My Dear Friends:
I was notified that my five haibun below were included in the forthcoming anthology, World Haibun Anthology, edited by Angelee Deodhar, editor of Journeys: An Anthology of International Haibun, Nivasini Publishing, 2014 (For more information about this "landmark achievement" (Frogpond, 38:1, p. 118), see Lin Geary's in-depth review, Haiku Canada Review, 9:1, February 2015, pp. 57-60, and Marjorie Buettner's, Frogpond, 38:1, Winter 2015, pp. 118-9 )
Anthologied Haibun by Chen-ou Liu
for my mother
waking from the song
Mother hummed years ago
I remember the night before I emigrated to Canada. My mother was helping me to pack my luggage, and she began to tell me about the dream she had the night before.
My mother stood holding me in her arms helplessly, unable to see anything ahead of her, for she was enveloped by darkness. With the passage of time, a pain rose from her feet and gradually up to her shoulders and arms. At the moment when she reached the point of almost despair, suddenly, a spot of bright space appeared by her side. She used her last ounce of strength to put me down while I remained sound asleep. As soon as I was laid on the ground, the earth unexpectedly began to tilt. My place of rest was now a slope. While careening down, I suddenly grew up, and within few minutes was no larger than a speck of dust.
nine autumns past...
between mother and me
First published in Simply Haiku, 9:1, Spring 2011
I hate hearing myself speaking English. My voice sounds inhuman... mechanical. In the strain of translating a Chinese word into its English equivalent, the spontaneity and natural quality of my speech are lost. I feel that I'm falling out of the tightly knit fabric of emotional vocabulary into a hole-filled net of linguistic signifiers.
not a word passes over
First published in Contemporary Haibun Online, 7:3, October 2011
Anthologized in Contemporary Haibun, 13, 2012
(Commentary by Owen Bullock, "On Contemporary Haibun 13," Haibun Today, 6:3, September 2012:
... I will quote Chen-ou Liu’s in full:
the full text of Another Pnin
I find such massive honesty deeply moving. It’s easy for the reader to get over any slight reaction to implied criticism of English, because we know he’s grappling with some big issues. The juxtaposing haiku suggests a sensate snowmelt. I am also in awe of someone who can write so well in a second language, and I would have been extremely proud to have written that last sentence of prose alone.
This haibun leads to me to reflect that if form is not the main original component of a piece then some new revelation or way of conveying ideas might fit the bill. To read any form of poetry in which the writer says something you’ve never read before gives it a huge plus in my eyes)
A Room of His Own
In the poems we reveal ourselves. In prose others. -- Phyllis Webb, Notebook, 1969-1973
books of poetry
stacked floor to ceiling
Hearing of my housemate's suicide was like being stabbed in the back with a sharp knife, and yet I barely knew him. Only his work and the scratching sounds of pencil on paper that came from his room. "His noisy silence (in an emphatic tone) hangs over us like a long, dark cloud," one of my other housemates once said to me.
drafts of old poems
on the water-stained wall
a starry sky
One week before his death, I was standing on the edge of the table hanging a clock, when he passed through the living room. He suddenly turned to me, saying, “I have this insatiable urge to commit pencil to paper. It soothes my soul." He went back to his room and continued to spin poems out of the gathering darkness.
Haibun Today, 8:2, June 2014
(Note: See Ruth Holzer's in-depth thematic and structural analysis, titled "On Chen-ou Liu's 'A Room of His Own'," which was first published in Haibun Today, 8:3, September 2014)
A Poet and His Reader(s)
with a pen tucked in the spine
the touch of moonlight
Sitting at his coffee-stained desk, I turn to the page where he left behind:
The know-it-all editor detailed places in red ink where she found the haibun loaded with hazy semantics, or where they suffered from what she called etymological fog. And she emphasized that the Craft of sketching lived experiences is Flaubertian W...
Work? But what will be left of a poet's life in the end? Published poems. An unfinished manuscript. Jotted thoughts shifting and transient as skin cells.
words, always words ...
his right hand grasping
in the cold air
Cattails, 3, 2014
A Woman Who Enjoys Reading Orlando
first kiss --
behind the bookshelf
her scent lingers
Her parting words scribbled in pencil on the back of a transfer ticket:
Elizabeth and I finally enter the caves -- warm, damp, and fold upon fold -- that are bigger than your mind can hold. With my mouth, I swallow her and myself ...
Alone on the road to our favorite beach. It twists along the edge of the ragged coastline.
waves lapping ...
that night her fingers
Modern Haiku, 45:3, Autumn 2014