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.
Before I wrote haiku, I was a novelist, and have had three novels published. I love to spend time on the lake in my kayak. I’m a hobby bookbinder, happily blending book arts and poetry.
Are you active on social media? How do you think social media affects the writing process?
I’m fairly active on Instagram. I love working with the combination of images and short-form poetry, so IG fits well with that kind of artistic practice. Social media for me is another way to share my work, which in the end, is what any kind of writing is all about—communication. As an “instant” form of media, social media allows poets to find an audience more quickly than traditional publishing. That’s good! However, it can also be “too instant,” poets not sitting alone with their work for a while to let it simmer, to allow for the editing step, and further crafting. I seldom create directly on social media, but most poems I’ve first worked on outside of it.
What made you decide to try out haiku and/or tanka on one line versus their more popular enjambed formats? How does it feel different to you?
I was incredulous when I first heard about monoku. No way, I thought. A one-line poem is a scam! It’s merely a sentence pretending to be poetry! But like all people on the verge of conversion, I became enamoured with the very thing I was protesting. And writing one-liners really was the next logical step for a person who wrote novels and ended up with haiku. One-line poems feel more intuitive to me than other forms. They’re more fluid, maybe more mysterious, the words slipping and sliding into each other to reveal different shades of meaning.
Many poets still struggle with the dilemma of whether a particular poem will work better as a one-line poem than the enhanced form and vice-versa. What is the deciding factor in your practice?
If the poem can be written as a three-line haiku, then it probably should be a three-line haiku. It means it needs the space that form offers. For me, the form of a poem isn’t haphazard but purposely chosen to carry it. The form is the vessel, the words are the contents. A one-liner either exists only in that form or exists best in that form.
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?
The first step for me is the aha! moment. It’s finding those things in life that are worth writing about, a matter of observation, and opening yourself up. Of course, this happens at the most inopportune moments, so figure out a method of recording. Whenever I think I’ll remember a poem, and don’t immediately write it down or speak it into my phone recorder, I inevitably forget it. After the “aha!” moment, it’s a matter of visiting and revisiting the poem or fragment to play with it. Try the words out as a one-liner, and see if it works.
In terms of process, here is one of my recent one-line haiku and how it developed.
no man’s land the planet better off
This one-liner was published in Trash Panda, Volume 3, Summer 2022. The opening fragment came about pondering the war in Ukraine. It led me to an image from my teenage years of travelling by bus from Finland into what was then known as the Soviet Union as part of a school trip, one of the first tour groups allowed into the communist country. Close to the border, we saw Finnish patrols dressed in white and camouflaged, skiing through the snow-clad forests. Then the border itself, a barren strip with sentinels along it. The fear in the bus was palpable, and the experience was so foreign to me, growing up in Canada.
The second part of the one-liner took much longer, the question being what to pair with the fragment that would serve as a worthy juxtaposition. One-liners can often be read more than one way, and the “turn” can take you in an unexpected direction. When the second part of the haiku struck me, I realized the poem became a statement about the Anthropocene and how people are destroying the planet. The barren strip of land represented the ravages of another kind of war, too.
As for tips for aspiring poets: Don’t be afraid to experiment, to switch things up. Be gentle on yourself. Not every poem hits it out of the ballpark, and that’s okay! Keep all of your drafts. I have years and years of bits of poems, and sometimes I find a gem among them I hadn’t recognized as one before. And finally, don’t worry too much about getting published, or be upset about rejection if you do submit. Neither is a reason to write or stop writing. Write for yourself, share it, and go from there. Creating haiku, one-line or otherwise is foremost a joy in itself.
Marianne Paul (she/her) is a Canadian writer. When she’s not playing with words, she dabbles in bookbinding, visual art, and gentle kayaking. Her chapbook, Body Weight, A Collection of Haiku and Art, won the Haiku Canada Marianne Bluger Chapbook Award. She was a finalist in the Trailblazers Contest for her one-line tanka and received first place in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational and the Jane Reichhold Memorial Haiga Competition (mixed media category). Her work pops up often in journals, books, and social media sites, online and in print. Marianne’s latest passion is paper heron press, featuring limited edition handcrafted books that combine her love for book arts and short-form poetry. She particularly likes the physicality of handcrafting a book from beginning to end. Inaugural titles include humming right along, and the soon-to-be-released, snow.