Meet Chuck Brickley
Q1) 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.
First of all, Vandana, allow me to express my delight and honour for being asked to contribute my thoughts to whiptail. In a relatively short time, you and your colleagues have cleared out a unique space on the EL haiku platform that promises to be frequented for a long time to come.
A little about myself? I’m an old man stunned to wake up every morning next to the love of my life, blessed to be a father of two and a grandfather of four, and graced by an ever-deepening appreciation of nature, and the profound mundane. I love music, going for walks with Kim, trying to spoil her from the kitchen as much as she does me. A so-called guilty pleasure since I was a kid is reading mysteries. My guiltiest? Watching mysteries on cable, especially regional ones from the UK, Italy, Scandinavia.
Q2) Are you active on social media?
Soon after I retired in 2019, I discovered the joys of social media. I had the time to check in on the concerns and interests of old friends, make new friends, and share what’s going on in my life. Since then, I find I’m spending less time on the phone, and as a consequence, am missing out on a lot. *sigh*
How do you think social media affects the writing process?
I’m heartened by the cross-fertilization of ideas, the sharing of stories and poetry across all boundaries–personal, social, cultural, geographical. An exciting time to be involved in the world of haiku arts. I do wonder, however, if some of those who frequently post unedited, unpublished haiku online are basing their understanding of haiku chiefly on similar such postings. Do we encourage poets enough to study haiku history and aesthetics? To seek out traditional and contemporary Japanese haiku available in translation? Exploring the vertical axis of our beloved form is as important as expanding its horizontal reach.
Q3) 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?
Q4) 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?
Q5) 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. Do you have any tips for aspiring poets of one-line forms?
Questions 3-5 are related inquiries into my understanding of the haiku form, apart from other considerations. With that in mind, I’d like to address a few assumptions that inform any observations I may have on this subject.
When asked about my work by non-poets, I tell them I write free verse haiku. That helps sidestep discussion about bean-counting syllables, and the differences between Japanese and other languages, including our own. When asked by poets, however, I take a little more time to explain that I write organic verse haiku. What does that mean?
The term free verse implies anything goes, no rhyme, no reason. In a successful organic verse poem, every single element is there for a purpose, inextricably entwined and impactful on the poem as a whole. Sound and sense* work as one, with a visual component included by its appearance in print. The studied and intuitive use of alliteration, assonance, syntax manipulation–to mention but a few of the many tools in our box–comprise a large part of the art and craft of writing haiku. My brief discussion here is limited to lines.
In a poem as short as a single-breath haiku or senryu, the number of lines, and the length of each is critical. When riding a wave of inspiration, I ask myself: Does this poem benefit from being in three lines? Does the break after each line contribute to its content, and to the poem as a whole? Or do the breaks detract? Would the poem be more effective in two lines, or one? If a single line might work, and I removed or added a key word or phrase, would the resultant ambiguities muddy the experience, or tweak the reader’s imagination?
Most of the action implied by this haiku occurs off camera, so to speak, before and after. One imagines the terrifying drama of beak and claw, perhaps, and then the raptor swooping away with its bounty. There’s a suggestion of “bloodbath.” Certainly, this poem would be less effective if it were broken into lines, “sky” moved to the third line, preceded by a descriptive “blue,” or “summer.”
a swirl of blood in the birdbath sky
– The Heron's Nest 21.4, 2019
A few reasons why I may choose the one-line form:
1) To increase the tempo of the poem. The usual three-line form, even without a cut, serves to slow the reader’s involvement. Each line break adds a nuance to consider. What if I want the reader to experience the suddenness of my insight? The following incident/haiku came to me en plein air on a mountain trail, all apiece, complete with the verbing of “lizards.”
a hawk shadow lizards into the scrub
– Wales Haiku Journal, Summer 2020
2) To create ambiguities, or multiple interpretations, by using at least one word or phrase as a pivot (or pivots).
“I am” serves as the pivot: “the older I am” and “I am rock lichen.” Condensing the two readings of the pivot invites the reader to double back, effectively emphasizing the point being made. How swiftly the poet’s long life seems to have passed.
the older I am rock lichen
– Modern Haiku 49.1, 2018
3) To create a linear visual effect, mirroring the haiku’s content–not unlike a concrete poem.
a shadow sliding across the sidewalk catches its leaf
– whiptail: journal of the single-line poem, Issue 1: Kinetic, November 2021
4) To enable a “tacit cut.” Most haiku have two parts. The import of the second part of this haiku is accented by its abrupt absence.
– whiptail: journal of the single-line poem, Issue 1: Kinetic, November 2021
A lot can be said about haiku form. I can ramble for hours about the virtues of organic verse. In the end, whether it is one or three lines, horizontal or vertical, concrete or embedded in a painting, a good haiku–like any true work of art–will seem inevitable, like this is the only possible way it could be expressed.
* Perrine’s Sound And Sense: An Introduction to Poetry–highly recommended!
Chuck Brickley (he/him) is an American Canadian currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. His multi-award-winning collection of haiku, earthshine (Snapshot Press, 2017) is nearing the end of its 4th printing. One of his haibun was nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2018), another for the Sonders Best Small Fiction Award (2019). Among his duties as 2nd VP of the Haiku Society of America, Chuck coordinates all six of the HSA international contests. Visit www.chuckbrickley.com.
9/7/2022 12:44:29 pm
Incredibly useful interview, and love the examples from each term that Chuck Brickley uses.
9/7/2022 07:30:42 pm
Thanks for this comment, Alan! There's much to enjoy here, including the poems, commentary, and the reminder to study the vertical axis of haiku--the history, Japanese translations, and precedents--not just the horizontal reach. Good stuff.
9/8/2022 04:50:02 am
Exactly! The 'horizontal reach' can entice the reader into the poem, where we'd like them to see hidden depths to explore.
9/27/2022 09:56:42 am
Wonderful interview with beautiful examples of monoku. As suggested by Chuck, interlinking the images is an interesting way of writing monoku. I wish to cite one of my monoku:
10/8/2022 11:53:47 am
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Pravat!
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