View Full Version : One-line poems

05-07-2006, 06:12 AM
I'm a huge fan of one-line poems and collections of one-line poems masquerading as larger work. However, I find myself forced to stumble across them... does anyone know of a magazine or journal that frequently publishes good one-line poems?

A few of my favorites:


to be warm, build an igloo


Insomnia, old tree, when will you shed me?

--William Matthews

05-07-2006, 06:24 AM
I have a few-

sunrise sunset strobelight sphinx

silence deepens beneath the keel


her pointing hand blots out stars

05-07-2006, 06:43 AM

Merrily we roll along


05-07-2006, 06:58 AM
What distinction are you making between one line poems and aphorisms. Your examples seem to be more of the latter while Bret's seem better examples of Poetic expression.

If you are simply looking for aphorisms, there are many sites on the web including http://book-smith.tripod.com/taglines.html which has many, but most are more philosophical than poetic.

You may also note, however, that Haiku/Senryu can also be done in one line (rather than being broken up into 3 lines) and sites devoted to such should, at least, have a few samples available (and presumably most Haiku/Senryu could be converted to such, as well).

Hope this helps.


05-07-2006, 07:06 AM
There are several one line haiku* in the anthology The Haiku Handbook. examples:

a dixie cup floats down the Nile

-cor van den heuvel

t w i l i g h t b l u e & p a l e g r e e n l e a v e s e v e r y w h e r e s c e n t o f w a t e r m e l o n s

anita virgil

at dusk hot water from the hose

old woodcutter rests on the rings of the oak

-marlene mountain

shadows darkening three-sevenths of her face in sunlight

elizabeth searle lamb

mallards leaving in the water rippled sky

penny harter

the silence a droplet of water trickles down a stone

—Matsuo Allard

pig and i spring rain
—Marlene Mountain


-Alexis Rotella

more: from The Haiku Moment. (ed. by Bruce Ross. Tuttle.)

deep inside the faded wood a scarlet maple

-nick avis

oaring not moving the lilies

-micheal dudley

the old irrigation ditch gasthering in autumn dusthaze

in morning sun two white horses the autumn aspen

-e.s. lamb

even in the owl's swoop no sound

coming in on the tide the moon

-minna lerman

the bright silence of sun in a clay pot (my fave!)

g.c. little

shaping itself on the pond the spring wind

-june moreau

a hot day an inch worm drops from the high leaves

autumn dusk the crooked road home

spring the one dead tree

-marlene mountain

starless night moving outward the undertow

darkened beach rocking on its back winter moon

-claire pratt

swans stir of his breath against my hair

-alexis rotella

Surrounding the stone silence

-richard thompson

silence the wind in the mirror

-cor van den heuvel

I don't know if there is a one line poem journal, but by golly there ought to be!

*all "traditional haiku" ( Japanese haiku that is) are written in a single line

05-07-2006, 07:19 AM
Thanks, JRH. I guess I'm thinking mostly of one-line poems by authors who frequently work in longer forms. Aphorism generally calls to mind an adage, a thing commonly held true, a pithy statement that barely skirts cliche. And sure, I enjoy Bartleby's as much as the next guy, but that doesn't seem to me to fall anywhere near the poetry tree.

I'm mostly thinking that I'd like to find (if such a thing exists) a regular, well-edited collection of short and one-line poems. Alec Finlay just recently edited an anthology of Scottish poetry called Atoms of Delight, much of which was haiku but which had some fantastic one-line poems, and there are a bazillion periodicals that focus on haiku. But one-line poems are often fascinatingly complex and evocative-- poems that are wholly shaped in so compact a space, rather than just being a really good line that belongs in a longer piece. There's got to be someone publishing them on a regular basis. Someone mentioned Blink to me but I can't find any information on it (not the Gladwell book, the poetry mag).


Merrily we roll along


No. That's an example. I'm looking for magazines.

05-07-2006, 04:30 PM
i made one up yesterday...

she only ever mutters or screams

05-07-2006, 05:52 PM
I think Blink is an e-zine. I've come across it before.

05-07-2006, 08:55 PM
Hi Ultra,

You can find some one line poems (along with longer ones) at: http://www.everydayzen.org/teachings/poetry_sampler2004.asp and a discussion of one line Haiku at: http://www.poetrylives.com/SimplyHaiku/SHv2n5/haikuclinic/haikuclinic.html

However, in researching this, I found across the following example.

"If it's only one line it can't be a poem."

and I find I agree with that sentiment, simply because one line is not sufficient to establish the scope or depth of meaning associated with "true" Poetry as opposed to "mere" Verse.

Think about it.


05-07-2006, 10:18 PM
in researching this, I found across the following example.

"If it's only one line it can't be a poem."


I don't think that statement can be proven. It looks more like an opinion to me. An opinion is vaild or not depending on the readers willingness to buy in. I would certainly understand someone saying "I reject one line poems" or "I don't like them" or "They are too short for my personal tastes" But to make it sound like a commandment strikes me as a bit over reaching. It makes me want to say "Says who?"

Some stickers sprouted up in the liberal, artsy, resort town where I work that said-


Granted , it's more of a public art display that raises the readers awareness of the idea- "Poem." But I'd laugh if a bunch of professors got together with the NEA and tried to impose a Federal minimum line and word count for something to legally be called a poem.

If they did, I would start writing "illegal" poetry at once.

I looked up "definition poem" on google. The link to "definitions of poem on the web" listed nine defs from various sources, only one referred to "lines" plural. Another said often includes stanzas and line breaks, not "must". The rest mentioned "charged, figurative, imaginative language."

this one from freedictionary.com

1. A verbal composition designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way, characterized by the use of language chosen for its sound and suggestive power and by the use of literary techniques such as meter, metaphor, and rhyme.
2. A composition in verse rather than in prose.
3. A literary composition written with an intensity or beauty of language more characteristic of poetry than of prose.
4. A creation, object, or experience having beauty suggestive of poetry.

That sounds reasonable to me and apparently can be any length.

But if it's only one line, it isn't poetry? I've told my kids "Rap is not music" before. They know what I mean is, "I don't like it." Of course it's music. Just not a kind I'd listen to willingly.;)

05-08-2006, 08:59 AM
two still hands shape the turning cup