How to Write a Haibun: 4 Tips for Writing Haibun Poetry

How to Write a Haibun: 4 Tips for Writing Haibun Poetry

Generally, the only elements required to qualify a piece of writing as haibun are the inclusion of one or more prose paragraphs and one or more haiku. However, the form is constantly evolving, and the modern haibun may vary drastically in both its content and formal elements. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you write haibun:

  1. Keep your prose simple. Haibun generally features concise yet detail-heavy paragraphs in the prose sections. In many ways, the prose is supposed to reflect the spirit of a haiku: sparse, imagistic, and powerful in its brevity. Try to eliminate any inessential or extraneous words, with the goal of presenting your language as sparsely as possible.
  2. Evoke the senses. The best haibun prose will describe evocative sensory details. The haibun attempts to place the reader in a specific location or evoke a specific mood; the haibun attempts to “show, not tell”—which can be done effectively through an abundance of sensory detail.
  3. Write in the present tense. One of the primary goals of haibun is to evoke a sense of “being there” within the reader; making them feel as though they’re experiencing the events or sensory details of the haibun as they are happening. Write in the present tense.
  4. Make sure your haiku adds meaning. The haiku should deepen the meaning of the piece of the whole, either by offering a startling juxtaposition, a reflection of one of the themes in the prose, or a complimentary detail.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil:  As someone who moved several times throughout her childhood – she searched for a way to write about these travels: “how to write about a place where one feels inextricable connected to certain landscapes that shift and change more often than the seasons? … How can a poem situate itself without being fully entrenched?  Hope to make the reader travel without getting lost?”