On haibun and haiga

The term haibun was first used by the 17th century Japanese haiku poet, Matsuo Basho to describe the short pieces of prose he wrote about his  travels. Traditionally a haibun was written in the first person and in the present tense.   Focusing on the writer’s experience traditional haibun often has a distinctly Buddhist flavour.  Basho’s ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’ is his most famous haibun.

On the site  Poets.org – a  closer look at writing haibun  I read:

Though Bashō coined the word haibun, the form as it is today existed in Japan as prefaces and mini-lyric essays even before the seventeenth century (when Bashō first popularized the form). After his famous journey to Mutsu, he crafted a sort of guideline to the form in order to plunge deeper into the aware (pronounced ah-WAR-ay) spirit of haiku. Thus, another important feature of the haibun is not simply to provide a writer a shape in which to jot mundane musings of landscape and travel but also to evoke that sense of aware—the quality of certain objects to evoke longing, sadness, or immediate sympathy.

I found writing haibun really expanded the way I write.   As I love taking photos it wasn’t long before I started combining haibun and haiku with photos and creating contemporary haiga.


Traditional haiga are a combination of haiku and ink brush painting but the form has now expanded to include all forms of modern art and photography combined with haiku.   Digital imagining programs have extended the possibilities even further.  In the online journal Haiga online I read ‘Internet-based multimedia haiga is still a very new form of expression and the definition of “experimental” is a target that is continually moving outward as the artistic and technical possibilities expand.’  In an issue of the journal the work Lingering Snow, a graphic haibun series by Linda Papanicolaou is featured.   This exciting and experimental work presents both haiku and haibun within the format of the graphic novel.   It’s definitely worth taking a look at if you are interested exploring in the creative possibilities of haiga.

 Narrow Road to the Deep North - Yosa Buson Image from Buson’s ‘Narrow Road’  – http://www.wikiart.org/en/yosa-buson/narrow-road-to-the-deep-north

Haibun and haiga were first combined by Basho’s disciple Buson in a six fold screen painting where he combined  the words of Basho’s ‘Narrow Road’ with his own illustrations.  This combination is sometimes called haibunga (W.A. Poets. net).

The right side of the Buson’s six fold screen


 On the W.A Poets website I also came across the idea of the linked haiga –

‘One form of haiga can be a linked haiga. You can “put together haiga with similar subject matters and similar representational styles. When they are combined and appropriate adjustments are made, they can be a single coherent art work. In painting, coherence and consistency is most important for a work to be appreciated as a piece of art. The same rule applies to haiga. I also consider the haiku. In my linked haiga, haiku verses do not work like in renku, but I feel that they somehow resonate and produce interesting effects.” Kuniharu Shimizu’



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