The conjunction of prose with poetry has been often observed in ancient literature. Champu or Chapu-Kavya, a combination of poetry and prose, is a genre of composition found in the ancient Indian literatureduring the Vedic period (c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE).
Haibun is a literary expression of poetic prose with haiku. Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) coined the word ‘Haibun” (HIGH-BUN) in 1690. His iconic work ‘Oku no Hosomichi’ (Narrow Road to the Interior) narrates the ecstatic beauty through the traverse of 1500 miles over 156 days, mostly on foot, from Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to the northerly interior region known as Oku. ‘Oraga Haru’ (My Spring) by Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) is a well-crafted haibun written in the nineteenth century. Gary Snyder’s travel diaries, ‘Passage through India’, written during mid-sixties, usher in the modern haibun-like genre. The Canadian writer Jack Cain’s beautiful work, ‘Paris’ (appeared in 1964) is considered as the first formal modern haibun in English.
Haibun is often referred to short story, travel writings, autobiography, diaries etc. Historical aspects, mythological, cultural and scientific aspects can also be incorporated in haibun literature. The style needs to be lucid, musical, occasionally with abbreviated syntax with poetic use of sentence fragment and subtle allusion. Creative experimental haibun can also be attempted to expand the scope of haibun writing keeping in view the basic aesthetic elements in perspective.
The prose is written in the style of a prose-poem. The prose generally is of 200-300 words and even longer interspersed with haiku in between or one haiku at the end. It is better to write haibun in the present tense to offer a feeling of happenings as of now, even it is from past events. The prose should be concrete, economical, and playful in its flow. It is better to refrain from writing prose with simple narration. Philosophical content, unnecessary sentimentality, or overloaded with flat passages can be avoided. Do not describe the sun, rain, the cause and effect of the rainbow. Rather try to enliven the reader with the joy of the poetic image of ‘rainbow’ under the shimmering sun and drizzling rain!
The haiku in the haibun should stand out explicitly. The prose and haiku in the haibun need to ignite a literary spark much similar to the linking and shifting of the stanza in a linked-verse of poem. The haiku should not narrate or repeat the essence of the prose. There should be a proper juxtaposition between the prose and haiku with distinct shift like the braided river descending from the hill and meandering through the valley. There should be a significant and sensitive linkage between the prose and haiku. The interplay of prose and haiku should take to a different level or orbit so as to make a musical resonance in the mind of the readers. The magical spark of haibun lies with the subtle symbiosis of the prose and haiku.
The haibun generally contains a title. The title has its immense importance in the congregated poetic spell of haibun writing. In an analogy I feel, the prose is the flower, haiku is the fragrance and the title stands for the flower stick. Reading through the haibun, let the reader enjoy the poetic beauty of hide-and-seek of the moon with the sailing clouds.
I sincerely urge the beginners to refer to the link given below and study the scholarly articles, interviews about the basic elements of haibun writings.
With "UtB Submission - Haibun" for the subject,