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November Per Diem: Across Still Water: Examples of One-Line Haiku

One-liners, or monoku, have come into their own in recent years in the haiku world, and nearly all the top poets have tried their hands at them. Here’s a sampling down through the ages by John Barlow, owner of Snapshot Press, the UK’s top haiku press. Enjoy!

Across Still Water
Examples of one-line haiku in English
Editor: John Barlow

This selection features haiku published over a span of 35 years, from 1975–2009 – almost the entire period over which one-line haiku have been written in English. Classics from the 1970s and early 1980s by Marlene Mountain, John Wills, Cor van den Heuvel, et al. have been interspersed with less well-known historical examples from the 1970s by poets such as Matsuo Allard, Elizabeth Searle Lamb, and George Swede, all of whom also made highly notable early contributions to the tradition of one-line haiku. This mix of the familiar and the less familiar continues through the late 1980s and 1990s, exemplifying a few of the multitudinous ways that content has been melded with form and paving the way for the many approaches of this century. From poems deeply rooted in the haiku tradition by vincent tripi, Carolyn Hall, and Allan Burns, through the “poetic spells” of Stuart Quine and Martin Lucas, to the gendai-influenced work of poets such as Chris Gordon and Scott Metz, the exquisite combinations of language, imagery, and form in this selection never fail to stimulate. And perhaps, if by chance a haiku is being encountered for the first time, surprise.

Can we pigeonhole these haiku or their authors into any one school or category? Or do some of them defy “definition”? And just how big is the divide between those primarily of normative and avant-garde tendencies anyway? In light of recent developments is English-language haiku big enough to encompass all our ideologies, or does the microcosm of one-line haiku suggest that we are approaching its elastic limit and that increasing polemics will inevitably lead to a schism? Regardless of whether we individually or collectively wish our haiku to remain under one roof, these should be questions for us to consider quietly, and without agenda.

John Barlow is currently editing the first tradition-spanning anthology of one-line haiku in English. Submissions of haiku in any school are now invited. For details and guidelines see

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