A very warm welcome from the whiptail team.
Thank you, it’s an honour and a pleasure to be invited.
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.
I live in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. I’m working in the finance sector and hope to retire in the not-too-distant future.
Right, something about me that is not commonly known. In a past life, I was a registered athlete in three different sports. Though not particularly athletic, I was tall enough and apparently had enough talent to be drafted into the school basketball team and, before long, a local club where I soon became one of the key players of my generation. Other sports I was competitively involved in were more exotic: nine-pin bowling (a mostly central European, more physical version of the widely popular 10-pin bowling) and sport boules. I’ve been more sedentary in recent years, though, with age and past exertions taking their toll.
Are you active on social media? How do you think social media affects the writing process?
I used to be active on Twitter and ran a blog before that, but could never take to Facebook. Nevertheless, I think it’s a good way to meet other poets, see what they’re up to, and also learn and try out new things. To be really engaged, however, does take a lot of time which (apart from some family issues) is largely the reason I abandoned it.
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 never set out to write a specific form so I can’t say there is a conscious decision on my part as to what I want the poem to look like in the end. I mostly let the content dictate the form. I must admit, though, that most of my haiku turn out to be the normative three-line poems though I have also written – and published – a number of one-liners. This could be because I like to season my haiku whenever possible, and a seasonal reference usually takes its space. This, of course, is not to say season words can’t be effectively used in one-line haiku.
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?
Sometimes no fragment I can think of will fit with a certain phrase. If I find the idea promising, I look for other possibilities. I may try changing the word order, adding a word, removing a word, and see what effect it will have. See where the breaks occur, does the phrase render itself to multiple readings, does it offer enough space for the reader to engage, can the form visually enhance the meaning, and so on. I let different versions stand for a few weeks, often longer, and see what I think after a certain period of time has elapsed. If there’s a version I still like, it will go out in search of a good home as part of a future submission.
It would be a great help to our readers if you could walk us through your writing process from 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.
First, let me share a poem that came to me word by word the way it was later published:
crows until the world is silhouettes
The Heron’s Nest XVII.4
On a warm autumn evening, I was standing on the balcony watching crows flying over on their way to roost. Crows are very active at twilight, particularly when days are short, and move around as if greeting each other until it gets almost completely dark and they settle down for the night. As the light faded, all of the details slowly disappeared from the landscape until everything, including the crows, became but shapes against the darkening sky.
Another one I’d like to share is from your journal, whiptail.
I don’t recall exactly how the poem started its life, but one of the early versions, a few years old, was in three lines:
I catch him
in a lie
I had a friend who would jokingly make up things so I guess that’s what inspired the phrase part. I’ve also been fascinated by weather phenomena and I’m always on the lookout for something uncommon. Virga is rain trailing from a cloud that doesn’t reach the ground and the false promise of rain is some sort of a lie in itself. There was resonance between the virga and a lie but the poem fell somewhat flat so I decided to play with the verb a bit:
in a lie
which still didn’t work the way I’d like so I tried completely eliminating the “I” from the poem by changing the phrase into passive voice:
in a lie
This seemed like I was up to something though still not quite there. I removed the remaining pronoun next:
in a lie
which opened up the poem as what’s caught in a lie could be either the poet or another person or even the virga, and that led naturally to the next and final step:
winter virga caught in a lie
Do you have any tips for aspiring poets of one-line forms?
Read a lot, write a lot, polish before submitting, and the results should come. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.
Polona Oblak (she/her) thinks 42 might indeed be the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, because at that age she discovered haiku. Since then her work has been widely published, appeared in anthologies, and won awards, including the Touchstone Award for Individual Poem. She currently lives in the capital of Slovenia.