Leatherhead, Surrey, England
Notes on "Sceptred Isles"
The haibun that I have chosen to write about, "Sceptred Isles," was triggered by seeing the film "The King's Speech," although the haiku and experiences recorded in the prose were already waiting in my mind for the right time to come together in this piece. It seems fitting that I am bringing this work to readers' attention in the Diamond Jubilee year of Queen Elizabeth 2nd but that is not the reason I selected it. I have selected it because it is a haibun that I am pleased with.
When I started writing haibun twelve or so years ago, they were very much records of physical journeys, mainly long walks in which the prose described the route and the haiku shared special moments experienced on the way. Then I began to realise that haibun could share journeys through a limitless range of experience and that those which described a trek through physical terrain formed only a small fraction of possible creative material.
I hoped to write haibun in which the haiku provided places of pause and poise or small reflective pools within a longer flow or march of writing and I also became interested in creating work in which prose and haiku could facilitate transition between present and past, past and present. "Sceptred Isles" links experiences in time in this way and also I hope fulfils the criteria I set for myself.
This haibun brings together a bus stop from my childhood and a bus stop from my present life. Bus stops are places where one waits on a particular kind of journey. Both of the bus stops mentioned here, are beside island-like structures, places where lots of traffic flows past. The haiku is a place of pause and reflection after the two brief periods of time have come together in the paragraph of prose, and also brings together the present moment and childhood memory of being told about the crown used at the coronation. The feathers of a starling, although black, can be seen in sunlight to contain dozens of jewel-like colours. So I am pleased with the way this piece of writing brings together my memories of the distant past with my present day awareness and also connects to my country's heritage and to non-human nature.
I have not yet written the haibun that I would like to be making comments about. It would be a piece in which the prose exclusively describes non-human aspects of nature and the haiku provides that stone of pause and poise or that small pool of reflection within it. Human emotion would be elicited by the way aspects of life outside ourselves are able to echo inner feeling. The piece as a whole would bring together experience within time and moments beyond it, using words which on the surface may just seem like nature writing interspersed with breath length poems about the natural world.
The bus stop by the roundabout stands out against the dusk, as my mother tells me on the way home from school, 'The king is dead.' A few months on, a gilded model of the Coronation Coach, complete with footmen and six white horses, nestles in the pile of our front room carpet. I learn the words, 'anoint' and 'orb.'
Now, on the far side of the Thames, late on a bleak afternoon, I'm waiting for the 465 from Kingston. Ignored by shoppers with bulging bags from Primark, I focus on a stone. Surfaced with lichen, it stands on a plinth, encircled by sharp iron railings. Giving this place its name, it was used in the throning of seven Saxon monarchs.
all the jewels
in St Edward's crown
First published in Frogpond (Summer 2011)