Friday, January 23, 2015

Prompt #214 – The Language of Lunes

The Lune, also known as the American Haiku was created by poet and literature professor Robert Kelly as a response to traditional Haiku. His new “form” was a self-contained, tercet (three-line poem) that consisted of 13 syllables divided into 5, 3, 5 syllables per line (five in the first line, three in the second line, and five in the third line). Unlike haiku, though, there are no rules, no required kigo (season word), no cutting word, and no conceptual break (or the shift in perception that we often see in haiku). Kelly named his form the “Lune” because the right side of most examples creates a “syllabic shape” reminiscent of the crescent moon.

Poet Jack Collom devised a variation of Kelly’s Lune in a self-contained tercet that is word-based rather than syllable-based: three words in the first line, five words in the second line, and three words in the third line. Just as Kelly imposed no other rules, neither did Collom.


Decide which form of the Lune you’d like to try (Kelly’s syllable-number form, or Collom’s word-number form).

Then, simply write an image/thought of three words or five syllables as your first line and see where the poem takes you. Here are "formats" for you to experiment with (copy and paste into your document, and then fill in the lines).

Robert Kelly Style Lune (This style doesn’t use capitalization or punctuation.)

Line 1: Five Syllables

Line 2: Three Syllables

Line 3:  Five Syllables

Jack Collom Style Lune (This style does use capitals and punctuation.)

Line 1: Three Words

Line 2: Five Words

Line 3:  Three Words

If you like Lunes, try writing a series of related Lunes or a Lune poem that contains several Lune-stanzas (individual but related "links" that line up on the page like stanzas).


Stick to the format, and work toward the leaping (and crystal-cutting) quality of haiku.

Think in terms of imagery (Lunes are great for developing a sense of image).

Don’t try to be profound—simply make a statement and then “play” with the words to “pump up” your idea. Go for a moment in time, a small enlightenment, something wonderfully ordinary.

By nature, both Lune forms require strict attention to the words you use. Choose carefully!


A Lune from Robert Kelly’s book Knee Lunes.

     thin sliver of the
     crescent moon
     high up the real world

A Lune from Jack Collom’s  “Moving Windows: Evaluating the Poetry Children Write.”

     When the sun’s
     rays hit the shades, it
     lights up lines.


  1. How interesting! I never heard of lunes before -- a bit looney, but fun!

  2. New to me too but interesting and probably more accessible than haiku for my students. Thanks, Adele.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rich! Hope your students like Lunes!

  3. Trying out for both here:

    Thanks for the prompt Adele!


  4. Then there's also Allen Ginsberg's American Sentence, also invented in response to the strict rules of the haiku. Seventeen syllables in one sentence. That's the entire set of rules. The next sentence jumps off the first, so you only need one sentence to get going. You can then create line and stanza breaks as you please. My poems, "A Murmuration of Starlings" and "Hunger in the Garden," are both written in American Sentences.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Diane. I did a prompt on American Sentences a while back. They're great for jump-starting the poetry writing process. I'll check your books for the poems you mention!

  5. fear infects my heart
    I face it
    my consciousness screams

    1. Scary, Risa—but a feeling we've all had, I'm sure. You did a great job with the syllables.

    2. thanks for the prompt amazing how so few words can convey that scary feeling