cat and coffee marking midnight papers
As part of our retrospective look at the first twenty years of the Australian Haiku Society, we continue our survey of haiku appearing in the First Australian Haiku Anthology (FAHA) as a way of shining a light on modern trends in Australian haiku and the impact those trends have had on the practice of writing haiku in this country. In this article, we will revisit Jacqui Murray’s one-line haiku, which appears above.
One of the notable features of FAHA, compared to subsequent anthologies, is the number of one-line haiku it contained. There are fourteen one-line haiku (contributed by nine poets) in FAHA, compared to six haiku (six poets) in the second anthology and eleven haiku (nine poets) in the third. Given one-line haiku’s rising status as an accepted format over the past twenty years, both here and abroad, this is a curious trend.
While three-line haiku is still the global ‘norm’, one-line haiku (or, ‘monoku’) is a long-established and widely practised method of writing haiku that is exerting an increasing presence in most, if not all, haiku journals around the globe. One-line haiku initially took hold in English in the 1970s with the release of well-known American poet, Marlene Mountain’s first book of haiku, the old tin roof, which included many poems in the one-line format. Throughout her writing career, Mountain championed the form, influencing many writers including Australia’s Janice Bostok, who visited Mountain at her home in Tennessee in the seventies. Writing ‘one-image’ haiku in one line was, to Bostok, not such a radical departure from classic Japanese haiku, traditionally written in one vertical line down the page. Moreover, Mountain’s work “inspired Jan to try her own experiments with one-line haiku”, writing exclusively in the one-line format for five years during the 1980s.
Bostok believed writing haiku in one-line, taught her “to be succinct and go straight to the core of what I wanted to say.” William J Higginson, Bostok’s mentor during this time, observed that Bostok wrote one-line haiku “to create the type of poem that seems to drive the reader instantly from one end to the other, without a pause for reflection or even noticing the grammar involved”.
We can see this influence in the construction of Murray’s poem. Written without punctuation, capitalisation or ‘breaks’, Murray’s poem has the effect of eliminating spaces, intending the poem to be read as an unbroken line. It was (and still is) not uncommon for poets to render three-line haiku into one-line, thereby managing to maintain the classic haiku rhythm – divided into three parts but written in one line instead of three. The three-line format facilitates a kind of ‘piling up’ of concrete images, with the breaks allowing the reader to give pause to their representation in the poem. The one-line variant introduces new rhythm and greater fragmentation of the poem opening it up it to wider interpretation and perhaps an increased level of surprise. Murray’s poem most likely fits into what Higginson calls ‘multiple-meaning one-line haiku’ – those that offer the reader a number of syntactic elements, allowing for different interpretations of the poem according to how the reader decides to follow the poem’s movement. This slightly disjunctive technique yields a subtle and slightly ambiguous poem and gives it added spark.
Led primarily by Janice Bostok, who had been casting her gaze outside Australia in the twenty years prior to the release of FAHA, Australians were exposed to new trends in English Language Haiku, including one-line haiku, relatively quickly. It is perhaps reflective of her standing in the Australian haiku community at the time of the release of FAHA that one-line haiku was so prominent, before trailing off in subsequent anthologies. As a variant to the traditional form, one-line haiku provides writers with an alternative mode of expression, captured here by Jacqui Murray, that Australian haiku poets have perhaps still yet to take to heart.
 Dean, S. 2011b, White Heron: The Authorised Biography of Australia’s Pioneering Haiku Writer Janice M Bostok, School of Humanities Arts, Education and Law Griffith University. (Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.) p. 353
 ibid. p. 279
 ibid p. 41
 Scott, Rob (2014) The History of Australian Haiku and the Emergence of a Local Accent. Research Master thesis, Victoria University p. 86
 Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms, Haiku Clinic #3: From One-line Poems to One-line Haiku, Part One: The Invitation William J. Higginson, Editor https://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv2n5/haikuclinic/haikuclinic.html sited, 19 May, 2020.
Dean, S. 2011, White Heron: The Authorised Biography of Australia’s Pioneering Haiku Writer Janice M Bostok, School of Humanities Arts, Education and Law Griffith University. (Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.)
Scott, Rob (2014) The History of Australian Haiku and the Emergence of a Local Accent. Research Master thesis, Victoria University
Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms, Haiku Clinic #3: From One-line Poems to One-line Haiku, Part One: The Invitation William J. Higginson, Editor https://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv2n5/haikuclinic/haikuclinic.html
Haiku selection and commentary by Rob Scott