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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

day of the funeral I wake to a mourning dove

w. f. owen


david giacalone said...

Hello, Dr. Bill. I wish you had told me about your weblog, so I could have been enjoying it and spreading the word over at f/k/a. Thanks for your daily offerings.

Have you explained your use of one-liners here or elsewhere? I'd like to see your thoughts on the topic.

w. f. owen said...

Hi David,

Thank you for your interest in my blog. And yes, please do feel free to put a link to it if you desire. I appreciate it.

I did offer a view on one versus three-line haiku in a post under February 2008. I've always been a minimalist, but I have gravitated to ever smaller, "crisper" and I hope simpler expressions. I've been very much influenced by Hosai Ozaki's book "Right under the big sky, I don't wear a hat" (see my post in April "the simple life"). Increasingly, I see the three-line form as an artificial construct. What it does do, however, is to function as punctuation for the reader--places to pause, breaks in rhythm--and sometimes that is needed to avoid confusion. I think my stance is that the reader has responsibility, too. By that I mean she or he must bring a sensibility to extract meaning or maybe complete a thought only begun by the writer.

Anyway, I think I'm rambling here. Thanks again for your interest in my blog.


david giacalone said...

Hello, again, Bill. I will definitely do a write-up soon at f/k/a about your site and books. First, I'll spend a little time exploring prior posts.

I'm going to give some more thought to your one-liners concept. I have never given one-liners any thought on a theoretical level, but will ramble a little here, in the spirit of having a classroom discussion with a favorite teacher. (As is my wont, it will be from a typical devil's advocate and old-fogey perspective.) My experience lately at some publications is that most one-liners seem to be simply calling attention to the "creativity" or "free spirit" of the poet, without having any good reason for the change in structure.

My first reaction to the explanation you've given above is to wonder if you're trying to make haiku a puzzle or grammar game. I wouldn't seek out punctuation-less prose, so I'm not sure if asking me as a reader of haiku to guess your intended punctuation enhances my experience.

Every good haiku asks the reader to complete a thought. Requiring the reader to first break your encryption is an added burden that seem to make it more like a language game or exercise than a poetic experience.

For me, the three-liner convention becomes so conventional-- so natural -- that it does not seem like an artificial obstacle (sort of like the convention of staying within the lines on a sheet of lined paper, or writing from left to right). It's the one-liner -- if not called for because of the unique requirements of a particular poem -- that becomes the artificial obstacle to having a shared experience with the poet -- calling attention to itself because it is breaking convention but very often offering no good reason for the change in shape.

Clearly, I need to give this more thought and to listen to your reply.

w. f. owen said...

Hi David,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. You make some good points. I assure you, however, my intent in writing one-line haiku is not to create barriers for readers. And, I certainly do not intend a game. Maybe my explanation gave that impression, but it's not my intent. You have noticed the major journals have been putting forward a change in haiku writing from current practices (i.e., do something different). Perhaps I am caught up in that "movement" (without even knowing it). I should point out that haiku in Japan originally were written in one line. It was the English-language versions that began the three-line form. At any rate, I am sure you agree that the words, per se, supersede the form; the meaning embedded in the words is key, not the form. I don't know who said it, but "art will not be contained" (or something like that).

So, I'm not particularly arguing for some wholesale change in haiku writing. I'm just following my instinct. You know, I'm not even sure it's one versus three lines. It could be since most haiku have two juxtaposed "parts," two lines is the way to go.

By the way, have you noticed Lee Gurga's most recent haiku? See Modern Haiku Winter-Spring 2008, pp. 56-57. Those haiku are 6-10 lines! Whoa!

Take care,

david giacalone said...

Hello, again, Bill. I am enjoying and learning from our conversation.
And, being an obsessive linker after 5 years weblogging, I want to point your readers to your two earlier discussions at this weblog of haiku form: "the form(s) of English-language haiku" (Jan. 21, 2008); and "one line haiku or three?" (Feb. 15, 2008).

As you know from my email a couple days ago, I had hoped that we'd be joined by a few other haiku poets in discussing haiku one-liners, but so far it looks like I have to play devil's advocate and community gadfly all by myself. So, let me toss out a few more one-or-more liners of my own:

1) I'm guessing that your mention of classic Japanese haiku being written in one line was a ploy you might use in class to see if your students are paying attention. Although Japanese haiku were indeed written in one vertical line, the poem segments had very clear demarcations, thanks to the built-in punctuation and "cutting-words" that are inherent in the Japanese language.

2) The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that having a format convention can be the best way for format to become a non-issue, a transparent element that does not come between poet and reader (or poet and poet's meaning). To the jaundiced (or perhaps merely myopic) eye, violating or bending the convention might then look more like an attention-grabber or a plea to be thought of as innovative, modern, creative, unique, rebellious, etc. -- with about the same effect as everyone showing up with a nose ring, goth look, or tattoo at the same time.

3) I'm trying to imagine just which readers need to have all the words on one line to better "get" or feel the intended effect or theme of flatness, or horizontality, or an extended time-line, etc., that might be signaled by using a one-liner to emphasize the meaning of a particular haiku. And, last for now,

4) One fear that I have about using one-liners is that it makes haiku seem, look like, feel even less like "real poetry." [Instead, an obnoxious wag might say, it looks like a bumper sticker, a snatch of graffiti, or the inside of a greetings card.] The promiscuous proliferation of one-liners then becomes one more obstacle to the public learning what the essence of haiku is -- as they are very likely to ask "how is this haiku?" I'm pleased, therefore, that Roberta Beary's book "The Unworn Necklace," is not filled with formatting experiments, since it is helping to bring haiku to a larger audience of poetry lovers after being honored by the Poetry Society of America last month.

david giacalone said...

Bill, I apparently mistyped the link to "one line haiku or three?" My apologies. The actual link is:


If you corrected the hyper link in my last Comment, you'd probably help your readers. Then, you can delete this Comment. thanks

w. f. owen said...

Hi David,

Thanks again for your thoughtful and thorough opinions about my blog. I am not sure where to begin. I need you to understand that I am merely presenting my poems. I am not arguing a position. If you read an implied "should" here, I assure you I am not advocating any position. This stance is, in part, why I have thought about, but have not followed through, writing opinion pieces for one of the journals. It's also why I have turned down some editor positions. On a personal level, my "day job" as a professor for some 27 years has given me enough professing. I write to express and enrich myself and any who find joy in what I write.

So, I'll not propose any arguments. (Of course you know making an argument differs from arguing). I'll just respond to a few things you wrote.

Many of my one-liners do have natural breaks that function similar to line breaks or punctuation. Some flow through as a singular thought.

I have no piercings, tattoes or unusual appearance features. I do have hair that is pretty long for a male. I suppose we all like attention, but I'm not changing anything about my writing for the sole purpose of gaining attention. Since haiku writing, at least for me, is voluntary. It is an area of my life in which I can do what I want. I write for me because it connects me to nature and people. And, I write for the same reason I like teaching. If I can make someone smile or inwardly say "Yeah, I identify with that," that gives me joy. If I'm seen as rebellious or attention-seeking, I cannot control that, nor would I want to.

So, I'm overjoyed that you have put an investment of thinking into this one-line idea. It means, at least, I have stimulated a discussion.

Thanks again,

david giacalone said...

Thanks for your generous response to my plodding and prodding over one-liners. I hope you know that my over-the-top reactions to one-liners are not meant to be personal to your use of them here. You do not, for instance, appear to have sacrificed haiku quality while changing the shape of your poems.

My main concern is seeing so much of the use of one-liners in some publications (and hearing that others want to join the bandwagon), in what seems much more like a trendy splurge than a natural evolution or thoughtful improvement in the genre. Lately there seems to be so much change for the sake of change in the haiku community that I find myself scratching my head and wondering why editors (and some of the most respected haijin) aren't insisting on quality haiku above all else, rather than bending over backwards to appear cutting-edge or modern.

Thanks for letting me express myself and encouraging dialogue.

w. f. owen said...

Hi David,

Oh it's my pleasure. I think some fruit was harvested through our discussion. Though not many have left comments on my blog, I have to think people visit and read. It's a worthwhile endeavor.

Some of the haijin who employ one-line haiku are among our most seasoned poets. I'm sure I'll leave some out in any list, but Jim Kacian, Marlene Mountain, John Stevenson, John Martone, Chris Metz, Chris Gordon and several others write well in this form. And, I again mention Lee Gurga, who has one of the best manuals out, has departed greatly from the three-line format (see Modern Haiku, Winter-Spring 2008, pp. 56-57). So, something is afoot!

But, I share your concern about stretching the form this way. I maintain, though, that format variation pushes out, then back like a rubber band. As you mention, my one-liners, mostly, still remain of acceptable quality (I thank you for saying that). This, of course, does not mean everyone will resonate with every poem. They are not all equally well-written, relevant or ... good. Such is writing. We do our best.

Thanks again and have a glorious day!