Hiroaki Sato states that it's been the practice in Japan from early haikai days to create monolinear poems:
“In adopting the tercet, those who write haiku in English are doing the exact opposite of those who write haiku in Japanese: practically all Japanese haiku writers use a monolinear form.”
“On Haiku” Hiroaki Sato
(New Directions Publishing Corporation, isbn 9780811227414 Dec 2018)
from Haiku in Japanese and English: Form and Content (page 17)
Hiroaki Sato continues to say:
"...for the great majority of Japanese haiku writers and commentators, the haiku is a one-line poem.”
He quotes the critic Nihira Masaru:
"'One-lineness is an indispensable part of the haiku form'"
and quotes the critic Sugaya Kikuo:
"The haiku is a poetic form based on the contradiction that, while making a bisectional structure an inherent part of it, it never externalizes that structure in a two-line poem."
“On Haiku” Hiroaki Sato
(New Directions Publishing Corporation, isbn 9780811227414 Dec 2018)
from Haiku in Japanese and English: Form and Content (page 21)
One line haiku (monoku) and commentaries:
Scroll further down for the 'featurette' guest poet spots!
iiwake suru hi shinai hi shijimi-jiru no yuge
Toshi Miyazaki (宮崎斗士)
The haiku comes from “Sonna Ao” (That Kind of Blue)
(haiku collection of Toshi Miyazaki, pub. Rikka Shorin, Tokyo 2014)
a day to make excuses shijimi clam shell soup
English version by Alan Summers
Who wouldn't want to take a break from the daily grind with an amazing meal that also has health benefits? Shijimi clams are rich in amino acids, minerals, taurine, and iron, where you can recover from fatigue as well as receive beauty benefits!
The haiku is simple in execution but connects to those of us who want a clear day ahead of us, and a well earned rest, which is not easy in this frenetic world we inhabit. There is no need to push a second verb into the short verse such as 'drinking' etc...
‘shijimi’ (corbicula clam) is a Spring kigo.
The month of March is said to be in the middle of Spring according to the haikai saijiki.
nightfall the key turns into a blackbird
First published: Blithe Spirit 31.4 November 2021 ed. Caroline Skanne
The Unseen Go-Between in Haiku by Alan Summers
Haiku Society of America newsletter, Haiku Spotlight (January 2022)
Shortlisted: Museum of Haiku Literature
Blithe Spirit vol. 32 no. 1 (February 2022) ed. Caroline Skanne
This might feel that it is not logical! Does it really matter though? It can be broken down into logical pieces and I’ll attempt to do this. It was written in my fugue zone, but there is linear detail:
The first word lets us know, or tells us, that it is nighttime.
The next ‘phrase’ appears as ‘the key turns’ so we can guess it’s about someone turning a key into the lock of their home front door and perhaps returning from a good night out.
We can go the linear logical route and guess the numerous streetlights are fooling the blackbird into singing at night: So as the key is being turned into the lock, the person might be very quiet as it is so very late; and they might be a little tipsy too, and doing that ‘extra quiet shuffle’ and in turn they can’t help but hear the blackbird song.
There is more, but I don’t want to spoil the fun by over-explaining the haiku and my sometimes quirky process.
Just know this, even what appears to be an extreme juxtaposition might have its logical connections and we can refer back to six transitions listed, in the article, to break its code.
The Unseen Go-Between in Haiku by Alan Summers
Haiku Society of America newsletter, Haiku Spotlight (January 2022)
For more about one line haiku including examples by Alan Summers see also:
travelling the monorail - one line haiku:
The layering of meaning beyond the immediate:
The "now" in monoku
It’s been said that if you are looking to write a one-line haiku that they work best when they cannot be remade into the more conventional three line haiku. I’m not sure that’s always the case, but it’s a useful guideline. Sometimes one-line haiku appear to be a little subversive. So if they are too smooth is it veering too close to a headline you’d pick up in a newspaper? Should it be just a line of poetry complete in itself?
How do one line haiku in English build up so the reader has a whole poem to hang onto? As well as guest poets further down, I will start with examples from this anthology:
Yanty’s Butterfly: Haiku Nook Anthology
ed. Jacob Salzer and the Nook Editorial Staff (2016)
ISBN-10: 1329915410 ISBN-13: 978-1329915411
So what happens with a one-line haiku that has one horizontal line instead of three? One-line haiku can appear in various guises, needing to contain some aspects of the gaps between fragmentary sections of haiku that we see in the three line versions. Above all, it’s the invisible text, the not-said, the unsaid, the gaps where no text is apparent that counts as much as the words that we see. Even if a reader does not consciously read into those spaces, those white echoes of non-text can act as a catalyst for the reader to go a little deeper into the poem.
eye of the song a blackbird touching the void
Winner, The British Haiku Society Awards 2018/2019
Haiku Section judge: Scott Mason
Judge’s commentary by Scott Mason:
“A Rubik’s ku of perception and intuition held together with synaesthesia, the winning one-liner beguiles and haunts me. What and where is the “eye” of a blackbird’s song? How does that eye “touch” the void? What void are we talking about here anyway – some nexus of negative color (blackness), sound (silence) and capability? ... the focus of Emerson’s “transparent eyeball” turned inward? These questions and others draw me into a state of dreamlike reverie, impelled by a creature in equal parts totem and flesh. (The last “literary” bird to transport me like this was a thrush, in Burnt Norton.)”
Emerson’s “transparent eyeball”
Burnt Norton and the thrush
Burnt Norton (the first poem of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets.):
“Stunning. Wallace Stevens does come to mind--only you did it with one line. It's beautiful to read out loud and haunting.” —Jo Balistreri USA
each window its own night train
The British Haiku Society Awards 2018
Haiku Section judge: Scott Mason
Scott Mason, Judge’s comment:
“This linear portmanteau has more than a one-track mind.“
“You captured that elusive sense of being the conductor of one's own train. I've felt this. All alone in that vastness.” —Jo Balistreri USA
Here are some wonderful examples of monoku from the Yanty's Butterfly anthology, and from invited guests.
Enjoy working out the different approaches, the tricks where nouns are verbs or vice versa or both, where meanings are like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, taking you down a rabbit hole far far away from a hot English Summer picnic of a day, or Dorothy’s Oz, where her silver shoes (the book) or ruby slippers (the movie) take you somewhere that is no longer Kansas.
a cold moon secrets of the gallows
Yanty Tjiam (1981–2015)
The word secrets is a noun, but it could also read, misread, or double-read as a verb, not just a noun (i.e. a cold moon secrets as in hides or stashes away something of the gallows? Cold moon makes this a winter season verse in traditional haiku.)
snailish motion the grey clouds my heart
Yanty’s brother brings in a poetic line with snailish, (such a wonderful word), and it becomes an adjective with ‘snailish motion’ so that grey clouds move slowly, even sluggishly. Fei Zhan decides to imaginatively replace the oft used adjective sluggish.
Also, does something grey, that might be sad, cloud his heart too? Is clouds both a noun and a verb? There is more than one meaning and way of reading this poem.
after rain midnight dreams a hedgehog
Italian writer Marina Bellini asked, while working on an Italian translation: “is it the hedgehog who dreams or somebody else?”
I replied, on Facebook, “It’s from a direct experience, from my low level balcony, and a use of multiple interpretations and playfulness that one line haiku can really utilise.”
I added: “For the reader it could be the hedgehog or a human (fellow animal) that roams and dreams or it could be Midnight itself that dreams and conjures up a hedgehog, the most delightful of creatures.”
rocking chairs just when the still of night
Lovette brings in an iconic image of the rocking chair, and disciplines herself to avoid the temptation to fill in the gaps between the words. Often we want to say and put as much if not everything into our haiku, and because it’s so short there’s an urge to jam more into the brief verse. Allow the haiku to breathe;it’s good to allow the reader to have fun with the white echoes that resonate out of the invisible text that sits both in-between and outside our black ink. The two words, ‘just when’ are expertly applied in-between ‘rocking chairs’ and ‘the still of the night.’ Surgical precision counts even more in one-line haiku than its regular counterpart of the three-line version.
Haiku from any approach of line number will tackle all kinds of issues, and topics. Haiku are traditionally linked to the seasons in general, rather than nature, as haiku came out as urbanization and the industrial revolution exploded in Japan. As more, and more urban landscapes appeared, so did issues of what became a modern society removed from its agricultural roots.
smiles in sunshine sociopath
The noticeable rise of the sociopath in films, TV, and certain business practices, has made us aware that there other models of human behavior out there. The smiles in the sunlight can be as deadly as a badly lit back alley. Of course there are good sociopaths and ‘sunshine sociopath’ is an interesting couple of words to take from the verse.
unfaithful lovers lying still
Here we have the technique of making a word that has at least a double meaning/alternate meaning; there's great sadness despite the playful pun of ‘lying'. See how the poem expands because there is not just one layer of meaning to be instantly got at, but at least a second layer of meaning, and both can direct us to memories of film, and TV or of friends or family who may have been unfaithful at least once, perhaps.
dark matter the dreams i cling to
Brendon brings in science which has become a popular motif with many of us, as we move through the industrial revolution into new sciences including quantum mechanics. We may realise that nature, and science, are not as we thought back in the previous centuries. Perhaps there is still time to start growing up and move away from our childish obsessions, that we literally believe we own the planet and all its non-human denizens.
Here, Brendon has his dreams he is clinging onto, and perhaps dreaming of quantum mechanics or the Philip Pullman trilogy, His Dark Materials. Or is this haiku combining more than one thought, where we have dark thoughts, and wonder if our dreams matter. Should we cling to those waking dreams or our wide awake ambitions we had as a child?
sunset in the slaughterhouse blood a color
Nicholas worried that his poem might gross people out, but haiku can quickly take on issues around last century, and this century, because haiku came around at the close of the 19th century, when Shiki took aspects from the hokku verse of previous centuries, and made it a particular type that could take on difficult subjects. Out of the tens of thousands of haiku that Shiki wrote, he covered the topic of his dying from spinal tuberculosis directly and indirectly.
original haiku by Shiki
yuki no ie ni nete iru to omou bakari ni te
Romanised (aka romaji) transcription: Atsuro Kagawa and Sachiko Iwabuchi
sick in bed I think of being sick in bed snowbound
English-language version by Alan Summers
Nicholas originally had a three line version, where he asked for feeback, which was a good strong draft version, but the preposition of ‘in’ was an issue regarding a line break…
in the slaughterhouse--
blood is just a color
It could have easily moved to:
blood is just a color
the slaughterhouse blood
is just a color
blood is a color
But the linebreaks, the enjambment, wouldn’t quite work, so the one-line format worked perfectly as the enjambment is internal, with abruptive shifts, and a lesser need for correct syntax and grammar. In fact, when the preposition ‘in’ is a problem, it can become a strength of the one-line haiku. I'd say this has one of the many advantages that makes one-line haiku stand apart from a three-line haiku.
In July 2015, Jacob Salzer, the Managing Editor of Yanty’s Butterfly posted in the Nook haiku group:
“I find that haiku reminds us to use caution with our words, and also helps us realize the value of a single word. In terms of "economy of language", one-line haiku makes full use of very few words, even more so than three-line haiku. The depth, and layers of a single word often really comes alive in one-line haiku, as it's presented in a refined format, making familiar words both fresh and insightful.
Three-line haiku often allows us to pause between 1 or 2 lines. With one-line haiku, that pause can be created through an extra space, though it’s not always necessary. I appreciate how one-line haiku can often be read differently, despite its condensed form. Double-meaning, and double-interpretation is a frequent discovery.
A high-quality one-line haiku is like a focused laser beam that can pierce through dense layers of thoughts. This is where I find its value. While three-line haiku has this ability to quiet the mind, even for a moment, I find one-line to be even more effective in allowing the reader to embrace the gap between thoughts. Our day-to-day duties comes to a standstill, just for a moment. Welcome to the world of one-line haiku.”
Jacob came up with this highly memorable one-line haiku:
mountain without a name child gazing
The poem went through a process of discussion, and revision in the Nook group; the friendly, yet insightful dynamics of a group that can fully trust each other brought us this stunning final version. I cannot begin to tell you how many different interpretations I get from this six-word line of poetry, with its gaps and spaces in between, and its white echoes where black ink text riffs, and expands because of the invisible text lying in-between, as well as underneath the spaces around the visible text.
We at first glance might see that there are two sections:
1. mountain without a name
2. child gazing
2. without a name child gazing
And of course, a mountain has no name; it is, and needs no human appendage of an identity, and the same goes for a very young child. They are simply there, and need no names for each other.
Of course a three-line version could work with ‘without a name’ acting as a hinge/pivot line:
2. without a name
3. child gazing
without a name
without a name
But something is lost, as if the spelling out for the reader reduces the tension, resonance, and multiple types of ways of reading this. It would still make for a fine haiku, but shifting it up a notch by making it a single line of poetry, it allows us to travel that single line, creating veloquality that the three-line haiku doesn’t have in so much abundance.
Edwin Lomere was the main collaborator in the critique, as was I, but hats off to Edwin, and Jacob himself, where Jacob was pushed to produce this tight piece of literature.
As with many of the Nook participants, it was incredibly difficult to select just one example of only one line haiku from them. Many more appear both in the anthology.
full moon night the side we don`t show
Eva brings in the moon, a potent symbol across literature, and none so much as in haiku, and its earlier literary partners: the hokku, and renga/renku.
Here, Eva brings in psychological depth, with the fact that we are individuals, and a society, (or a part or section of society), and so we have other sides to our nature we might not choose to show in the daylight hours.
The use of ‘night’ is important even though we think of the moon as a nighttime presence. Is it a full moon, and night is the side we don’t show?
night, the side we don`t show
The night is the side we don`t show
And breaking up the one line haiku so you can see this possible interpretation, and also highlight that gap where no text rests, at least in visible ink:
full moon night the side we don`t show
Or is it just one of those spine-tingling full moon nights, where the moon dominates the night sky, over the stars, amidst the scurrying of smaller lifeforms?
Two words that power this haiku are ‘night' and ‘don’t’, both expertly inserted. Haiku requires a skill to make sure a word pulls more than the weight of its surface meaning, and more than the letters it contains.
river bank I fill out an unknown space
Malintha brings us other depths, where we are along a river bank, perhaps quite literally, and I’m reminded of Alice in Wonderland before she went down the rabbit hole. The purely concrete image of a river bank is brought up a number of notches when it is combined with the abstractness of “I fill out an unknown space.”
The juxtaposition of both sections of this haiku expand into our minds, and that’s the skill of placing two fragments of text together that generate more energy than on their own or just placed with a very simple companion fragment…
under a cloud
And as a one line version:
river bank three cows under a cloud
My examples above are deliberately flat and a statement to emphasize skill in choosing the right words in the right positions, and nothing else. My fun verse, more doggerel than poem, makes for a lovely pastoral scene, but they do not generate tension, or spark the thoughts of the reader.
Poets are generators with their poems, and avoid just producing a nice image that makes us coo with an aaah, as we rarely go back time and time again, and receive something new and insightful each time.
a grasshopper on concrete chalk drawings
The grasshopper is another symbolic image from country/farm childhoods, early school perhaps, and the story of Pinoccio, although that was a cricket, very different species. Here, Michelle adds concrete quite literally! Is it just a grasshopper on a concrete chalk drawing, a sidewalk hopscotch? Would an insect be there if children are jumping up, and down, and along, and across a game drawn on a sidewalk? And why concrete, and not just sidewalk? Are the chalk drawings on the sidewalk, and the grasshopper has come into this highly urban concrete jungle of a town or district of a city?
Is nature creeping back in, despite our efforts to concretise everything along with glass, and steel? The use of subtle alliteration with concrete, and chalk also shifts this into a deeper resonance using musicality to add to the tension of the piece, like a certain well-judged musical score to a scene in a movie.
This reminds me that haiku techniques have been used in film making with Russian/Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein, and Japanese films like Ozu Yasujirō’s work, and Tokyo, were quickly copied by Hollywood, and other Western movie-makers, and here we have a camera pan technique which culminates in a zoom, and a cutaway, from the grasshopper to concrete structures to the drawings on a sidewalk along a certain street.
Dave Read says of one line haiku:
I tend to use a one liner instead of three when:
1. I want to increase the pace of the poem, blur the images together;
2. In cases where the juxtaposition is less pronounced; or
3. If there is more than one possible place at which the pause between images can be interpreted.
In the age of computers and how we use them for leisure almost around the clock, an iconic image that has become stronger, and stronger, and integral in many people’s communications to each other, is the emoticon, that started with a smiley as a yellow face image, became distilled as :-) and further as :) and then multiplied into thousands of variations.
capturing her emoticon man
Here we have a present participle starting the haiku, and is this a romantic notion of a woman capturing the man of her dreams in real life, or a man capturing a woman of his dreams amidst the crazy fast pace of society? Or is it just a Facebook or Twitter or other social media technique of using an emoticon by one person that appeals to another person, and it goes no further than the second person utilising the emoticon for their other social media messages?
Is man short for mankind in general or a man in particular, or is about a woman whether in a romantic light or a more sinister way? Or is it a modern way of saying a particular man has stolen her heart in a 21st century technological way? Dave’s haiku is just four words, and yet, I can take so many different viewpoints from this, and, (like so many of these haiku), I could write a story, from a short fiction piece to a novel, to a screenplay for the next leading romantic movie couple.
piercing light sparrows in pairs
With this haiku, we go back into nature, and with sparrows flying in pairs. What is the piercing light? Perhaps the headlights on full beam from a car containing a tired human worker after a long and busy day. Sometimes, as the Beatles pop group of the 1960s sang, it feels like an Eight Day Week.
I hope the traveler arrives home safely, unless it is not car lights. Is it a powerful torch, and someone has to get up in the night for some reason, and sees what caused a sound breaking into her or his sleep?
Is the piercing light those Crepuscular rays known as sunbeams, Angel lights, Sun rays or God rays? That brings me to think about Saint Francis of Assisi and his love for birds.
The name Crepuscular [Latin word “crepusculum" means twilight] because they are often witnessed during the twilight hours (dawn and dusk), those in-between hours not yet day not yet night. Haiku can act as mystery stories where the ending is not revealed.
As I mention sleep more than once and not just with the preceding haiku, here’s another one that expands into the mind with…
the world closes into sleep on me
Haiku are not nature poems that just capture the natural history of the birds, trees, and insects. We forget the whole world is nature, including the human denizens, and their towns, and cities. A world of cities has sprung up since the advance of the Industrial Revolution from the U.K. to the States; Europe; Asia; Indian sub-continent; and Australasia, and so many other places. Setting aside the time zones, the feeling that the world of humans goes to sleep the same time as the author is a fantastic notion. This is quite simply a beautiful, magical and mystical piece; a scene larger than could be caught in a grain of sand or a snow globe.
twilight forest a barcode
Francis sublimely captures a thousand, or ten thousand, years into a haiku, starting from the first primordial forests, to the dark, mythological super forests that began to be broken down for human dwellers, and still do such as the Amazon. Also contained are the woodlands of folklore, mystery, and sometimes terror, in the imagination of those who read HC Andersen’s stories, or the folktales collected by the Grimm women, and their husbands. Ah, so you thought it was just the Grimm men who captured the dark wonderful scape of closely knitted forests weaving in and out? No, the women brought them to the men, and that collaboration brought stories that might have otherwise been eventually lost in time.
Now, those tamed forests become products for furniture, and of course, books, each with a barcode to buy in a shop or online. But, the forest is still there, in our minds, and in our insecurities as a human race, as we set out to conquer the world (well perhaps again, in our mind). Four words, and yet again I could write a Grimm or HC Andersen style story, or a modern mystery (be it Science Fiction or Fantasy), or a 21st century folklore meeting primordial trees through the leaves, and branches of time.
|photo©Alan Summers, Iceland 2019|
belugas atop the snowbank two blue boxes
The connections work wonderfully well with caviar in blue tins on a bank of ice in a shop counter, and whales being stranded on sand banks, but this time on a shop display, and not stranded on on a beach/sandbank but the shop's own version, that of a snowbank, and of ice, and a reminder that this is potential wonder of the children of beluga whales literally put on ice, never to be born, but eaten as an exclusive starter dish at a dinner party, perhaps.
Blue boxes also makes me think of coffins, this time especially designed for whales, and why I’m surprised we have not made extinct. But of course the beluga is harvested, its young harvested, just as adults harvest human young in business from music to clothing to darker pursuits. My connections might not be what you, the reader or the original author intended of course, but once the poem is out there, a reader makes their own home around it.
For more of Marianne Paul's incredible one-line haiku:
crows until the world is silhouettes
“This haiku is written in one line. A sentence fragment, it doesn't read quite as smoothly as would a complete sentence, yet it has a pleasing musicality. The first word, not being paired with a verb as in a sentence, creates a soft pause in our perception of the poem. The rest of the verse flows, but it flows slowly, matching twilight's progression. The sound of "world" is stretched. "Silhouette" is a borrowed word from French, and is deceptive when read or spoken. If it were not set in the plural, the double "t" with "e" would be pronounced with a clipped sound, a defined stop in French. However, when it is spoken in English, the plural "s" softens the "tt" sound.”
Paul MacNeil, The Heron’s Nest
keeping him up the moon in the man
Joseph told me that this was about the troubled times in his country mostly from outside forces, and tensions in the Middle East in general. For those of us in other parts of the world, we can be isolated from the terrible minute by minute experiences of what mass violence brings in all its shapes, and sizes.
Do we get this from the poem? Probably not, but it drove Joseph to write this wonderful one-line haiku. I know of the myth in some countries, and cultures that there is a man in the moon, and I wonder what this mythical being must see, watching planet Earth, or as I see it, the Water Planet. The moon effects our tides, and often our hearts and mind. The section ‘the moon in the man’ is fresh and thought-provoking. Enjoy the tripping up of the tongue in the verse, and how you might get different readings.
hospice window box full of wildflowers
We might think of a hospice as just a place to die, but surprisingly those near death can be more full of life than those who feel their have an extended guarantee. Just as much as flowers have a brief moment to bloom and blossom, so do humans, and thankfully both can take something from life, even when it's short-lived.
The monoku starts powerfully already with its very first word, and then the second one makes me think someone is looking out, perhaps sadly. But the monoku keeps on giving word by word. We now have a window box, is it empty, full of dust and cobwebs? The next word says full, so I am already guessing it's not those two thoughts - yes, even a monoku is worth reading s-l-o-w-l-y in order to savour the meaning or meanings gradually. The penultimate word is 'of' and I still continue to be surprised it's not just flowers, but wild ones. Did the patient somehow collect them, or a relative, or a member of staff? What a glorious gift by whomever made such an effort, when it could have all so easily been shop-bought seeds or potted plants just 'plonked' into the window box.
The power of the poetic line shines through the monoku:
hospice window box full of wildflowers
And would be somewhat diluted through line breaks:
window box full
lone tricycle blue in the whirlwind of leaves
Who is blue, feeling melancholy? Is it the tricycle, or a person or a couple coming across an abandoned child’s bike? Is there a whirlwind of leaves or a whirlwind of emotions, perhaps felt by one person now also feeling abandoned? Or a couple whose child has grown up and left the family home. There is so much that can be read into this poem and it will thrive under our imagination.
Before I conclude I wanted to add two British practitioners, starting with Kate B Hall, President of the British Haiku Society (BHS), whom I’ve recently reviewed:
almost forgotten in a drawer - a photo of sea mist
Kate B Hall
The furniture drawer is a great resevoir of forgotten and almost forgotten memorabilia. Kate weaves concrete imagery in something that lies betwixt reality and super-reality. Is it a straight photo or postcard or the actual sea mist contained in that drawer? I am also instantly transported to a Narnia type land of magic where instead of a wardrobe we enter a voluminous chest of drawers.
To frances angela, one of our very finest British and international haiku poets, and incisive exponent of the one line haiku either as standalone verse or part of a haibun.
landmarks the lighthouse without us
This is from the September issue of Blithe Spirit (BHS journal) and comes from the haibun date. There is often a sharp yet also subtle and resonating poignancy with this haiku, as our familiar landmarks of youth become obsolete. Can a man-made object lose its way without us? Yes, I believe so. This is not just a poem about a lighthouse or lighthouses in general, that used to be manned by humans, and entered our childhood imaginations. This is the potential loss of all that is good about childhood, and how adults often discard important landmarks of not just their history, but our youth.
childhood street still avoiding the cracks
This is also from the same Blithe Spirit issue but as a standalone haiku. Who doesn’t remember their first childhood home and immediate street? It’s often where we learn and survive some of our first steep learning curves, and life’s lessons, good or bad, or in-between. Haiku is so often about the in-betweeness of things and none moreso than sidewalk/pavement cracks where it was best to avoid the places where paving slabs meet.
green meadow the mother chases bare feet baby
Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
This monoku has a delightful movement throughout, and in its many parts. It's stunningly brilliant, and it shouldn't work, as you could say 'why not' this phrasing instead:
a bare foot baby
bare feet babies
But tuck into those words and phrasing, get in between them, and have fun understanding why it gloriously works.
bluebell woods you left too early
This struck me in many ways. Is it a simple walk through the woods at the magnificent time of bluebells? Is this a couple where one of them is not as enamoured of wildlife as the other partner? Is it about loss, perhaps the further loss of childhood when we lose not just one parent but both parents?
The more I read the poem the more layers, from a partner who might have left to get something practical, but missed a particular sighting, a moment that will have to be let go. Or something about letting go of childhood, and do we really have to let go of everything?
a church steeple harpoons the moon forced childbirth
Second Place, Fourth Annual Senryu Contest, Sonic Boom
This senryu delays its effect by using three very innocent opening words in its one-line delivery. We still don’t know what the senryu will be, and it feels almost haiku in content at this early stage of reading it. There then follows a very intriguing and unexpected verb, reminding me of whales being killed, and of course a very famous novel. The verb is followed by the action of spearing the moon, but it’s the two devastating words that conclude the senryu that brings everything together, into a complex and controversial issue.
The poem itself and its visceral combination of imagery, is of a woman invaded by a foreign agency (single object, group of people, organisation, etc). It uses strong concrete imagery. It’s a very uncomfortable senryu due to the unease that the different types of concrete images combine into a deeply disturbing metaphorical language that is equally physically discomforting. Secondly, we don’t expect forced birth, forced sex (rape) maybe, but then rape comes in many ways, from within marriages, or by a family friend or relative, and/or by political or confused religious understanding. The senryu is revealing in that the act of birth has been denied any chance of a celebration from the pregnant woman due to another type of violence or clearly made threats, and so contradiction is laid over contradiction, and dogma reigns over basic and obvious human rights, and when we stay silent.
Does senryu have to be funny? Just as haiku came out of hokku verses – by Basho, Chiyo-ni, Issa and Buson, – and changed forever the earlier formats, so does senryu, although it keeps the name of its various origins from the Floating World (Japan) and the poet Senryū Karai (1765-1838). If senryu should successfully lay bare the smoke and mirrors of society, and its illusion that all is well, and correct, righteous, and morally superior, then this is senryu. Where haiku is rarely a ‘message,’ senryu can sidestep all of the conventions of its haikai brother, or use them to its own ends.
This senryu kept demanding to be heard, and to be placed within the winning section. I did not choose this senryu, it choose me, and again it makes me face myself, in all honesty, and my role in the world as a human, and as a male human.
scorched earth not a blade in sight
This could be read in so many ways, which can be a strength in haiku as it becomes more inclusive, allowing different readers to have their own valid thoughts about a poem.
Is this about our entire planet (Earth) which is experiencing extreme weather conditions, or about one specific area, one plot of land?
Having lived in Australia, in Queensland, this verse could be about back burning by agricultural practice to rejuvenate the land, or a fire protective measure: Or carelessness or arson.
But with 'not a blade in sight' is this about farming equipment, or as the author lives in Britain, is about the time when the island was at constant war with itself, or with invading countries? During the Medieval Ages, off and on for decades, there seemed to be constant warfare, and when not tearing up the land in battle or slaughter, with sword, spear, arrow, other bladed weapons, there was a scorched earth policy, a trick learnt from the Romans, and those before them.
Scorched earth practice:
I didn't know of the author's intent, although she has affirmed this was her reasons for writing this verse, only that for me there is a chilling pun that there are no blades of grass, and also no blade type weapons, as the destruction to land and people has been fully accomplished.
While Matsuo Bashō, in his hokku poem, was noting a famous battle site, saddened by a great warrior's death, it's been often adopted in modern times as a "haiku," and showing the pointlessness of war and its sometimes temporary mark on the planet. So perhaps this haiku poem by Helen Buckingham also does the same too, but without celebrating war itself?
Matsuo Bashō's hokku (haikai verse):
Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)
from his haibun, Oku-no-Hosomichi, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (1689 to 1691)
web links for versions into English:
magpie nest the blackthorn winter passes over
I love the term ‘blackthorn winter’ and how the natural history of the author’s area is described. Our UK winters can feel too long, and like many Northern Hemisphere countries, if we are lucky, there is the Spring season to bring colour and a little warmth. The haiku successfully combines two strong April seasonal references:
A Blackthorn Winter, in rural England, is a spell of cold weather in early April which often coincides with the blossoming of the blackthorn in hedgerows. The pure white of the blackthorn blossom, which appears before the leaves, matches the snow or hoar frost covering the fields nearby. WIKIPEDIA
Magpies usually breed from two years old, although some may breed at one year. They build large, domed nests in thorny bushes or high up in tall trees. The female lays on average six greenish-blue eggs, heavily spotted with brown, in April, and incubates them for 18 to 19 days. Magpie Life Cycle - The RSPB
sunshine after rain the forest stretches
The simple opening words, which start the resonance of this poem, move into a second wonderful ‘phrase’ of ‘the forest stretches’.
The forest continues to hold a part of our imagination from fairytales to lore of the land doesn’t it? But in fact this is also from direct observation of natural history in the author’s homeland.
I’ve also written about the forest many times, including these two, starting with my very own pink moon haiku!
phlox moon the different shades of its forest
Note: phlox moon/pink moon=April/Spring
Publication: Australian Haiku Society’s Spring Equinox Haiku String 2019
a dreaming forest busy as Hitchcock
Publication: weird laburnum ed. Michael O’Brien (May 2019)
What I love about Clive Bennett’s monoku is how the feeling of the forest stretching highlights that the forest is like a living being made up of smaller beings whether flora or fauna. The choice of ‘stretching’ resonates long after I’ve read the one line haiku!
See more of Clive Bennett’s monoku:
guest 'featurette' --- Anna Maris!
Three one-line haiku with commentary from myself, and Anna Maris, the author of 'days blur':
drifting clouds the kitchen spider branches out
Anna Maris says:
“This poem could be about the world being in lock-down for humans, but how nature carries on very happily without us. By describing the drifting clouds outside, we are still very clearly confined to the kitchen. So it is of course also about boredom, the ability to simply sit there and watch the spider weaving its web, accepting the way things are or perhaps also inability to care about mundane things like housework.”
I like how we begin with one natural image of clouds drifting by. We can feel the narrator is indoors, inside the kitchen, which is perfectly normal: We like kitchens with a window to the outside world while we drink coffee or prepare a meal. The subtle fact that a spider is branching out does suggest either neglect or confinement or both. I must admit, learning from my Queensland experiences, that it’s handy to have a spider or two create webs to keep the insects down! Pairing ‘drifting clouds’ with ‘the kitchen spider branches out’ is masterful in its juxtaposition of two imageries.
re-learning to knit eyes closed light rain
Anna Maris says:
"Here we have a story about body-memory. How tacit knowledge can be long forgotten by the mind, but still stay in our hands or our senses. It is a poem about re-birth of skills, coming back to simple things in life, taking time to craft, grow and learn instead of running around, over-consuming and forgetting the real value of what is around us. Rain is the sort of undemanding weather, which somehow creates space to do those things that there are usually no time for, but it can also be about transformation, cleansing and renewal."
The visual rhythm as well as on the tongue when reading out aloud is wonderful and shows a wonderful juxtaposition between the nature image of ‘light rain’ and “re-learning to knit’ even with our eyes closed.
days blur into one another self isolation
Anna Maris says:
"It is hard to explain your own poetry, but when I write something that I am genuinely pleased with (which sadly happens quite seldom), it is as if the creative force is not my own, but an entity of its own that touches me. This poem was a simple observation about the loss of a sense of time, where days blur into one another, but also became a poem about finding another self in isolation, an alter ego, more insightful and better than my usual self. This is the main attraction with one line poetry – the so many ways it can be read."
I certainly feel dissatisfied with many of my own poems, even if they win awards! I think it’s a common factor amongst poets and other artists, to ever strive ‘forward’ regardless. Confinement is sometimes an excellent tool for a writer, and the unease around the current pandemic, will certainly re-evaluate writers. I like how I can read this various ways:
days blur // into one another self isolation
days blur into one // another self isolation
days blur into one another // self isolation
Writers already write from the inside, ‘their’ inside, their internal thoughts & mechanisms, and internment/confinement/isolation. This has famously been the case down the centuries, creating some stunningly personally wide-open writing. I hope this kind of writing continues to support people in the current pandemic social isolation, as it will with whatever is the next wave of social disruption.
All three one line haiku are working on an invisible thread that weaves its magic over many re-readings.
To see more of Anna’s work from this free ePamphlet collection:
days blur by Anna Maris
Chair of the literary section of the Swedish Author’s Union, and a board member of the Swedish Haiku Society. Anna is also the founding editor of the haiku journal Blåeld. She has two earlier haiku books, published in Swedish.
whale eye photo©Alan Summers
guest 'featurette': Susan King
daffodils tight-lipped not yet ready to sing
I said about this piece:
I love how I can see my own versions from the original.
daffodils // tight-lipped not yet ready to sing
But it's done so that it would not work as a duostich (pronounced 'duo' ‘stick')
tight-lipped not yet ready to sing
or as a tercet:
tight-lipped not yet ready
or as suggested, putting the flowers at the end:
tight-lipped not yet ready to sing daffodils
This wouldn’t work in my opinion.
Although this could work:
tight-lipped not yet ready to sing
But the author (Susan King) has created the optimum placement of word order with:
daffodils tight-lipped not yet ready to sing
It's the perfect storm of a one line haiku!
Why? It plays with the reader, and it's utterly re-readable!!!
Susan King, the author says:
"Alan Summers, many thanks for this masterly critique. I have been experimenting with the word order and am pleased that you concur with the final choice! I would be honoured to have this poem featured in Area 17”
decluttering until my one-eared lamb
Awarded: The Museum of Haiku Literature Award
Blithe Spirit vol 31 no. 1 (February 2021)
Every word counts in a haiku and even more so in a one line haiku. See how each word travels like a train bringing us to the final destination. But every ‘stop’ or ‘station’ of a word is vital as part of that journey.
Here are three more wonderful one line haikai verses from Susan King!
no stars tonight the neon glow
Haiku need not have a big bang conclusion, but permeate with atmosphere and a different kind of resonance.
early morning meandering snail trails
This has a wonderful alliteration in its second and third words, and I love how I can personally [also] read this as:
early morning [meandering snail] trails
It's as if I'm going out on my very early trail, myself, and keeping me company are both late night and even earlier morning journey where I journey a special silver trail equally as valid as the "Yellow Brick road"!
Bach briefly an upper case God
This is a startling and evocative haikai verse. This reader [me] can certainly run with multiple interpretations. It’s sublime!
Bach’s Holy Dread:
The composer has long been seen as a symbol of divine order. But his music has an unruly obsession with God.
The New Yorker (January 2, 2017 Issue)
Blithe Spirit http://britishhaikusociety.org.uk/journal/
Prune Juice https://prunejuice.wordpress.com/about/
Guest spot 'featurette' on fabulous one-line haiku writer: Hemapriya Chellappan
deepening autumn a caged bird's song
Modern Haiku, issue 51.2 Summer 2020
The beauty of haiku is that it can be interpreted on so many levels. Funny you should ask me. I always had this innate talent for art but I only properly learnt to paint or write after I got married and stayed alone in a strange city away from home. My relatives thought I know nothing or rather I was good for nothing.
My first publication on a haiku journal took them by surprise. They didn't understand why I was alone in my room all those years locked away from the world outside. They didn't understand why I was buried in books and encyclopaedias. They didn't understand why I was shy. They didn't understand "my song".
I was always clouded with self-doubts and regrets of not having done anything to hone my skills. Then it rained on me. One day. Words, they freed myself from me.
Pure haiku seasoning in those first two words!
The poignancy of a caged bird, which even if we didn’t have Hema’s thoughts, we might guess was about her.
moon forest the murmur of a brook
The Poetry Pea Journal of haiku and senryu (summer edition 2020)
In folktales and fantasy, an enchanted forest is a place of magic and danger. It's a home to witches, monsters and fairies. Sad, but in reality such a place like that doesn't exist. If you want it to be woods can be spellbinding. Imagine the moonlight piercing through a dense canopy of gnarly forest and make it look it's straight out of Lord of The Rings. Legend has it that trees can find admired ways for winds to make itself heard. Just don't expect the trees to talk.
*the trees nod in agreement*
A fantastic opening two words!
Bringing sound into a haiku is always a good technique. This is sublime, the murmur of a brook by moonlight.
wherever my legs take me kitchen sink
Under the Basho (19 March 2020)
Ufff, those of you who know me know that I hate doing dishes. Maybe hate is a strong word. I despise doing dishes. If you finally get done with the mountain of dishes in the sink, THERE IS ANOTHER. If someone will give me a dollar everytime I do dishes. I'd rather NOT.
Ah yes, I tend to be somewhat bound to the kitchen sink too. I have been washing dishes since the age of six years old!
All these one-line haiku show various successful techniques. Fantastic work!
Also catch Hemapriya Chellappan in her own "The Area 17 Profile Poet Series'!
All of the one line verses are good examples to leave on while we ponder why a single line of poetry as a standalone poem should exist, and so successfully.
So how does a one-line haiku in English work, where the wider recognised three-line haiku is often both common and more popular? I think we have started to find our answer, and it’s the power of the line in poetry with a haiku tweak.
Despite its brevity in any form: from one-line, or two-line to three-line, or even four-line formats, there is a certain musicality, rhythm, and speed to haiku, even if it’s feels like an anti-musicality production of words. Words sing, and poets hope to catch a song from them.
One more guest poet’s word on one line haiku, and this is from the Managing Editor of the anthology Yanty’s Butterfly:
snow on the sun navigating childhoods
An excellent monoku: “snow on the sun” is unique as I don’t think people would normally think of it that way, and “navigating childhoods” leaves plenty of room for the reader to participate. There is a balance of concrete and abstract in this one-line haiku.
Jacob Salzer, Managing Editor, September 24, 2016
I feel it’s impossible to pin down why a one-line haiku works where a three-line version might better serve instead. Perhaps it’s up to the reader as the end game, as the final arbiter.
And remember, if you are a haiku writer, or are inspired to become one after reading this article, it’s good to provide a variety of work in your haiku.
If you ever consider a collection of your own, I hope you will include a few haiku as one line.
Travelling the single line of haiku
©Alan Summers 2014-2021
Our one line haiku courses tend to sell out quickly, but we also do one-to-one sessions.
The tutor/mentor is award-winning and widely published monoku writer, Alan Summers.