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Ongoing Call for Haibun Stories and Tanka Tales

In addition to new works of flash fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and prose poems, we are especially interested in original, unpublished haibun stories and tanka tales. That is, pieces that include fictional elements as well as “factional,” works that use story-telling techniques such as dialogue and plot, and that incorporate more embellishment than journalistic reportage, while also using techniques of haibun and/or tanka prose.

We say “Amen” to these words from Bob Lucky, former content editor at Contemporary Haibun Online (CHO):

“...as an editor, I read a lot of haibun that is just one damn fact after another. Memoir and autobiography are the trickiest bits of nonfiction around because in order to tell the Truth you have to lie. There is artifice in art.”

—Quoted with permission from “Random Praise: Tim Gardiner’s ‘Skeleton Wood’” (CHO, July 2017)

So you can get an idea of what we’re looking for, we offer a range of examples below. These works (13 haibun stories, five tanka tales, and a couple of hybrids) include various degrees of artfulness to tell their Truths:

General Guidelines for Submissions of Haibun and Tanka Prose:

Electronic submissions only, via our Submittable page.

Maximum word count per piece is a thousand, including the title, prose, and haiku, senryu, or tanka verses, as well as any author footnotes. Multiple haiku, senryu, and/or tanka within a single piece are acceptable, even encouraged.

We also encourage experimentation and stretching of conventional boundaries; after all, haibun and tanka prose, fluid hybrids by nature, are “terra incognita—vast and only marginally explored” by writers working in the English language (Jeffrey Woodward, editor of Haibun Today).

However, even unconventional works benefit from refining and polishing. In fact, highly polished pieces stand the best chance of winning prizes and publication in MacQueen’s Quinterly.

In other words, we look forward to reading your best work. Thanks so much!

Exceptional works may be nominated for The Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize, and/or Best Microfiction. We’re thrilled to report that:

  • A haibun story by Rich Youmans, After the Dream, the Dream Remains, which Jack Cooper and I published in KYSO Flash (Spring 2019), is among the works appearing in The Best Small Fictions 2020.

  • In February 2018, Bob Lucky’s haibun story Gratitude, first published in Issue 6 of KYSO Flash online (aka KF-6), won second place in the VERA, an annual Readers Choice award for best short fiction (500 words or fewer) sponsored by Vestal Review, an online flash-fiction magazine now in its 20th year of publishing.

  • Another work from KF-6, an ekphrastic haibun story by Harriot West entitled Picking Sunflowers for Van Gogh, was selected as one of 55 winners for reprinting in The Best Small Fictions 2017; and Dan Gilmore’s haibun story Hackmuth’s Mannequin Dream (from KF-5) was among the finalists listed in that anthology.

  • Camouflage by Charles Hansmann (in KF-3) was a winner for The Best Small Fictions 2016, and Bob Lucky’s haibun story The Current Situation (KF-4) was among the finalists.

Tips and Resources:

If you’re new to haibun, then you may be surprised to learn that:

  1. “...the plural of haiku is haiku (think sheep and fish)...” and

  2. “...syllable counting is not at all an essential element to writing haiku well,” as poet, editor, and teacher Lynne Rees writes (see link below).

    Here at MacQ, we happily agree, so there’s no need to adhere to 5-7-5 in the haibun you submit for our consideration—especially if doing so results in lines of stilted or unnatural-sounding prose rather than in tiny distilled poems.

    [Please see Driving Cross Country by William Cullen, Jr., as a fine example of what our publisher, Clare MacQueen, considers the skillful use of the 5-7-5 structure. She also appreciates this haiku sequence as a blend of the traditional and the contemporary, a timely commentary, and a concise travelogue (tip of the hat to Basho).]
  • Lynne Rees: Haiku: a poetry of absence or an absence of poetry? (subtitled “Minimalism in Contemporary English Language Haiku”), a paper presented at the PALA (Poetics and Linguistics Association) 2015 Conference at Canterbury University, Kent, United Kingdom (16 July 2015)

    The author’s goals here: to “illustrate that haiku can be, or should be, muscular enough to withstand scrutiny, close reading” and to “expunge their reputation as mainstream poetry’s country bumpkin cousin: naïve and embarrassing to have around in sophisticated company.”

    This paper is recommended reading for anyone who’s new to writing haiku!

The following resources include philosophies and how-to tips:

For those who prefer a comprehensive, more technical discussion of the various forms of haibun, including numerous examples of formats:

Finally, a summarized history of prose-with-poetry works in Classical, Modern, and Contemporary Japanese literary traditions; article includes references and list of suggested readings:

  • J. Zimmerman:
What English-Language Haibun Poets Can Learn From Japanese Practices: the Mysteries of an Almost-Heard Birdsong First Autumn Abroad

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