Haibun Today
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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 3, September 2011



Results of the British Haiku Awards 2010 (Haibun Section)

 

The winners are "Old Rocker" by Mary Hind and "Making It to Twenty-ten" by Ken Jones. The adjudicators were Lynne Rees and Jeffrey Woodward.

 

Mary Hind
Australia

 

Old Rocker

up again in the night, its not only you men. stagger to the bathroom, knees & other joints welded refusing to straighten, must look like a stick insect, did i seriously write a humorous poem once about the signs of ageing? nothing remotely risible about this body, one minute youre rocking & rolling till all hours, next youre nothing more than a remnant of pink fabric thats lost its stretch, a deflated balloon, a dried up old leaf…

new moon—
the way you used to
cup my breast

feet shuffle me back to bed. that you love? he mutters between snores, no. marilyn monroe i reply, one of our many mantras, every couple has them, at least the memorys still working, something to smile about after all.

against the wind the
slow beat of a
crow's wing

 

Lynne Rees writes on "Old Rocker":

'Old Rocker' is an exquisitely crafted haibun: the prose, the haiku and the title all resonate with each other to create something more than their individual parts. Remove one of those elements and the haibun's overall effect is diminished.

The fragmented syntax of the prose effectively mirrors thought process while the lyricism of the haiku contrasts the prose syntactically and complements it linguistically. The haiku link and shift beautifully to and from the prose and the overall theme of ageing is reinforced by both haiku, explicitly in the first and implicitly in the second, without repetition. The title plays with the reader on a number of levels: it highlights the theme of ageing, references a phrase in the prose (rocking & rolling) to further knit those two elements together, and also suggests the image of an old rocking chair, a symbol of both old age and comfort.

And I am comforted by this haibun, both as writer and reader.

I admire the precise concrete imagery that is emotionally convincing and the reciprocation of form and content evident in the choice of syntax. I also admire the construction: the haiku feel consciously placed and contribute to the overall dramatic development. The reader shifts between stream of consciousness and more focused reflection as the narrator shifts between movement and stasis, from walking to the bathroom for the necessary pause, then back to bed and a second moment of reflection in the closing haiku. It would not be an exaggeration to say I am in awe of the final haiku. These 10 ordinary words encapsulate the haibun's theme and extend it too, but also, for me, invoke Basho's crow, although here the settling is replaced with an element of resistance. In that one word beat, we can read struggle, measuring time, and perhaps even winning some ground.

I read the haibun again, and again. I find myself 'rocked' by the rhythms and language, its pathos and bathos; its insights that expose and embrace truth.

Ken Jones
Wales

 

Making it to Twenty-ten

A weary man
lost in thought
an aged butterfly
between his thighs

            —Nagata Koi

“A pagan Christian,” she confesses. Chunky Celtic jewellery. Ear rings that dingle-dangle. A long purple skirt and a brightly coloured top. What estate agents call “a well presented property.” Limited liability retail flirts—she and I.

The room warms up
a winter butterfly
all a-flutter

So, the four of us have actually made it to the here and now. Miscellaneous surgical scars; repair jobs here and there; irreplaceable parts wearing out; one sort of pain or another. The 1930s not quite lost in history. But of course, no one here feels old.

Two couples
each of the four
their own uneasy chair

Tossing her well-coiffed black hair, she fronts an animated discussion to do with Mary Magdalene. We each have our own agenda—well known to the other three after all those years. I chuck another log into the stove.

“Whore or virgin?”
on the stem of her glass
her fingers play

My wife disagrees. Enjoying himself, her husband waves one foot in the air and sucks on his empty pipe. Stirring the pot I play the innocent.

To mellow the mood we break open the Leffe Abbey Belgium beer. “Roasted barley malt gives the beer its deep brown colour and fantastic combination of sweet caramel yet bitter taste.” A Georges Brassens disk “La Chasse aux Papillon” (“The Butterfly Hunt”), and everyone begins to luxuriate.

Swilling the remains of our beer in the bottom of the glass, we round off the evening with a sing-song. Mal Pope’s Swansea syncopation of “Bread of Heaven.” “Guide me O thou great Jehovah pilgrim through this barren land . . .”

In the porch light, her husband’s silver quiff. And his firm handshake.

Her good night hug
no longer
no closer
than it needs to be


Nagata Koi (1900-1997): outstanding Zen haiku poet of old age. Translation by Margaret Mitsutani and Naruto Nana.


Jeffrey Woodward writes on "Making it to Twenty-ten":

Two elderly couples of long acquaintance are reunited. It is unclear if they meet frequently or if this evening marks some special occasion, perhaps a celebration of the circumstance signalled by the title, of the "four of us" having "made it to the here and now" of another decade with the "1930s not quite lost in history."

While the general scene is one of a convivial gathering of dear friends, a palpable tension underlies each gesture and remark. What at first seems casual is revealed as calculated. The polished conversation of the couples is transparent and no disguise for the rivalry that has long animated their friendship. This contest revolves about the male narrator and the other man's wife, about their "limited liability" flirtation that is tacitly acknowledged by all parties. Is it significant that this other woman describes herself as a "pagan Christian" and later introduces the topic of Mary Magdalene—not with any abiding devotional interest, it would seem, but simply for the slight provocation of her question, "Whore or virgin?"

The erotic undercurrent of this haibun is largely cerebral. The reader may readily surmise as much from the epigraph, a haiku by Nagata Koi, whose "aged butterfly" hints at the diminished powers—sexual and otherwise—of the narrator and his companions. Full confirmation of this is offered at the haibun's conclusion; the lively party of four have together reached the "bottom of the glass" of their Leffe Abbey ale, the playful French recording of Georges Brassens has concluded, and their collective energy has shifted to singing along with a Maldwyn Pope rendition of the hymn "Bread of Heaven":

Guide me, O thou Great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land . . .

What a sober turn of events! But their short reunion, too, has come to an end and the bleak night beckons where our aging narrator, by porch light, receives

Her good night hug
no longer
no closer
than it needs to be

 


Administrator's Note: There were 54 entries from five countries. Thanks to all who took part and many thanks to adjudicators Lynne Rees and Jeffrey Woodward for the time and careful consideration they have put into the task of reading and selecting the winning haibun, and writing their reports. The winners each received £125.

David Steele

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