The weather here has been unbearably hot and humid (8-10 consecutive days in the 90s, and 104º F. in today’s forecast) – not great weather for writing much of anything. So … I thought it might be fun and interesting to try writing monostitch poems this week.
A monostitch poem is a freestanding, one-line poem, balanced in its own time and place. Historically, the monostitch dates to ancient times (reportedly including the Roman poet Marcus Valerius Martialis, though I was unable to locate any examples). The form received attention again in late nineteenth century Russia when Valery Bryusov published this single-line poem in 1894:
О закрой свои бледные ноги.
(Oh, cover your pale legs.)
I’ve found a few “rules for monostitch poems” that may serve as guidelines for your writing this week.
A monostitch poem:
- should be a single line composed from 6 -12 syllables (though the syllable count is entirely flexible),
- should include at least one figure of speech (a metaphor, but never a simile because similes require more words), personification, or other poetic device,
- should not have any punctuation other than a capital letter at the beginning and terminal punctuation (period, question mark, or exclamation point) at the end,
- should be a complete thought and not a phrase or fragment,
- should express a complete idea or theme in such a way that the meaning and nuance of the poem is clear.
Note: Monostitch titles are as important as the poems, so be sure to create a great title.
Coward by R. A. Ammons
Bravery runs in my family.
Now, find a cool spot, a shady place, a bench beneath the trees, or crank up the AC indoors and give monostitch poems a try. Here’s something to consider: maybe your monostitch will serve as a springboard for a longer poem. If that happens, go with it and see where your one-liner leads you!