Haibun Road : a haibun weekly challenge (wk 2)

This week’s Basho’s Road Haibun Challenge

A haibun is one paragraph followed by one haiku. Last week I set forth the first paragraph in the “Narrow Road to the Interior/North” by Matsuo Basho  as the writing prompt.  This week I’ll give you the second paragraph and the accompanying haiku.  Use any bit (word, phrase, concept) as the inspiration of your own haibun. I will give one translator’s version of the 2nd paragraph but several translations of the haiku.

kusa no to mo
sumikawaru yo zo
hina no ie

The feeling and meaning in the haiku translations varied surprisingly.

“It was only towards the end of last autumn that I returned from rambling along the coast. I barely had time to sweep the cobwebs from my broken house on the River Sumida before the New Year, but no sooner had the spring mist begun to rise over the field than I wanted to be on the road again to cross the barrier-gate of Shirakawa in due time. The gods seem to have possessed my soul and turned it inside out, and roadside images seemed to invite me from every corner, so that it was impossible for me to stay idle at home. Even while I was getting ready, mending my torn trousers, tying a new strap to my hat, and applying moxa to my legs to strengthen them, I was already dreaming of the full moon rising over the islands of Matsushima. Finally, I sold my house, moving to the cottage of Sampû for a temporary stay. Upon the threshold of my old home, however, I wrote a linked verse of eight pieces and hung it on a wooden pillar. The starting piece was:
Behind this door
Now buried in deep grass,
A different generation will celebrate
The Festival of Dolls.”
(The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches, translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa)

My old grasshut
Lived in now by another generation
Is decked out with dolls.
(The Narrow Road Through the Provinces, in Japanese Poetic Diaries, translated by Earl Miner)

Even a thatched hut
May change with a new owner
Into a doll’s house.
(The Narrow Road to Oku, translated by Donald Keene )

even this grass hut
could for the new owner be
a festive house of dolls!
(The Narrow Road to the Deep North, translated by Tim Chilcott )


What is a haibun?

A haibun is a short prose paragraph followed by a haiku/senryu. The paragraph can be one’s thoughts, a travel journal, a diary entry, an essay or even a short story. Basho, a monk in Japan, wrote the first haibun in 1690. I liken it to impressionism: it’s something you capture in the moment through writing, fleeting as the moment changes, imperfect but authentic.

I’m inviting you to write a short paragraph and a haiku inspired by the prompt. The inspiration may be a word, a phrase, a sentence or the whole paragraph from the prompt. One person might take “time to sweep the cobwebs from my broken house” and write about an abandoned building.
Another person may be inspired by the haiku. Another person may take the word “rambling” to describe their most recent travel. Go with whatever inspires you.

Challenge parameters

There is no right or wrong although there are a couple rules.

  • One paragraph followed by one haiku/senryu.
  • Paragraphs can be short or long (but please don’t make one paragraph book length!)
  • Haiku/senryu should be 5/7/5 syllables or pretty close. 3, 5 and 7 are numbers with special meaning in Japanese culture so that’s probably how the form arose.
  • To share what you’ve written, add a pingback or paste your link in the comments and tag your post “haibun road”.It’s moderated due to spam and to avoid people’s contribution ending up in the spam folder so your link won’t show up right away but should show up within 24 hours. I will check regularly for them but I have a real life too so be patient please.

I hope next week to do a round up of everyone’s contributions. I also hope to do this weekly, posting it on Mondays (late Mondays, not early! so look for it in the evenings Arizona time between 11pm and midnight. I am not a morning person. ). I was going to do it on Saturdays but it turns out it’s not a good evening for me. I may be fiddling about until I find a day that works consistently so keep an eye out.  In any case, you will always have a week to come up with a haibun.

I’ll write a haibun for this challenge too tomorrow. I hope you will join me and look forward to your writing:


Matsuo Bashô: Oku no Hosomichi (Nine Translations of the Opening Paragraph), Bureau of Public Secrets

The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches (Penguin Classics) by Matsuo Basho, (translator : Nobuyuki Yuasa)

Japanese Poetic Diaries by Earl Miner (Editor, Translator)

The Narrow Road to Oku, by Matsuo Basho, (translator : Donald Keene)

Matsuo Basho: Oku no Hosomichi : The Narror Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho, (translator : Tim Chilcott)

Basho’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho by Matsuo Basho (translator  : David Landis Barnhill)

Links are to the books on Amazon (I’m an affiliate but it’s also easy to find book titles there) except for the Chilcott translation which is a pdf.  I figure why write haibun alone? It’s always more fun to share a journey with companions.

You can use the Amazon search bar to do any search at Amazon

As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a fee if you click on the above links and buy something. This does not affect your price which remains the same. Amazon disclosure: “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”