Posts Tagged ‘writing challenge’

A Challenge from Simply Haiku

March 23, 2009


photo by Kristian Birchall

photo by Kristian Birchall

I’ve been posed the following challenge by Lynn Rees, who is the haibun editor at Simply Haiku:

 As writers, I believe that working within ‘boundaries’, or with subject matter we might not have consciously thought about, can often lead us to surprising discoveries, so the challenge is to write a haibun with a particular theme and criteria.

I’d like you to begin with some ‘directed’ free writing. Try and be as spontaneous as possible, write down everything that comes into your mind; don’t edit or reject. Let your creative mind have time to explore without the interruption of the critical/editorial mind.

  1. Imagine a photograph of yourself when you were much younger.
  2. See this photo clearly in your mind.
  3. Starting with the phrase In this one there is or I am… write down everything you see, e.g. what you’re wearing, who is with you, the weather, anything at all that’s ‘in scene’.
  4. Now think about what happened before this photo was taken – just before, or earlier in the day, or even earlier than that, e.g. something specific that happened to you, or someone else, or an event that took place. Begin with Earlier, yesterday, last week etc… and write down all the sensory detail.
  5. And finally, beginning with the phrase I don’t know yet… write about something that will happen in the future, something that you have no knowledge of at the time of the photograph.

Once you’ve finished the free writing exercise put it aside for at least a few days (without reading it if you can!) before looking back over it to see if you can shape this material into a haibun. It’s entirely up to you what information you retain or discard but the completed haibun must include:

  • 1 or 2 haiku that can be placed as you choose
  • the use of the three tenses (the present, past and future)
  • and be no longer than 350 words

Deadline: Wednesday April 15th 2009.

So there we have it. I have to say I’m quite inclined to have a go at this – as those of you who read my main blog will know, I’m planning to take part in NaPoWriMo this year, so I’m settling into the “directed writing zone”. And I’ve always found writing exercises to be useful – a classic example of it ain’t what you have, it’s what you do with it.

Who’s going to join me?


A (Future) Challenge

August 27, 2008

I was reading an article by Ray Rasmussen on the Contemporary Haibun Online website about the defining characteristics of modern English-language haibun. There were two things in particular that interested me. First was his query:

whether writers present authentic or fictional ‘stories’. […] so far as I can tell by reading them, most contemporary haibun are based on real events in the writer’s lives. [Ken] Jones himself states that in the current issue of Contemporary Haibun, “… there appear to be no fictional (haibun).”

Interesting. One of the things that most excites me about haibun is the potential to mix imaginary (not just imaginative) prose with the little black-hole of actual experience that is a genuine haiku (rather than a desk-ku). Ken Jones’ article was the first place I saw that possibility mentioned.

I need to make a distinction here between “actual” (factually accurate, and actually experienced) and “true” (plausible; true to my own experience, even if the details have been modified for artistic purposes). I’ve written haibun (and haiku) from both perspectives. But I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the third possibility: writing a haibun that is made-up, and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Earthrise, 24 December 1968

Earthrise, 24 December 1968

I know they exist – Bruce Ross, in his superb Journey to the Interior discusses a 1979 haibun collection by Geraldine Clinton Little, called Separation: Seasons in Space, which is written from the point of view of a woman astronaut. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy yet, but it certainly does open up some interesting possibilities. (Anyone have a copy they’d like to sell?! Seriously – contact me!)


Back to the original topic – the other thing he mentioned was:

An examination of the current contents of Contemporary Haibun Online reveals just that. Slightly more than half of the haibun, whether present or past events, are written at least in part in the present tense. Fewer are written in the past tense and only a few are written in the future tense.

Again, very interesting. I suspect I’ve tended to stick with the present tense in most of mine, simply as a carry-over from haiku’s present tense. But the idea of writing future tense stuff is quite intriguing. Not “do” or “did”, but “will do”.

So. My challenge – write an obviously imaginary haibun, using the future tense. Should be interesting. Watch this space! (Groan …)