Mini-Lesson on the Haibun

Plus! 3 Great Literary Journals to Subscribe to in 2015

I’m thrilled to announce I have poems forthcoming in three awesome literary journals: Bellevue Literary Review, New Orleans Review, and Harpur Palate

Soon to be released in print, these journals are beautifully designed. And I have good reason to believe the insides are as good as the outsides. Like a jawbreaker that opens up to pure love! I’d like to invite you to subscribe to these cool magazines if you don’t already. Check out their subscription services by clicking the links in each photo above. 

One of the pieces set to appear is a Haibun about Graphene. In honor of the poem (which will be in New Orleans Review special Science Fiction issue!) here is a mini-course on the Haibun for any and all interested practitioners.

A Haibun is a prose poem ending with a haiku, a deep recollection followed by a meaningful whisper or murmur. 

For those of us who need a quick refresher a haiku is a poem of 17 syllables, arranged in 3 lines:

5 syllables
7 syllables
5 syllables

A prose poem is a poem without line breaks that resembles prose, but retains all the qualities of poetry such as metaphor, sound, rhythm, etc. One of my favorite ways of thinking about a prose poem is as a bowl or a box with poetry inside. For more on prose poems check out my article on DIY MFA

A few more tips to keep in mind when writing a Haibun: 

  • avoid using personal pronouns
  • concentrate on sensory detail
  • use the season, phrases that elude to season
  • include a turn or sudden change of heart

The Haibun is a great form for a compare/contrast sort of narrative. The simplicity of the haiku following a weird, dense, matter-of-fact block of text such as the prose poem usually lends itself to contemplation, irony, or desire. Just as one can explore the relationship between the title and the first line of a poem, the relationship between the final line of the prose and the haiku “contains multitudes” and can lead to any number of affects. 


First, imagine you are far from home.

Write down the details of this place: is it extraterrestrial? Or here on earth? Is it hot or cold? Barren or beautiful? Beautiful how? What do you eat? Where do you sleep? Who are you with? What are you doing there? 

Now write a letter in the form of a Haibun. 

As you write the letter be aware that this is the last letter that will make it back home. 

The haiku at the end of your letter could become a salutation, a description of the last thing you see or remember, or a request. It could be helpful to you to bring in the formal elements of letter-writing for crafting this piece, or to writing in a more informal tone. You could think of this as a captain’s log, a letter in a bottle, or a chain email. 

Go here >> to read my Haibun “Graphene Love Potion No. 9” (originally from the New Orleans Review).

More inspo/resources (if needed):

Contemporary Haibun Online

Article by Aimee Nezhukumatathil