bilingual edition features eleven of Ken Joness short
one- and two-page haibun, which contain about sixty haiku;
half of the book is in English, the other half in Japanese.
Jones is a leading haibunist in the United Kingdom, some
of his earlier work appeared in Pilgrim Foxes (Pilgrim Press,
2001), a collection co-authored with Irish writers Jim Norton
and Sean OConnor. David Cobb, Arwyn Evans, Jonathan
Buckley, David Walker, and George Marsh are other names
strongly associated with haibuneering in Great Britain.
Jones has practiced Zen for several decades, written books
on socially engaged Buddhism, and currently makes his home
in Ceredigion, Wales, with his Irish wife, Noragh.
an introduction of nearly 3,000 words, Jones briefly sketches
the origins of haibun in Japan, cites the work of Bashô,
Buson, Issa, Shiki and Sôseki as found in the translations
of Nobuyuki Yuasa and Makoto Ueda (the only translators
he mentions), and then moves on to his primary concerns:
establishing standards for Western haibun, highlighting
issues, and proposing criteria. He is not a happy canvasser,
large proportion of Western haibun are bald narratives rendered
in colourless and banal prose, with a bland earnestness
devoid of feeling, irony or any subtlety. Their inconsequential
themes meander nowhere, and many read like nature walk guides,
or holiday letters, or just casual, prosaic anecdotes.
first criteria involve an expectation of fundamental literary
quality: does the haibun have any? Specifically, does it
have a theme which is shaped, crafted and polished
to some creative end? As a corollary, Jones states
that in haibun Poetic truth should be set above factual
narrative, but always on a bedrock of authentic experience.
Jones discusses four additional clusters of criteria
which appear, basically, to be drawn from the first. His
second and third criteria insist that the haibun shows
rather than tells, and that the haiku need to
be strong in their own right
in turn powering up
the prose. Fourth, he calls for a style of haibun
that is multi-dimensional in its treatment, with a
richly layered textual density and, fifth, that is
enriched by historical, mythical or similar cultural
or not we agree that these are the best criteria for haibun
in English, Jones is being up front and emphatic about his
own objectives as a haibunist. He has taken great painsin
seven pages of textto explain something about his
most favored methods, techniques, and subject matter.
interests in myth, legend, folklore, and history are shared
by other haibunists in Great Britain, particularly Arwyn
Evans and David Cobb. Time and human memory are among Joness
special preoccupations. In his haibun the present moment
has no clear-cut edge or boundary, and time is experienced
as a layered dimension. The narrator shows a constant, persistent
awareness of a past that has left its bones and ghosts and
nearness everywhere over the landscape. That landscape is
both objectively perceived and subjectively, emotionally
understood; concrete details are embedded in a prose of
reflection. Here is an excerpt from A Skylarks
in some heavy-furnished foreign inn
Peak cannot be seen from any settled place, only from ruins.
Like that shepherds cottage at the head of the pass,
still protected by its storm-wrecked pines. A dream mountain,
misty, remote, forlorn, long since adrift from time and
place. Across the Great Waste, at the worlds end it
lies. At its summit meet the domains of three lords, their
names long lost, if ever known. The one rules that pathless
forest of dwarf oak to the north; the second a tumble of
crags and drops; the third the great moor, with its meres
of the Three Lords
at the ford
I wash the mud from my boots
the summit never gets nearer. Never. Mabinogian. Morte dArthur.
How can this ever be reached or told?
these haibun, we read much about the isolated, hidden dwelling,
the odd and imposing landmark. Jones has, in more senses
than one, conjured up the spirits of his Welsh, Irish, and
other landscapes. Another example, from There Is No
Time. What Is Memory?:
It stands on the edge of Mynydd Bach, a desolate upland.
Rocky hillocks rise among the ginger bogs. Here and there
a few storm-wrecked trees around a pile of stones mark the
site of ty un-nos. A hovel built in a night. Dawn smoke
from its chimney gave legal title.
evening long ago
rusty horse rake
tall rushes through its spokes
there it isI remember the slate slab. talfryn and
a lively painting hand. Walking up its track, somehow you
can sense when the life has gone out of a house.
facing out towards the western sea
how many sunsets?
all of this, there is an overriding tone of elegy, or ode,
abutting upon a kind of existential hardness, if not quite
despair. The localities described are frequently weird,
secretive, and almost always isolated; the narrative style
flickers in and out of present and past with a strange,
compelling matter-of-factness. The surreal never seems too
far away; one begins to sense that Jones is on a quest for
some revelation involving his own selfhood and personal
identity, as much as he is intent on discovering something
essential about the mysteries of time and place.
Overall, Arrow of Stones is a must-read for anyone
interested in the development of English-language haibun,
particularly by one of the United Kingdoms most prolific,
widely-read exponents of the form. The direction Jones has
taken is unique, and his voice distinctive, personal, and