February 24, 2023

Small Poems

Small poems often get short shrift. Basho and Issa are great poets of the haiku form, but I can't imagine them on stage at a poetry festival reading their poems for a half hour. Poor old haiku is often relegated to being an exercise for children in school. It looks easy, but good haiku is not easy to write. 

3:00 AM

Only my hand
is asleep,
but it's a start.

  - Billy Collins

I have always written some poems that are short. I also like reading short poems. Billy Collins says that "Whenever I pick up a new book of poems, I flip through the pages looking for small ones. Just as I might have trust in an abstract painter more if I knew he or she could draw a credible chicken, I have faith in poets who can go short." 


I have turned over
all fifty-two cards
on the kitchen table.

Still, I think
you must be hiding
somewhere in the deck.

In Collins' collection, Musical Tables, there are more than 100 poems. They are not in any of the short forms, such as haiku, tanka, or limerick. They are simply short. 

Reflections On An Amish Childhood

I was a little square
 in a round hat.

Collins points to other poets who go small, like William Carlos Williams, Richard Brautigan, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, and Charles Simic.


I've grown old.
Now my own name
rings a bell.

Listen to an interview with Collins about that collection and short poems.


As he looked for the right word,
several wrong words
appeared in his window.

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