When I went to Hawthornden in 2013 with the idea of seeing if I could write a book-length collection of haibun, there were very few UK poets writing in the form. While I was there, my fellow writers became interested in what I was doing, and by the end of the four week Fellowship, all of us had written haibun. It was always obvious to me that there are attractions in writing this way: a journey, real or allegorical, poetic prose language, present tense, a haiku which parallels the main text without paraphrasing it. I had read enough good examples, in modern and classical forms, to know what to aim for. What surprised me was how naturally my friends wrote in this form, and how much I enjoyed their writing.
The outcome of my Hawthornden Fellowship, The Book of Ways, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2014 and has been well received, by critics, by audiences, and by readers, whose opinions I value very much. Copies are available from Red Squirrel’s website, and signed copies from my own site.
So when Sally Evans, editor of Poetry Scotland, mentioned the possibility of a Poetry Day to celebrate the Heart of the Travelling People, a simple and dignified landmark overlooking Loch Fyne, we rapidly agreed that it would be appropriate to have two competitions, a spoken poetry one judged by Jess Smith, and a haibun competition which I would judge, the prizes generously being provided by Sally. The celebration will be held on the site on the 16th of May (a nearby wet weather alternative has been arranged). Details are on the Poetry Scotland and Callander Poetry Weekend Facebook page.
We had no idea how many entries I would get for the haibun competition, but I was absolutely delighted, both by the number of entries, and by their quality. Of course, that made it a difficult task to choose a short-list, but I’ve done that. I enjoyed reading all of the entries, which were excellent examples of the form. I’m grateful to everyone who entered the competition, and I’m hugely impressed by the short-listed entries.
Does this mean an increasing interest in the form? I’d like to think so. It’s definitely worth a try. There are some specialist online zines – Contemporary Haibun Online and Haibun Today being the larger ones. But I’d like to see more haibun published in mainstream poetry magazines. It would be good if those who have developed a taste for the form could submit their haibun to these magazines. Certainly many of the ones entered for this competition are of publishable standard. Good luck!