Monostich and Paint Chips

So there were no good entries in the W section of the poetry dictionary and there are no X, Y, or Z sections. We are visiting family so I decided to ask my mother-in-law to pick a letter of the alphabet (without telling her why). She picked M. Looking over the entries I settled on monostich. And it comes with options.

MONOSTICH (mon’-oh-stik; Greek, “one line”) A one-line stanza or poem. Many twentieth-century poets make use of one-line stanzas, either interspersed through a poem or at the end where a single isolated line is especially emphatic. David St. John’s “Iris,” for example, begins with a monostich—

. . . . . There is a train inside this iris:

—and then alternates couplets and monostichs throughout the poem.

A poem that consists of a single isolated line can be a definition, aphorism, image, fragment, joke (responding to the title like a punch line), or the kind of inscription one might find on a tomb. But it must stand out, without the interplay and assistance that other lines could provide.

. . . BYGONES / Charles Wright (b. 1935)

. . . . . The rain has stopped falling asleep on its crystal stems.

the poetry dictionary, pg. 172-73.

The Challenge

My challenge to you today is to write a poem using monostich. You could try writing a poem that is a single line in its entirety, or use monostich interspersed throughout a longer poem. I actually hope that someone tries the joke option mentioned in Drury’s definition. I’m not clever enough for that, but I’m sure one of you is.

The paint chip words and phrases you have to work with are the red planet, lily of the valley, dust devil, fossil, green flash, school bus, and inchworm.

I would like you to incorporate one or two of these words and phrases into your monostich, if you decide to write just a one-line poem. If you write a longer poem, with monostich throughout or at the beginning or end, then I would like you to use at least four of the words and phrases, with at least one in a monostich.

My Poem

I’ve decided to go minimalist today and just write a monostich and no more.

The Yellow School Bus

A dust devil chased us past the lily of the valley on our way to school.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. You can share your poem in the comments or post it on your blog and drop a link in the comments. If you really want to have some fun, write one monostich and invite others to follow it with a second monostich for a collaborative poem consisting of multiple single line stanzas. Be sure to invite your fellow poets to come join the fun.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


19 Responses

  1. I tried. The first line the monostitch and the 2 following a couplet?

    Dust devils gather as soon as we turn our heads

    We give no mind to the inchworm because we walk in strides
    Moths fly toward light while we are blinded by our pride

  2. I liked the thought of seeing the “devil” and the “lily” from the school bus in your monostich. I can also imagine someone seeing that on the way to school.


    I’m not sure if this qualifies as a monostich. It sounds like it could be two lines due to the rhyme and meter, but it is short enough to be written as one.


    Inchworm fossil, green flash bright, school bus quiet for the night.

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