Haiku Monostich

One of the Haiku writers I’ve been reading, Hiroaki Sato, talks about how in Japanese haiku and tanka are written as a single line poem.

The three lines are a product of translation, and are an interesting discussion about ‘what makes a poem a poem’ and how that can change between cultures and languages.

In English the requirements for poetry have become less rigid over the years, especially in the last 100. Blank verse, free verse, prose poetry are all poems. But the same would not have always been true. Forms exist because there were rules about what made a poem a poem, and line breaks and stanzas were a major part of that.

Rhyme as well was a major piece of English poetry through most of its history, and as such you’ll see some older haiku translations include rhyme (A B A is the most common scheme I’ve seen). Since almost every word in Japanese ends in a vowel, rhyme is not a defining part of Japanese poetry.

So if haiku in Japanese is a single line poem, should it be translated as such? Sato thinks so, and his books have them as a single line.

I’ve been trying to write haiku, and have started writing them as a single line after reading Sato, and it works well for composition.

One of the principles of haiku that I’ve been working on is the poem is two parts. Usually this falls at a line break in translation, but that is not a requirement. By composing in a single line I can worry more about having the parts, independent of the line breaks, which impose an artificial constraint.

The other thing it does is it removes the initial urge to be rigid about the syllable count. (And yes, there is another translation discussion about English syllables and Japanese ‘sounds’ to be had)

For example, if a poem has 17 syllables, but you would have to beak a word to have a 5-7-5 line break, did you succeed? More importantly, would you have even picked that word if you were forcing yourself to have the line breaks?

For a constrained form, removing some of those constraints during composition, pushing them to editing, has helped. Because a haiku isn’t a 17 syllable poem, 5-7-5; it is a comparison of two things with a turn and seasonal word that has a syllabic constraint.

What’s in a So?

iA Writer recently had an update where they allowed for custom style check filters in addition to the cliches, fillers and redundancies filters the app possessed.

This coincided with me reading Dreyer’s English. In the opening chapter Dreyer gives a list of words to stop using for a week.

One of which—so—is one that I knew I used too much.

It was straight forward to add in the words to iA Writer’s pattern list—the only catch being that since I wanted words, and not letter combinations, I had to add spaces before and after.

Otherwise, “so” would mark “personal” since it contained “so”.

Has it helped? That’s to be decided. The intent is not to exclude these words from my prose, poetry, or blog ramblings, but to be more conscious of the construction of those writings.

So when I drop a “so”, it feels fluid, not repetitive.

About those Guidelines

I was reading posts in one of the writer groups I follow on Facebook the other day and several of the writers were lamenting about the restrictions in markets—things like:

No animal cruelty, no child abuse, no vampire/werewolf/zombies, etc. No serial killers.

One writer commented that they still send stories of these kinds to markets despite the restriction, something they bragged had even worked.

The example restrictions above are actually from LampLight, not the thread, and I wanted to talk about them.

I get stories that go against the guidelines all the time. Some are even fantastically written. Amazing zombie stories, horrific vampire ones. I get a lot of what I would consider ‘drama’—stories that are slice of life, and while tragic, lack that which you need to be a horror story.

Some of which I have quite enjoyed reading. I also rejected them.

The thing about the guidelines is that yes, there is some wiggle room in them, their intention has nothing to do with the writer.

Guidelines are about the reader.

LampLight, as other markets, has a certain theme, mood and feel to it. This helps the reader to know what to expect. A market that goes for anything may be convenient for the writer, but will struggle to find an audience.

More how the story isn’t the whole story—I’m not looking for a good story, I’m looking for a good LampLight story.

Which is why as a submitting author it is important to know the market. And, if the only thing you know about the market is the guidelines, then it is even more important that you abide by them.