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The Elusive Monoku - Charles Henderson's Blog

About Charles Henderson
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Never would I have thought I would start writing at 73 years of age. I have thoroughly enjoyed my voyage into the written spirituality of poetry and am thankful for the opportunity.  In my seven years here I have met many new and wonderful persons. Having them accept me as a friend has been a moving experience.


The Elusive Monoku

Blog Posted:7/27/2013 11:20:00 PM
I just read a new slant on monoku. I do not know how prevalent this is or if it is "old hat". Anyway it is the first time I have read anything like it and would like to generate some conversation around it.

Heretofore I have considered monoku to only be a one line Japanese poem of 17 syllables or thereabout, which carried some sort of fact within its structure.

Of course the one at the bottom of this blog just happens to be written in a way that it could read this new way, strictly by accident. But, after seeing the information on the net it got me thinking if I have been wrong in just writing any old 17 syllable statement.

Found on--- Shapingwords.blogspot.com/2010/07/poems/haiku'>haiku-analogs.html

The third source for the Monoku is modern free verse. One-line poems are a feature of short-form free verse and have been for some time. Since many Haiku poets have absorbed free verse norms and write in basically a free verse manner, it is not surprising that Monoku, or Haiku written on a single line, would appear as an option.

The Monoku has the ability to play on ambiguities which three line lineation would make problematic and thus there is often in the Monoku a deliberate use of wordplay. Here are some examples of Monoku I have written:

July late morning fog slowly lifting the pink camellias

An example of the ambiguity and word play is shown by dividing the above Monoku into two sections:

July late morning fog slowly lifting

late morning fog slowly lifting the pink camellias

By deliberately not using punctuation and just writing a single line the feeling of the fog communicates while it is lifting, and the seeming way it lifts the camellias, can be communicated.
////////////////////////////// end of quote.

I have never looked at monoku in this light and wondered if others have the same opinion as this writer. it really makes sense for squeezing two lines of thought into one line of space. I just wrote the following poem with the monoku separating the haiku. A new configuration of mine which I like very well.

smiling --
she stirs cold coffee
and waits

a vision of bottles, baths and baby powder in her life

again --
the movement

For my own monoku above it would be:

1) a vision of bottles, baths and baby powder.


2) bottles, baths and baby powder in her life.

I have been overlooking this all along. From a lot of the monoku I have read in contests, it seems many others on the soup to have not been familier with this concept either. What are some of your thought on this?

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Date: 7/29/2013 12:43:00 PM
Su(your name rhymes with "ku"), I wouldn't call monoku a wannabe haiku(since haiku was initially written in one line, the 3 line structure is technically the variation of one-line haiku, not the other way around). As for "circku" and all that jazz, Issa wrote some 'loop' haiku centuries ago, and simply labelled these as haiku(well, he would have named them hokku). My perspective(only my taste), is if I want to write haiku in one line(which I've done many times), I simply call it haiku. Not monoku. People have been writing one-line haiku for centuries....these were labelled as haiku. Nowadays, people still write haiku in one line, and call these poems: haiku. Why is there the need to label haiku as monoku, when a one-line haiku is already a haiku? For me(again, only my opinion; I am not telling people wot is, wot isn't, and how things shouldn't and should be -- simply adding my perspective), I can use monoku to create something which is an analog of haiku, but can be other things as well.
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Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 7/29/2013 3:26:00 PM
yeah! simply call it haiku [heck they call everything else they are writing haiku LOL / they meaning the general writing public]
Date: 7/29/2013 4:43:00 AM
lol.... I will hardly call monoku a wannabe haiku. The most common variation from the three-line standard is one line, sometimes known as monoku. Marlene Mountain was one of the first English-language haiku poets to write haiku in a single horizontal line, by way of analogy with the single vertical line of printed Japanese haiku. The single-line haiku usually contains much fewer than seventeen syllables/sounds. A caesura (pause) may be appropriate, dictated by sense or speech rhythm, and usually little or no punctuation. Different interpretation of the monoku may be achieved by the sentence structure or use of caesura. BTW Chris, I understand what you are saying but it is best in "circu". Su
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Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 7/29/2013 3:24:00 PM
Su if that is what Chas is speaking of fine as I said to Brain simply the same intent & content as a haiku but a different line layout - I'm not at all sure that is what Chas is talking about?
Date: 7/29/2013 1:46:00 AM
Debbie.in Japan haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line. The single-line haiku usually contains much fewer than seventeen syllables. A caesura (pause) may be appropriate, dictated by sense or speech rhythm, and usually little or no punctuation. It was introduced into English in 1970's by a Japanese translator (see Wiki for more on this. I introduced monoku on PS in April 2007 )My later version I labelled 'a broken monoku'is a variation broken at the pause,the second part is inset on the second line to start where the first ends,thus visually continuing it as one line.Monoku is a valid haiku variation, mono (one) and ku (haiku ), mine being a further variation.Here is that first English monoku of mine from 2007 'listen to the pause - silence is golden' A tribute to Erik Satie.Rgds Brian
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Richards Avatar
Suzette Richards
Date: 7/30/2013 7:20:00 AM
I have read somewhere that an excellent haiku "loops", ie that the end is not the end, but it draws you to read it again from the beginning - it is like rolling a thought in your head and seeing something new every time you experience it - the ultimate reader participation. :-)
Strand Avatar
Brian Strand
Date: 7/29/2013 3:37:00 PM
Debbie 'broken'is a visual ,you need to goto my example to get this rgds
Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 7/29/2013 3:22:00 PM
it sounds like you are saying a monoku is a haiku simply NOT broken into 3 lines but still has 2 parts, that was my understanding, so still objective, still, in the moment, still in 2 parts separated by a -- still containing a season word. I'm on board with that I don't get the variation [broken and/or the loop]
Date: 7/28/2013 7:57:00 PM
I don't understand it, I guess its a form label which is kind of tricking us by sticking 'ku' in the name? Is this correct? similar to all the other haiku wannabees I put up a bit ago? which really had very little to do with the core concepts of haiku, I just don't get it, explain loop Chris/Chas? like from life to death and around and around?
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Date: 7/28/2013 4:16:00 PM
For me monoku is an alternative to haiku or senryu written as one liner with 17 syllables or less..and with a pause in between..Am i correct or not ?Its nice to read your blog and learn more about it..tnks so much.
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Date: 7/28/2013 3:44:00 PM
I am not sure if I have exactly viewed monoku in this way, but my thoughts have at least been similar. Initially I had a more naive approach, believing monoku to simply be a one-line haiku because of the "ku" in the form's name. I suppose this can be true, all depending on one's intent and perspective. For me, monoku isn't one-line haiku, even if it can be seen as an analog of the 3-line form. I am familiar with Jim Wilson, and have incidentally visited this particular site in the past while researching tetractys. I find monoku to be conducive to writing "loops" -- it isn't really a loop within the strictest, technical definitions of a loop, but moreso a slang for the effect you highlighted above(camellias). Sections of the monoku can be re-arranged in different ways, sort of creating a semblance of a line which keeps looping in on itself with its overall theme.
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Chircop Avatar
Charmaine Chircop
Date: 7/28/2013 4:17:00 PM
Tnks for this info Chris..
Date: 7/28/2013 6:47:00 AM
I liked the example of the camellias. Is it popular now to combine monoku with haiku as you did in your own example? I still prefer regular haiku instead of monoku. Really liked how you combined two haiku(senryu?) in your own example. I don't think the mononku in the middle is even necessary since the 2 senryu make it obvious she is expecting a baby.
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Date: 7/28/2013 2:07:00 AM
I get what you are saying, Charles, but is it desirable to leave the interpretation up to the reader? I like Brian's formatting. Example: long overdue visit at graveside weeds flourish. You could read it: long overdue visit at graveside***(or you may us "-")weeds flourish. OR: long overdue visit***at graveside weeds flourish. Love, Su
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Date: 7/28/2013 1:50:00 AM
I introduced the 'broken ' monoku here some years back Charles.Here is one example of mine 'in the midst of death- lichens come to life' The second part is inset on the second line to start where the first ends,thus visually continuing it as one line.As this comment box does not show this readers can check it out by entering 'a broken line monoku' in the search area of my poems.For my taste it is the most satisfactory of the 'haiku style' forms.Rgds Brian
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Chircop Avatar
Charmaine Chircop
Date: 7/28/2013 4:19:00 PM
Tnks Brian..Very interesting
Date: 7/28/2013 12:31:00 AM
I love playing with monoku. I like to incorporate a pause for emphasis (indicated by the ellipsis as PS do not hold the space): condensation on a windowpane ... a heart drawn. I, also, like Fixed Haiku (a form): brass coins scatter ... useless tender/ amulets sold at resorts. Nice blog, Charles, and I like your examples. Love, Su
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Richards Avatar
Suzette Richards
Date: 7/28/2013 12:55:00 AM
The same can be said for emphasis within prose: flourishing weeds ... long overdue visit at graveside OR long overdue visit at graveside ... flourishing weeds
Richards Avatar
Suzette Richards
Date: 7/28/2013 12:35:00 AM
It may be likened to the old "Lets eat grandma" scenario.... Line breaks (punctuation) leave one in no doubt as to the intent of the author. In monoku, we need to be sure that the interpretations are both valid. That is my opinion. :-)

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