Starting the Line
In the summer of 2021, when we decided to start a journal devoted to one-line poems, it stemmed largely from our perceived need to provide a consistent home for quality one-line haiku. There seemed to be a wide gap between published haiku that were merely tercets written on one line and single-line poems that were so overly complicated that they alienated many readers who deemed them, and all one-line haiku, as inherently “experimental.” We desired a venue for reading varied collections of poems that utilized a single-line format as an integral part of their movement and meaning, from the eloquent to the richly complex. As we didn’t find what we were looking for ourselves, we created it.
We chose to leave the name open, referring to it as a journal of “single-line poems” in order to include the general poetry community and a wider audience in the conversation. We particularly hoped to attract one-line tanka and micropoem crossovers that had haiku sensibilities. We also sought to explore one-line poems in other formats including one-line haiga, shahai, one-line sequences, and one-line concrete poems.
When we opened for submissions, we couldn’t predict what would cross the transom for the first issue of a journal devoted to the single line. We were absolutely delighted as, day after day, submissions poured in, reaching a total of 905 high-quality poems in only 3 weeks! Additionally, the poems we received were from an extensive range of poets, from those fairly new to the genre(s) to some of the most well-established, and from locations all over the world. This not only made our selection process more difficult but also validated our feelings about the insufficient publishing space for poems of this nature.
We continue to have encouraging feedback from contributors. Some have discussed the therapeutic aspect of writing short forms, single-line poems in particular, which offer additional thought-bending malleability. Some have commented that our journal feels like a safe space to try new ways to write one-line poems and to learn about tools and techniques used in them (visit our Lizard Lounge!). And we’ve even heard that whiptail feels like a place where one can express and explore poetic and personal truth—a place where one’s poems that may have felt like they didn’t fit elsewhere are understood and appreciated.
While haiku, tanka, and other micropoems on a single line are a bit different than their multi-linear counterparts, they arise from the same DNA and are equally beautiful: modest or soulful, whispering or loud, slow-blooming or deep-diving. What will we continue to learn, collectively, about one-line poems and how they differ from enjambed poems? How are they the same? We hope as we share poems through our journal and books, and as you read them, we will together gain a greater appreciation for the function and complexity of the poetic line.
We hope you’ll be surprised. Perhaps learn something new. We hope you’ll fall in love with a poem or a rhythm, and most of all, we hope you’ll be back to revisit our site on numerous occasions.
Kat Lehmann and Robin Smith