Meet Julie Schwerin
A very warm welcome from the whiptail Team. Tell us a little about yourself - your family, your hobbies, your dreams, or anything else you want the readers to know about you, apart from being a haiku poet.
After living 50+ years in Ohio, I married fellow haiku poet, Dan Schwerin, and moved to Wisconsin in 2020. After 8 months near Milwaukee, we were called to another move across the state. I have three children who are grown and a cat, Spooky, who is not. I enjoy gardening, hiking, kayaking, suminagashi, and exploring my new surroundings.
What is something that people don't know about your poetry or poetry practice, process, or inspiration that you'd like to share?
While I applaud those who have a disciplined writing practice, I'm afraid I am not one of those people. My mind is no longer wired that way. I gather images and “haiku halves” as they come—from books and hikes and daydreams—and place them in a document. Then when my poetry mind is ready to get to some dedicated writing, I pull out those notes and mull them over until something snags and I can't let it go - then I write.
What made you decide to try out haiku and/or tanka in one line versus their more popular enjambed formats? How does it feel different to you?
I've been writing haiku since 2009, not a horribly long time in the scheme of haiku poets. But what that time has taught me is how much I don't know and how much more there is to explore with this little form. I think my participation with the Haiku Waukesha group led by Dan Schwerin was where I really started experimenting with one-line haiku and more gendai techniques. There was a kindness and openness to that group that allowed for a boldness of creativity. Group members could find positive aspects in each others' poems that may not have even been intended. Those discussions expanded the possibilities for all of us and the freedom to try new things was exhilarating. The one-line format felt fresh and elicited aha moments in different ways.
Many poets still struggle with the dilemma of whether a particular poem will work better as a one-line poem than the enjambed form and vice-versa. What is the deciding factor in your practice?
I think there has to be a reason for a haiku to be placed in one line. It may be the way the words enjamb or the pacing that begs not to be interrupted or sometimes it is the need for a landscape presentation that represents a river or horizon or long journey. Or maybe it's too short for line breaks. A one-line poem should really be several poems in one, depending on how it is read and where the pauses are placed.
It would be a great help to our readers if you could walk us through your writing process from the conception to the eventual birth of a one-line poem. You are most welcome to take a one-line poem or two of yours to discuss how it came to be and/or process.
Do you have any tips for aspiring poets of one-line forms?
Most of my haiku start as three lines. Then I try to cut to the bare number of words and arrange those words in a variety of ways. I read them aloud, listening for rhythm and musicality. Sometimes just the rearrangement sparks other possibilities to explore. And sometimes they just beg to be condensed into one line. These are examples of some of my one-line poems that demonstrate the various reasons they end up as such.
if he stops the needles of an evergreen
two ends of a circle missing you
birdsong editing my dream diary
just before dawn the barn swallows the bats
TOO SHORT FOR A LINE BREAK
A WORD WITHIN THE POEM
in the air we’ve breathed for centuries complicit
each day rebuilding the skyline rising sun
glacial grooves slipping into the back pew
summer day the length of a dog’s tongue
between waxing and waning first contraction
ripples reach the edge of the pond grows smaller
and spring beginning with a conjunction
all my irons in the fire out
REPETITION OF WORDS FOR EMPHASIS
out of the blue blue again
still the same winter pond still
inside the frozen waterfall water falling
the silence not at home at home
My advice is to read other one-line poems and discuss them with a poetry group so you can hear what others glean from the poem and its construction. Take it apart, place the “line break” in different places, read it a number of different ways, hold it up to the light, and see what it looks like from all angles. And enjoy the journey!
Julie Schwerin (she/her), author of What Was Here (Folded Word Press), was the founder/facilitator of the Ohaio-ku Study Group and the Ohio Haiku Facebook Group and served five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America. She was one of seventeen poets featured in A New Resonance 9 (Red Moon Press) and has co-edited, along with Jim Kacian, Echoes 2, A New Resonance 11, and A New Resonance 12 (Red Moon Press). Schwerin was instrumental in establishing several haiku installations in the Midwest to feature the work of other poets and bring further awareness to haiku. Schwerin is an associate editor at The Heron's Nest and a member of the Red Moon Anthology Editorial team.