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Reading One-Line Haiku with Kat and Robin: Multiple Breaks and Multiple Readings

Today’s column is a guest post about how to read one-line haiku from Kat Lehmann and Robin Anna Smith, co-editors of whiptail: journal of the single-line poem. This post is the first in a planned series of articles, which will be tagged as whiptail monoku series so you can read them all together. My thanks to Kat and Robin for sharing their expertise with New to Haiku!

Reading One-Line Haiku: Multiple Breaks and Multiple Readings

When we start to explore English Language Haiku (ELH), we notice there is a wide variety that ELH can encompass. This variety may relate to the subject of the poem, from the classic (cherry blossoms, the moon) to personal topics (loneliness, rejuvenation), to imaginative topics (science fiction haiku, also called scifaiku). No topic is off-limits with haiku.

The structure of haiku can vary as well, depending on what format best suits the poem. This can be anything from formatting in the typical three lines, to one line, to haiku written as a single vertical column (as haiku is often written in Japanese), to haiku written in a circle (called cirku), or other concrete shape. The consideration here is whether the format of the poem enhances its meaning and is thus the best structure (or structures) for that particular haiku.

In a series of short articles, we’re going to explore some of the features that are seen in one-line haiku, also called monoku (a term coined by Jim Kacian), and what makes the one-line haiku structure special. The emphasis will be on honing our skills to read one-line haiku, as becoming a better reader of haiku helps us in our writing explorations.

Our first entry focuses on reading poems that contain multiple breaks. How can a poem on a single line have breaks? As we hope to demonstrate, this can happen more easily when the poem is presented on a single line than a poem that has defined pauses such as line breaks and dashes because it is up to the reader to find the pauses, breaks, and multiple readings (and delightful misreadings) of the haiku. Depending on how the poem is written, a one-line haiku (or one-line tanka) may contain multiple, overlapping readings that enhance the experience of the poem.

Words have their own cadence and natural pauses, which can be heavy hesitations or mere hiccups. We can appreciate this more easily when we read aloud. Physical breaks are not necessary unless we want to enforce specific readings of our poem.

Let’s begin with a classic poem by Jim Kacian (Frogpond 35:2, 2012):

i hope i’m right where the river ice ends

In the first straight-through read, it sounds like the author is saying they hope they are physically where the river ice ends. Julie Bloss Kelsey says, “To me, the first read is one of excitement, taking you right to the edge of the river ice, almost like an eager child running right up to the edge without fear.” The kigo “ice” sets the poem in winter, probably at the transition between winter and spring because the river ice is ending (melting).

The words can be cut to create additional ideas:

i hope i’m right
where the river ice ends

Julie continues, “The second read—to me—is still literal. But it is more hesitant, more fear of falling through the ice, so the break is part of the halting nature of the steps.”

Another way of reading this “enjambed” (line break) version emphasizes “I hope I’m right,” as if the poem were written during a disagreement or a debate. The phrase “where the river ice ends” feels more metaphorical now, as if the ice melting is a calming of emotions surrounding who is “right.”

This third, more nuanced reading does not negate the initial, more literal readings. They enhance each other. I hope I am correct. I hope there is peace. And I want to physically be where these things are true. The poem contains multiple poems, each of which stands alone and speaks to the other like a conversation. This joint reading, sometimes fanciful, is something that one-line haiku does particularly well. What other readings can you find within this poem by positioning the “cut” at different places?

Here’s another example by Elisa Theriana (whiptail: journal of the single-line poem, Issue 3, 2022):

in the name of healing fireflies in the jar

The phrase “in the name of” means to evoke the authority of someone or something to justify the reason or motivation for an action. Here, the straight read of the poem indicates we are using “healing fireflies in a jar” as justification “in the name of” something. But who is healing fireflies in a jar? The poem is a bit nonsensical when taken literally this way, because fireflies are likely happier when freed than kept captive. The initial surprise at the phrasing encourages us to look deeper for additional reads that expand the meaning.

in the name of healing
fireflies in the jar

Ah, in this reading we are saying “in the name of healing” we are going to help the fireflies, perhaps releasing them from the jar or basking in their light. Healing is the reason and the motivation.

in the name of healing
fireflies
in the jar

If we break the haiku apart further, “fireflies / in the jar” becomes a kind of metaphor for healing. Our inner healing journey is like fireflies—our inner light—in the jar.

in the name of
healing fireflies
in the jar

This fourth reading suggests that we are the ones in a jar and the “healing fireflies” are healing us.

There are lots of nuances possible in these overlapping meanings, aren’t there? Which meaning is intended? Is it one or all of the meanings, and are there also other meanings not mentioned yet? We must assume that the poet intends all of the readings to be considered as part of the rich meaning of the poem. Let’s summarize each of the four readings above:

1) We have fireflies in a jar as a kind of motivation for something.

2) We want to help the fireflies.

3) The fireflies might be OUR fireflies in our metaphorical jar–our own healing.

4) Our healing can come from internal or external sources.

When we read these together as a meditation, the feeling grows that by working to heal and help others, we continue to heal ourselves. That there are “fireflies” within me and “fireflies” within you that we can heal. The emotion it evokes might feel a bit abstract, but it’s solidly based on the physical experience of seeing fireflies in a jar. Fireflies is a summer kigo, which adds to this feeling of health and vitality. This is one of the powers of poetry—to express ideas with words that cannot simply be put into words.

Here’s one more example, this time from Richa Sharma (whiptail: journal of the single-line poem, Issue 1, 2021):

for a short while renting my heartbeats

There are two main breaks that surface here:

for a short while
renting my heartbeats

Who rents their heartbeats? This haiku might have an existential theme or there could be something more to this. Let’s continue.

for a short while renting
my heartbeats

For a short while, the protagonist in the poem is renting something, perhaps an apartment. The words “my heartbeats” could indicate nervousness or a sense of aging. How many heartbeats fit in “a short while,” until they are no longer renting? This returns us to the first reading and an awareness of mortality.

Suddenly, “renting my heartbeats” doesn’t sound so odd. Sometimes a life event like a change of living situation brings emotions that cannot be explained in a conventional way. Thanks to poetry, we can communicate a deeper meaning while grounding ourselves in the physical occurrence of moving.

Ultimately, all of us are “renting our heartbeats,” and on the cosmic scale of things, all of us rent them “for a short while.”

A benefit of writing certain haiku on one line is that multiple readings can arise. These multiple readings and meanings can combine to express more than one idea. Although some of these readings may seem impossible or even extraneous or unwanted, as a careful reader of one-line haiku we must assume the author intended them to be there and that they are serving a purpose. This purpose could be adding a layer of meaning, connecting the poem to the otherworldly, or just pushing the reader a little off-balance to arrive at a deeper meaning.

Kat Lehmann and Robin Anna Smith are the Founding Editors of whiptail: journal of the single line poem and Associate Editors at Sonic Boom. They are both Touchstone award-winning poets who currently volunteer at The Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Awards as Panelist for Distinguished Books (Kat) and Coordinator for Individual Poems (Robin).

Julie Bloss Kelsey is the current Secretary of The Haiku Foundation. She started writing haiku in 2009, after discovering science fiction haiku (scifaiku). She lives in Maryland with her husband and kids. Julie's first book of poetry, The Call of Wildflowers, is available for free online through Title IX Press. Connect with her on Twitter @MamaJoules.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Thank you all for the insightful and perceptive comments. Congratulations to Kat, Robin, and Julie for sharing a beautiful essay. Personally, it’s quite disheartening for me that such ku do not come to me quite often now as they once did, but I am also happy that some such poems have found their best homes.

    The ku isn’t about surrogacy. But if it can connect to the vast human consciousness and speak for various aspects of human suffering, nothing like it. We believe in the concept of reincarnation, the afterlife, and the past life. There is something I may have to give that the other party may have to take. Each moment, each breath, and each heartbeat is karma. Hence, I couldn’t have found a better word than ‘renting’ as Keith has rightly pointed out that we are not the absolute owners of our lives or loves. It’s always a great joy to read Alan’s in-depth analysis of any poem. Thank you so much, Alan 🙏

    Even though it may be uncomfortable, we all have an agreement with life, and poetry offers a beautiful understanding of life on a cosmic scale that may probably lessen the sufferings of this world. Furthermore, the usage of ‘heartbeats’ conveys the life-affirming answer to someone’s short life. An earlier poem may connect very well to this one:

    despite mortality the gift of you

    It is difficult to contemplate how each heartbeat adds to life as well as brings us closer to the truth of death (renewal). There are various texts like the Bhagavad Gita that teach us to be detached, and yet, we are all humans, but the ultimate happiness is immortal. The ku simply captures the protagonist’s moment of material despair before that realization.

    Warm regards,
    Richa Sharma
    India

  2. I pretty much agree with Lorin– a careful and astute reader I think– in what she first posted. (I have yet to read beyond this.)

    I guess a value of multiple-meaning one line haiku is that they reflect what perception is actually like– presenting numerous shades of experience, some contradictory, some chosen or rejected, some no doubt hidden to be uncovered by poems written later, or in dreams, seeds that take a while to germinate. These haiku may reflect the all-at-onceness of any moment.

    At first reading there can be an all-at-onceness to understanding as well. All possible meanings are present and experienced as a whole. A question to ask might be: in subsequent readings, does the analysis, the sifting through, the deciding what one considers extraneous or not– add to or take away from enjoyment of further readings? In other words, can one bring experience back into innocence– a more mature innocence?

    I would say that something is lost if one cannot bring the “analysis” back into a sense of the whole.

    1. Thank you, Peter.

      “In other words, can one bring experience back into innocence– a more mature innocence?
      I would say that something is lost if one cannot bring the “analysis” back into a sense of the whole. ” – Peter Yovu

    2. Peter: “I guess a value of multiple-meaning one line haiku is that they reflect what perception is actually like– presenting numerous shades of experience, some contradictory, some chosen or rejected, some no doubt hidden to be uncovered by poems written later, or in dreams, seeds that take a while to germinate. These haiku may reflect the all-at-onceness of any moment.

      A perceptive comment.

      And then… I think that while a poem should be able to stand on its own, knowledge of context and author can deepen appreciation; and apart from immediate sensations of pleasure, wonder or insight that make it art, trying through analysis to understand “why” or “how” it works helps a writer in the craft.

  3. I thought – for a short while / renting my heartbeats … could have referred to a pregnancy. The baby renting the mother’s heartbeat, reliant on the mother’s heart bets in addition to it’s own.

    1. Hi Sean,

      That is a wonderful interpretation and one that I would be happy to accept! 🙂

      It might make it a single ‘run-on’ clause, but its potency works for me and because ‘for’ suggests, to me, that there is a white or negative space section of words beforehand, and an untold story of where the protagonist will now be a mother. It’s one of those wonderful dropped in lines, where we overhear only the middle of a conversation and we might or might not figure the context.

      Yep, I’ll go with you there Sean, and it feels uplifting, and it’s also a very neat method of creative writing. It uses the unsung heroes of grammar which can be as powerful as any noun or verb:

      “For” is usually a preposition and sometimes a conjunction. And that ‘for’ really makes this haiku sing across the line as much as “renting my heartbeats”.

      It’s a joy to break up the poem and see its components:

      for / a short while / renting my heartbeats

      Each section makes for that single clause effect yet because it starts with ‘for’ and ends with ‘renting my heartbeats’ there is a sublime mystery and also affirmation of new life.

      .

      for a short while renting my heartbeats

      Richa Sharma
      whiptail: journal of the single-line poem, Issue 1, 2021

      .

      1. And that also brings in the phrase from the presenters:

        .

        Ultimately, all of us are “renting our heartbeats,” and on the cosmic scale of things, all of us rent them “for a short while.”

        .

        As one life ends another is born is an often accepted detail and we have seen this in film and television as a device to mourn the death of one protagonist but that another life immediately replaces the one that has just gone.

        Wonderful one-line haiku! 🙂

    2. Sean, I believe you’re on track with the pregnancy insight. I think It’s possible that Richa Sharma’s monoku is related to surrogacy, or the “rent a womb” business.
      https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/28/paying-for-baby-trouble-with-renting-womb-india
      Your intuition seems to me to lead to such an interpretation : the renter would be the “I” of the poem (the one who is renting her heartbeats), the nominal rentee would be the foetus occupying her womb & reliant on her heartbeats, and the actual rentee is the person who pays the rent.

  4. A few observations, if I may.

    If the words are not entirely random, then I don’t think Lorin’s parallel with the Rorschach test holds true. But on occasion, monoku may be so wilfully obscure and disruptive that a reader decides not to bother. (Not these examples, however.)

    Sometimes the deliberate element of confusion or obscurity first has the effect of getting the reader’s attention (a good thing with such a short genre); and second, constitutes an invitation or a challenge to “make sense” of the words, as the human animal likes to do. This is after all, poetry of the mind.

    “i hope i’m right where the river ice ends” has its physical interpretation as one continuous phrase, but it’s the metaphysical aspect when taken as two related parts that engages the reader. “i hope i’m right” conveys doubt and uncertainty, and “where the river ice ends” is a complementary image of a place that is also in uncertain transition from one state to another. Moreover, from something rigid to something fluid. How meditative readers apply those elements to specific situations is their choice. To the thoughts given in the post, I might add that even if one thinks one is right, the position remains fluid…

    And, with a wink, you can play with “i hope i’m left where the river ice ends.” Politics too…

    As to: “for a short while renting my heartbeats,” I’d say that this has two complementary elements of measured time (short while, and heartbeat) around a pivotal word (renting) that applies to both. Renting implies transience, and two parties. It leaves open the question of who is the owner. This strikes me first as a love poem: is it the poet renting out her heart, or existing on the love of another? Beyond that, it could be about life and our impermanence in general — but whether renting or on borrowed time, we are not the absolute owners of our lives or our loves. Again, there is considerable universality in the poem and readers should have no problem meshing it with their own experiences.

    Thank you for picking out these short poems for us to focus upon.

  5. i hope i’m right where the river ice ends – Jim Kacian (Frogpond 35:2, 2012):
    .
    ” In the first straight-through read, it sounds like the author is saying they hope they are physically where the river ice ends. ” – Kat Lehmann and Robin Anna Smith.

    Yes, “I hope I’m right (there) where the river ice ends” is a possibility. Yet it’s not the first reading that would occur to me and in my view there’s something odd about this interpretation, especially if we take into account what’s been called the ‘fourth line’ : the author’s name, in this case, Jim Kacian. We know that Jim is not seriously vision impaired (or wasn’t when he wrote this haiku), so if he was literally and physically where the river ice ends he’d likely know it unless there was a snowstorm or something that obscured his vision. Or it could simply be nighttime, and too dark to see .

    In my view, ” i hope i’m right (about) where the river ice ends” fits better than ‘. . .right( there)’, i.e. “I hope my calculations about where the river ice ends are accurate.” “I hope my assessment is right.” Why do I think this is more likely? Because of what’s been called “the fourth line” in haiku (yes, the “fourth line” applies even in monoku) : the author’s name, which leads this reader to other haiku Jim has written and any background I’ve picked up along the way. What if he intended to go canoeing? Or cross the iced-up river at a certain point? He’s reckoned where the ice ends, and if (for instance) trekking or sleighing alone out in a winter wilderness, his reckoning had better be right, or close to. The element of real danger enters, without being mentioned, and this adds depth to the poem.

    “Another way of reading this “enjambed” (line break) version emphasizes “I hope I’m right,” as if the poem were written during a disagreement or a debate. ”

    These are possibilities ( disagreement, debate or wager) but I’d quickly discard them in favour of that physical stab of danger that happens when one realizes that, out there alone in any wilderness, being wrong can quickly result in being dead.

    To me, discarding possible readings along the way usually helps me arrive at the version that moves me most. Of course there are some one-liners/ monoku that have a ‘pivot’ word or phrase, and these we must accept as having legitimate “twin” readings.

    “A benefit of writing certain haiku on one line is that multiple readings can arise.” – Kat and Robin

    True. But there is also the danger of the ridiculous result that some of us call ” Rorschach test ” haiku : haiku that readers can interpret in any way they fancy.

    re: “Here’s one more example, this time from Richa Sharma (whiptail: journal of the single-line poem, Issue 1, 2021):

    for a short while renting my heartbeats

    “For a short while, the protagonist in the poem is renting something, perhaps an apartment. – “- Kat and Robin

    In my reading, “renting my heartbeats” is absurd and to be instantly dismissed as a valid reading, so what is it that’s being rented here?

    for a short while renting / my heartbeats

    Kat & Robin suggest an apartment or the like. What would that have to do with “my heartbeats” ? Is the protagonist from an over-protective background and in fear of being alone in a rented room or apartment? I’m Australian, not American, but I’m aware of the meaning of the term “rent boy”. Perhaps there are also “rent girls”? Perhaps the protagonist had to “rent” herself out for a short while as the only way of survival ? There would be danger and fear in that, I think, certainly enough to account for “heartbeats”. (There might even be an awful pun in “beats”)

    But isn’t this ku close to ‘Rorshach test’ ku? Readers fill in the blanks and each reading is deemed acceptable?

    1. New to Haiku is intended to be a warm and friendly place for beginners to explore haiku and learn how to read and write them. I personally believe there is no wrong way to read a haiku. Kat and Robin are sharing how they dissect and analyze monoku. Lorin, you may disagree with their methodology, but implying that their analysis is not legitimate, or implying that Richa Sharma’s haiku is ridiculous (or borders on ridiculous) is not engaging in a friendly manner. Please take your tone down a notch. Thanks.

      1. That said, Lorin brings up a couple of interesting points here:

        One, how do we view the writer when we evaluate a haiku? Is understanding the poet and their intent integral to our understanding and appreciating the poem? I’m curious what others think about the “fourth line” of haiku. This term is new to me, but I’ve seen support on both sides for whether we need to view the poem through the lens of the writer.

        Two, I now suspect that we all have a default base upon which we build our understanding of a haiku. I (almost) always read poems in a literal and concrete manner first, looking for the absolute simplest explanation. If I can layer on additional meanings on top of that – surreal, for example – I will, and I enjoy seeing what others think and see. For me, multiple interpretations add to the fun, and I personally don’t tend to discount any of them. That said, if there’s no literal interpretation available at all, I usually struggle to appreciate the haiku in question. Other folks, I suspect, start from the surreal or perhaps a more intellectual headspace and read down to the basic. In my own reading, I do this with science fiction haiku (scifaiku). For me, a good scifaiku must present an otherworldly aspect first in order for me to enjoy it. A literal, Earth-bound reading for me, in these poems, is not necessary and definitely needs to be secondary.

        That’s my personal approach. As I said above, I don’t feel there is a wrong way to appreciate a haiku. I’m happy for anyone to get moved by haiku! We may not be reading it in the way the writer intended, but I don’t – personally – think that makes for a wrong interpretation. But again that depends upon whether you feel the “fourth line” is integral to reading haiku.

        1. I do find this 4th line confusing because as we are talking about 1-line haiku, the author’s name usually is on the 3rd line:

          e.g.

          space between clouds small enough to disappear

          – Susan Yavaniski, USA
          Whiptail journal issue 5 – diaphanous blue
          https://www.whiptailjournal.com/issue-5-diaphanous-blue.html#/
          .

          Line 1: space between clouds small enough to disappear
          Line 2: BLANK
          Line 3: Susan Yavaniski, USA

          A 4th line would be blank as well.

          .

          With a tercet (3-line verse):

          .
          hospice book cart
          bookmarks
          between the pages

          Kelly Sargent
          Williston, Vermont

          .

          hospice book cart
          bookmarks
          between the pages

          Kelly Sargent
          Williston, Vermont
          The Heron’s Nest Volume XXIV, Number 4: December 2022
          https://www.theheronsnest.com/December2022/haiku-p2.html

          .

          Line 1: hospice book cart
          Line 2: bookmarks
          Line 3: between the pages
          Line 4: BLANK
          Line 5: Kelly Sargent

          .
          If we read a 1-line haiku we might look at the 3rd line for the author’s name, and there may or may not be a 4th line given as to the geographical location of the writer.

          .
          If we read a 3-line haiku we might look at the 5th line for the author’s name, and there may or may not be a 6th line given as to the geographical location of the writer.

          .
          If we are new or newish to haiku then an author’s name may not given much of a clue to why a haiku is written in a certain manner, and concerning itself with a weather phenomenon, or about the prairies rather than a town or city.

          Certainly the more haiku we read we get to see some authors turn up time and time again. I guess if the journal does not give a geographical location we can start an internet search.

          If I use a responsible search engine, say ecosia, which plant trees with every search, I can input this:

          “Susan Yavaniski” haiku

          And various results light up:
          https://www.ecosia.org/search?method=index&q=%22Susan%20Yavaniski%22%20haiku

          On the 4th page of results I find out that Susan Yavaniski is from Cohoes, New York as The Heron’s Nest give a 5th line (author) and 6th line (location):
          https://www.theheronsnest.com/December2022/haiku-p10.html

          .
          Searching responsibly, with ecosia, and also Duck Go Duck is also ethical, I find this out:

          Cohoes is an incorporated city located in the northeast corner of Albany County in the U.S. state of New York. It is called the “Spindle City” because of the importance of textile manufacturing to its growth in the 19th century. The city’s factories processed cotton from the Deep South:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohoes,_New_York

          .
          I am producing an article about reading haiku, and it’s fascinating what we choose to read, at least on a first reading. I guess many of us search for logic, a hard thing in this world in general though. 🙂

          Not everyone wants anything more than a surface level, and if the phrasing is magical in a literary sense and accessible, that is often enough.

          Although it’s both rewarding and useful if we see other meanings, layers, connections, whether the author intended them or not. It can only help our own writing and decision making if we want a 1-meaning poem only or something that readers can come to many times and receive something different.

          I guess I want to go on an adventure with the wording of a haiku, and if there is nothing extra, the risk is that I expect other haiku to be just surface only, and enjoy quickly reading once, and hop to the next one.

          I do like spotting both familiar and new names, and locations, though it’s the wording, how the alphabet (if it’s in that Western language system) somehow gets me beyond just a quick read.

          warm regards,
          Alan

      2. Julie, I apologize to you and anyone else who’s found anything I wrote here to be upsetting or rude. That wasn’t my intention at all.

        I was drawn in to commenting on the first haiku, by Jim Kacian, because I believed I had something valid to contribute by showing my own reading process, in conversation with Kat & Robin’s example. In fact, I think the way they ” dissect and analyze monoku” (your terms) is very close to mine. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we all end up with exactly the same interpretations.

        I must object to your comment that I implied “. . .that Richa Sharma’s haiku is ridiculous (or borders on ridiculous) “.
        That was an unnecessary jump to a wrong conclusion. This is what I actually wrote:

        “In my reading, “renting my heartbeats” is absurd and to be instantly dismissed as a valid reading, so what is it that’s being rented here?”

        What I did was show my process of reading the haiku. I did not dismiss the haiku, but dismissed “renting my heartbeats” as a literal absurdity and on that basis I inferred a cut following “renting” : “for a short while renting / my heartbeats” . (How do others establish a cut/ cuts?) The question “so what is it that’s being rented here?” is my next step towards understanding and interpretation. I believe this is a valid process and a common one, not at all unique to me.

        Isn’t establishing the cut, and sometimes more than one cut, a necessary step in reading monoku? Having established the cut (to my own satisfaction, if not to anyone else’s) I continued on to find a couple of possibilities of relating “my heartbeats” to “renting”. To rent is to pay someone for the use of something. What is being rented and how are “my heartbeats” related to that? The thing being rented is obscure, mysterious, to me, yes, but I don’t think it’s the kind of mysteriousness associated with the Japanese concept of yūgen.

        I don’t know who invented the term “the 4th line” for haiku (the “4th line” meaning what we know, or think we do, about the author : such things as country, gender, other writings, . . .) Clearly, the term was originally intended to apply to 3-line haiku, which was the normative E.L. form at one stage, but it continues to be used in relation to haiku and senryu in any form : 3-line, monoku, Japanese (vertical one-line), monoku and all the shapes demonstrated in Jim Kacian’s essay ‘The Shape of Things to Come: Form Past and Future in Haiku’ : https://thehaikufoundation.org/juxta/juxta-1-1/the-shape-of-things-to-come-form-past-and-future-in-haiku/

        Julie, I don’t intend to imply that we should “view the poem through the lens of the author” but there are some basic things about the author that are helpful to know when reading and interpreting haiku. One is where, on this more-or-less ball-shaped planet, the author resides or is associated with. Another, sometimes, is gender. Anyone who read the original judges’ comment on Peter Newman’s winning ‘snowman & son’ haiku in last year’s Touchstone Awards will know the hilarious speculations & interpretations that getting gender wrong can lead to. (This commentary has subsequently been completely revised. )

        Obviously (I would’ve thought) “the fourth line” isn’t intended to be taken literally, but stands for information that may, in some cases, help us in our interpretations of haiku.

        1. Lorin, thanks for the clarification, and the apology. I appreciate the additional context on “the fourth line.” I am still pondering what I think about the necessity of this information when evaluating haiku. On one hand, knowing more about the poet can inform the poem (although there’s always a chance that what you think you know about the poet isn’t correct). On the other hand, I think this information can limit interpretation and enjoyment of the haiku.

          1. “”One, how do we view the writer when we evaluate a haiku? Is understanding the poet and their intent integral to our understanding and appreciating the poem? I’m curious what others think about the “fourth line” of haiku.” – Julie Bloss Kelsey
            .
            Julie, yes it’s true that what one thinks about the poet isn’t necessarily correct but considering the ‘4th line’ can sometimes assist in understanding.

            I wrote up my (latest and, imo, best) interpretation of Richa Sharma’s haiku (following Sean’s intuition of pregnancy) but when I attempted to post it here, it didn’t post. Have I been blocked?

          2. Hi Lorin,

            No, you aren’t blocked, but there’s definitely something going on. We’ve been experiencing delays in how long it takes our posts to appear on the blog. This seems to be a site-wide issue, and it looks like it is affecting comments as well as posts.

            In addition, though, I also didn’t see an option to respond to you directly on this comment – there should have been a reply button and there wasn’t one. I’m not sure why. I’m writing this manually from the comment section of our WP dashboard – hope it posts!

            I’ll be sure to bring these issues up with our team.

  6. Thank you Kat and Robin. I love sussing out a variety of readings in poetry. A good monoku should allow that. But so hard to do a good one!

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