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haikaiTALKS: a saturday gathering! ONE-LINE haiku

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

haikaiTALKS: ONE-LINE HAIKU - a saturday gathering_under the banyan tree

host: Richa Sharma

11th March 2023

Breakthrough in English-language Haiku

Dear poets,

The previous post focused on the translations of Japanese poems into one-line English haiku by Hiroaki Sato.

Renowned haiku poet, Alan Summers, has graciously shared his marvellous views, essays, and articles in the comments section. Thank you so much, Alan.

In essence, haiku is the poetry of the particular and is written within the context of a country's language and culture. So, coming back to the history of one-line English haiku, many western poets like Guillaume Apollinaire, Michael Segers, and Cor van den Heuvel started experimenting with different possibilities. The breakthrough came in the late 1970s when poet Marlene Mountain (11 December 1939 – 15 March 2018) published her first groundbreaking haiku book, the old tin roof (1976), which includes many one-line poems. It is available as a part of The Haiku Foundation's Digital Library.

She began writing haiku in 1968 and was one of the first haiku poets to focus on the one-line approach by way of analogy with the one-column vertical writing of Japanese haiku, thus becoming a major contributor to the English-language haiku in her own right. ¹

Notably, Marlene was experimental since the beginning, and her oeuvre demonstrates an exceptional ability to convey that language doesn't necessarily impose meaning where meaning is not. Discussions about her innovative works are important for as long as we talk of one-line haiku and the history of English-language haiku in general.

autumn mist oak leaves left to rust

(Frogpond 26:1, 2003)

Through the one-line form, she expressed her deep concerns for the environment and the freedom of women. Marlene's poems of the here and now tell us something more about the relationship between the human world and the natural world. Her gendai spirit is a constant source of inspiration and change.

The most important appraisal of Marlene Mountain comes from Haruo Shirane, author of the influential book Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Bashō (Stanford University Press, 1998)

In 2001, these words from his letter to her will keep encouraging haikai poets for all times to come:

“To put it another way, what was most important for Bashō was what was called haikai spirit, to be constantly seeking new horizons, new forms, new words, and new emotions. In my view, you have that spirit.” ²

Here is another one-line haiku from Marlene Mountain's phenomenal collection the old tin roof:

the crayfish gathers her young beneath her

Another favourite monoku:

morning-glory folds into herself into her folds

Marlene Mountain

HSA Harold G. Henderson Award, 1979, HM




Galmitz, Jack. Views. Seawall Press, 2012.


R’r 12.2 (Roadrunner Journal)


Ross, Bruce. How to Haiku: A writer's guide to haiku and related forms. Tuttle Publishing, 2002. Print.

Happy International Women's Day. Huge congratulations to all the women haiku poets.



<> <> <> <> I am adding the link to the one-line verses I wrote with Marlene Mountain in 2016. It was published in BONES as an ebook. Corresponded with her everyday for over four months.

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