Haibun (俳文) is a Japanese genre of writing that mixes chiefly autobiographical prose with haiku. The most famous example is Bashō’s Oku no hosomichi, or Narrow Road to the Interior. The key to the art of haibun is the graceful pairing of poem and prose, where the poem links to the prose yet shifts away from it, in much the same way that verses relate to each other in a renku by linking and leaping. See a fuller definition of haibun at Notes on Japanese Forms, and read my essay “Haibun: Definitions of Light,” and its predecessor, “A Survey of Haibun Definitions: Introduction to Wedge of Light.” See also “Missing the Moon: Haikuless Haibun” and “Haibun: Aims and Problems.” You can also read more about haiku (which is much misunderstood) on the Further Reading, Essays, and Haiku and Senryu pages. The prose part of haibun may be considered to be a sort of prose poem, and shares similarities with flash fiction and microfiction. Most of the following haibun and prose pieces with tanka (sometimes referred to as “tanka prose”) have been previously published.

★ = most recommended (start with these haibun)

Historical note: In 1999 my press, Press Here, published Wedge of Light, which I edited with Cor van den Heuvel and Tom Lynch. In 2000, the book won a Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America as best book of haibun published in 1999. If publication had not been delayed (until May of 1999), it would have been the first anthology of haibun published in the English language (so it settled for being the second). However, it featured selections from what I believe was the first-ever English-language haibun contest, sponsored in 1996 by my magazine, Woodnotes. The book contained my overview of haibun definitions and perspectives, Cor van den Heuvel’s concise history of haibun, an inspirational essay on haibun by Rich Youmans, and a set of wide-ranging haibun by thirteen contributors, complete with statements from each contributor about haibun. Several English-language haibun contests are now held regularly around the world, but I believe the Woodnotes haibun contest that I facilitated was the first.