Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Draft Notes: Two Haibuns for Aimee Nezhukumatathil

77º ~ a humid wind is whipping smartly through the trees, the robin sits on the nest directly outside my window and turns its head when the branch shifts more than seems comfortable, I hope bird, eggs, and nest stay safe, one more round of severe weather threat this afternoon and then smooth sailing (if hot & muggy) for a bit

Glory be to the drafting gods & goddesses, their saints & their minions! 

While I hadn't *planned* today as a drafting day, I felt the return of the urge to get pen on paper as I began the morning.  I started with reading Joy Katz' lovely chapbook The Garden Room, which won the Snowbound Series Chapbook Award from Tupelo Press and appeared in 2006.  The poems are densely packed, short lyrics, paying an homage to Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, although more direct than Stein's.  Katz' poems have such precise and beautiful language that when I finished the book and noticed I felt the need to draft, I decided to start with a word bank and the random number generator to make new word pairs. 

Alas, while I fell in love with many of my word pairs and even drafted six lines, that draft died on the page.  I did type it up and print it out, but I did not save it.  Maybe something will come of the lines, maybe not.

Then, I flipped back a page to the notes I took Monday when I read Aimee Nezhukumatathil's article in American Poet about the haibun form.  (No link to the article available yet, but the journal comes from The Academy of American Poets.)  Both Aimee Nez. and Jeannine Hall Gailey have written about the form before and I've tried my hand at it one other time (see this draft note).  The current article elaborates on the nuances and subtleties of the form, and on Monday as I read it, I was already thinking of a return.

Typically, the haibun (a Japanese form) centers around landscape and is formed by a prose poem followed by a haiku.  The elaboration in the article taught me that the form also focuses on aware (ah-WAR-ay), a sense of longing or sympathy important in haiku.  The haibun allows the writer to explore those feelings in a more sustained way, while still keeping the haiku at the end.  This was a revelation to me, and on Monday, I went back to my first attempt and tinkered a bit to fine-tune that sense of longing.  Then, I read this section of the article again.

"This form lends itself beautifully and elegantly to those (like me) who move frequently across the country and even the globe.  But for those who haven't or don't, this form is also perfect for re-imagining landscapes seen every day or thought of as ho-hum (strip-malls! suburbs! Cornfield, USA!) into something with a little bit of an edge, perhaps with a darker and more somber, even a more magical, twist."

Well, without even knowing it, Aimee Nez. had thrown down a gauntlet to me.  On Monday, I wrote in my journal "Do haibun for recent trip?" (meaning my recent trip to Iowa/Illinois, the landscape of my obsession)  Today, after the failed word bank draft, I saw that note and the notes I'd taken on the form and I started off on a haibun titled "Cornfield, USA."  I drafted one and then worried that it was too obvious, so I went back and drafted "Cornfield, USA II."  Oh my, I sniff a new obsession (ahem, series) in the works. 

The corn was just beginning on my trip, so here's a barn instead.

Granted, both poems only take up half a page each, but I'm still thrilled to get the words moving across the page again and feeling that sense of discovery and delight as I see where the poem wants to go.

Woo Hoo!


Justin Evans said...

I really like haibun. I have only written a few, which probably means it's time to write more.

Sandy Longhorn said...

I've really enjoyed it, Justin. Hope you have success as well.

Jeannine Hall Gailey said...

It's a wonderful form and a wonderful article! I do hope they post it online.
Sandy, glad you are trying these out - I think it might be a great form for the kind of pastoral/personal hybrid poem...

Sandy Longhorn said...

Jeannine, yes! The first ones I've written have been pretty much pastoral, but I'm eager to add the persona in as I explore the form further. :)

Benjamin Vogt said...

This looks appealing to me. I never worked in one, but have ovbviously done prose poems and haiku. Cool.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Benjamin, I'm really liking the haibun. It's got me thinking in different directions. Thanks for stopping in.