If you found this article of value and would enjoy reading more of my personal insights about haibun writing please let me know!

Have a great day,

*ps – I have been persuaded to continue hosting the Ligo Haibun Challenge, as time permits, so I will be hosting a new one this week as usual!

~ Penny

34 thoughts on “Haibun – Writing the Essence (the method of)!

  1. Thank you for this, Penny. I hadn’t heard of the haibun until another blogger I know entered into this a few times – I really enjoy the concept and the writing challenge it poses. Your explanation certainly deepens my understanding.

    • Thank you Freya, I wrote my first haibun a little over 7 months ago and became fascinated with the style (unknown to me also before this), so have been diligently researching to understand it more fully. I agree with you about the concept and the challenge it offers writers. I’m glad my thoughts are of value, again my sincere thanks.

  2. Pingback: Haibun – Writing the Essence (the method of)! – A Reblog | Alastair's Blog

  3. Excellent post penny. I like the explanation and guidance you give. I think it then becomes a matter of practice and more practice. Playing with the words until we get it right, a life long project.

    • Thank you Michael. Practice, as you know exceedingly well, from the “stage of it all”, does make perfect … well perhaps not perfect but we improve ourselves in the doing of same. Definitely a life long project my friend! 🙂 xx

  4. I hope to give haibun another attempt. Life has been pretty busy. So- I’ve been a bit on overload these past few weeks & have not been writing much lately. I almost missed Alastair’s Photo Fiction this past week. But – got it in with some hours to spare – LOL
    And – then there are those dreaded migraines that keep getting in the way- UGH!
    Anywho – this was great info. I hope to keep this in mind the next haibun I dare to attempt!
    xx 🙂 🙂 xx

    • Oh RoSy, that is excellent. I know life is crazy right now, so if you do get an opportunity to write another haibun that would be great, but no pressure. Only as your time and your feel good quotient (i.e. no headaches) allows! Thank you and take care of yourself, most especially during this so busy time dear neighbor! 🙂 xo

    • I’m just at the beginning of understanding myself, Paulette. The original prose style of the Japanese “haibun” dates back more than several thousand years to classical Chinese prose. Researching this is proving fascinating as there seems to be a lot of confusion about what the haibun is or isn’t … without much “out there” to refer to. Fun though. Glad you have an “inkling now! 🙂

  5. Thank you for this Penny. I’ll reblog it tomorrow if that is alright with you? I have posted six articles today and any more, I believe, is over saturation and turns people away.

    It’s very helpful I think. With the mention of gentle, I definitely think my one failed big time on that one today 😆 but it was a fun write.

    I also like your sample one 🙂

    • Your welcome Alastair. Yes of course you can reblog this tomorrow. Thank you my friend. Writing should be fun too. I’ll have to read yours!. Our phone/internet service provider (repair guy) should be here soon to fix our connectivity problems (we hope)! And I can go visiting again! 🙂

      • I know when I was two or three days with intermittent internet, I was climbing the walls. I wasn’t visiting the amount of blogs I am now, and luckily I could still visit via my phone, but it wasn’t the same.

        I’m off to bed, enjoy the rest of your day Penny. Hugs to you and your family

  6. You make a “how to” post sounds lovely. 🙂 Oh haibun….I try to make sure its haibunny enough. Thank you so much for taking time to explain this. I truly appreciate it.

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