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Haiku / Monoku - what's a poet to do?

Updated on August 3, 2013
A modern monoku.
A modern monoku. | Source
haiku / haiga
haiku / haiga | Source

Haiku

Many of us here on Hub Pages write haiku - a Japanese haiku poetic form in English. Haiku can be written just on its own or can be accompanied by a photo or image. Many times then it is called a haiga. But, the traditional haiku still remains the favorite of so many poets.

The haiku in English is a short poem, a 'cutting', of usually two images about the essence of experiences of nature or season that is intuitively linked to the human condition. It is a composed of three lines with a total of seventeen syllables in the poem:

  • line 1 - five syllables
  • line 2 - seven syllables
  • line 3 - five syllables

The haiku also uses a caesura (a pause) respresented by punctuation, a space, or a line break to compare the two images.

A good haiku uses an economy of words to paint a multi-tiered image (picture) and usually 'shows' the reader an image rather than 'tells' about the subject.

Haiku is a fun poem to write with the economy of words and the challenge of the syllable count and using the least amount of words to create a 'painting of the mind.'

One of the best known Japanese haiku was written by the Japanese master, Matsuo Basko (1644-1694) and translated into English:


at the age old pond

a frog leaps into water

a deep resonance ~ Matsuo Basko


Monoku

Tradition reigned in haiku writing until the 1970s when a variant to the haiku was invented. It became known as the monoku.

The monoku is a one-line poem variation of the haiku. Three writers of poetry in the 1970s made the monoku popular as a form of haiku. They are:

  • Marlene Mountain who wrote monoku in horizontal line
  • Hiroaki Sato who translated Japanese haiku into one line in English. Sometimes that line is in vertical rather than horizontal form
  • Matsuo Allard wrote essays in favor of the monoku form and published several magazines devoted to the form

Monoku is written as a single line which contains seventeen syllables or less. It includes a caesura (a pause) dictated by a sense or speech rhythm with little or no punctuation. The first word in the line is not capitalized and is in lowercase.

Some examples:


pig and I -- spring rain ~ Marlene Mountain



an icicle -- a moon drifting through it. ~ Matsuo Allard


listen to the pause - silence is golden ~ www.monoku-ichthys.blog


she knew of longing - this dream of love, alone ~ Jack Jordan, Poetry Soup


Monoku can also be written in a sequence as haiku sometimes is written also. Example:


a peramulator arrives - emptiness takes its leave

a quietness descendes - fresher terms opens

room-to-let illumes - emptiness returns

~ Marlene Mountain



As you can see, this is stripping the haiku down to its bare essence. A one line poem is about as economical as a poet can get. Yet, even with this short and economical poem ,the writer is still able to produce an image - a picture in the reader's mind. The reader is left with several ways to interpret this 'mini-poem' and several explanations are possible.


View the photos below and write your own monoku to go with them!



Below are the same photos with monoku underneath written by suzettenaples:



green grass - threading its way to sun and life ~ suzettenaples
green grass - threading its way to sun and life ~ suzettenaples | Source
nature in sepia - memories of ripples along the lake  ~ suzettenaples
nature in sepia - memories of ripples along the lake ~ suzettenaples | Source
golden dome - sunlight slivers through ~ suzettenaples
golden dome - sunlight slivers through ~ suzettenaples | Source
hugging goldfish - waterlust love ~ suzettenaples
hugging goldfish - waterlust love ~ suzettenaples | Source
sunflowers smile - sun radiates upon upturned face
sunflowers smile - sun radiates upon upturned face | Source
one drop - a tsunami begins ~ suzettenaples
one drop - a tsunami begins ~ suzettenaples | Source

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    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and beautiful. The pictures were lovely. Thank you for explaining the Monoku. Passing this on.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Thank you for sharing this information in such a beautiful way. I want to try writing my first Monoku. May I send it to you before I publish it to make sure I've done this correctly?

      Voted up UABI and sharing. Thanks ~ Audrey

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting and informative hub. I never knew a monoku existed till I read your hub, thank you for sharing and voted up.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Very beautiful hub here on haiku / monoku poetry! Imagery is stunning.

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Great work! Many people are confused about haiku.

      This haiku by Bashō illustrates that he was not always constrained to a 5-7-5 on pattern. It contains 18 on in the pattern 6-7-5 ("ō" or "おう" is treated as two on.)

      富士の風や扇にのせて江戸土産

      ふじのかぜやおうぎにのせてえどみやげ

      fuji no kaze ya ōgi ni nosete Edo miyage[citation needed]

      This separates into "on" as:

      fu-ji no ka-ze ya (6)

      o-o-gi ni no-se-te (7)

      e-do mi-ya-ge (5)

      Translated:

      the wind of Mt. Fuji

      I've brought on my fan!

      a gift from Edo

      Taken from wikipedia

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Loved this!!...It's probably time to take Martin's advice and try writing some haiku that are not necessarily 5-7-5. Voting up and sharing.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Mhatter: Wow! You know your Japanese. You have been holding out on us. I gave the English translation of Basho's haiku and it is not word for word or syllable to syllable. Yes, haiku does play around with the required syllables, but when a teacher, I always taught my students to stick to the 5-7-5 syllable count. I think the challenge is a good one and makes writing a haiku a much better one in choosing just the right words for the poem. I don't know Japanese, so I can't speak for writing haiku in that language. Thanks so much for your input. Glad you enjoyed this hub - I didn't know about the monoku until I read on somewhere, I can't even remember where now, but I was fascinated by a one line haiku. Thanks for the visit and for your comments - most appreciated.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thanks Gypsy: I am so glad you enjoyed reading this and thanks for the passing on. I recently just learned about the monoku and found it fascinating!

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      vocalcoach: Sure, you can send me your monoku, but I have a feeling you will write one just fine! Thank you for reading and for your enthusiasm! Much appreciated.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Vellur: I didn't know a monoku existed until recently. The reason for writing this hub. Thank you for reading and for your comments. Most appreciated.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Dear Faith: Thank you so much for reading this and I'm glad you enjoyed it. The photos are not mine, just the monoku's. But, I loved these photos so much and they inspired me to write, that I had to share them. Thanks for the votes.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      tobusiness: Glad you enjoyed this. Yes, even Basho, the master, played around with the syllables. Nothing is carved in stone when it comes to writing and to writing poetry. I think inspiration and creativity are what is important. Also, when translating from the Japanese to English there is always a bit of leeway. Thanks so much for your visit - mosst appreciated.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 3 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Very nice work, Suzette. I'll be sharing this with my facebook group. I generally prefer poetry without restrictions, yet, I also love Haiku because it forces an economy of words. There's nothing worse than a poem filled with bloated language.

      Ginsberg also wrote single line haiku on occasion.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      PDX: Glad you enjoyed this hub. I have enjoyed your comments. Thanks for the share. And I didn't know Ginsberg wrote monoku. I just recently discovered the monoku - I guess I've been living under a rock lol. Thanks for your visit and you can't get more economical than a one line poem!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 3 years ago from San Francisco

      I was worried you might take my comment negatively. A good teacher walks by their student's side. Go off. Explore. Spread your Joy.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub Suzette and here's to so many more for us both to share on here.

      Eddy.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I love haiku, but I've never heard of Monoku before. Thank you for some beautiful examples and your explanation.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Mhatter: No, I didn't take your comments negatively. lol Yes, I agree with you, but in middle school we need to teach the foundations first. Then, students can go off and explore and spread their joy. It is not that I believe in rigid rules of poetry. Students need to understand the rules and how they work before they can break them and create, that's all. I hope you didn't take my comments negatively either.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thank you Eddy. Your comments are always so sweet and so true! I'm glad our paths crossed here on HP as I consider you one of my best writing friends. Your creativity amazes me!

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Blossom: Thank you! I just recently discovered monoku and didn't know about it myself. I found a one-line poem to be interesting and creative, so I thought I'd share what I found. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Most appreciated.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

      I have done Haiku, senryu, haiga, but did not know non traditional haiku are called Monoku.

      I take interest in English and non English poetry forms. This hub is useful and informative.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Vinaya: I, too, just recently learned about the monoku - a one line haiku. Doesn't get much economical with words as that! LOL I know, I have read some of your haiku, senryu, and haiga and they are beautiful. You are talented in that area of poetry. Thanks for your visit.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Suzette, I just saw my last comment here, and what I wanted to say was that

      "I " needed to take Martin's advice.

      I love the 5 7 5 haiku form, but should really try being more adventurous, Martin once dared me to do a tanka poem awhile back, and of course it was fun.... I must have a go at the Monoku, thanks again for sharing this.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Jo: I know how you feel - a love the 5 7 5 haiku form too. I like the constrictness of it and it is a challenge to write it in that form. I recently ran across the monoku and I had never heard of it before. Guess I've been living in a cave. So, I thought I try it too. I like it also, but prefer the traditional haiku.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

      Lurana Brown 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Very interesting! I think I have seen examples of monoku but never heard the name before. The photos are beautiful too. Great hub! ~Lurana

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Lurana: Thank you so much. I just recently ran across some monoku and didn't really know about these myself. I guess we are never to old to learn. LOL Glad you enjoyed these and thanks so much for your visit - most appreciated.

    • AUPADHYAY profile image

      ANIL KUMAR UPADHYAY 2 years ago from INDIA, UTTAR PRADESH STATE, KANPUR CITY

      The great info hub.

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      AUPADHYAY: Thank you for reading and I am glad you enjoyed this.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 2 years ago from California

      Loved this!!

    • suzettenaples profile image
      Author

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thank you, Audrey and I am glad you enjoyed this. Who knew there were monokus?

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