Friday, October 17

short, short poems

An Anthology of Short, Short Poems
Edited by William Cole
Macmillan Company 1967

Sometimes what you want from a poem is short. Brevity the soul of wit and all. This compact little book collects over 250 poems that fit the bill, collected thematically, each chapter heading a line pulled from one of the poems. You get chapter titles like "Here dead lie we..." and "...into the daily accident."

All of the usual suspects are here: Auden, Keats, Pope and Pound, Frost and Yeats and Dickenson, in addition to some upstarts like Brecht and Updike and some woman named Anonymous. There are playground rhymes and terse bits of light verse, though Cole points out in his introduction that short doesn't necessarily mean trivial. Short can whet or cleanse the palate between longer literary journeys, or occupy the mind while visiting the lavatory.

Admittedly this collection, these poems, can be a little stale around the edges, and almost Parade-esque. I like to think of them as holiday cookies left out overnight after the party -- what they lack in freshness is compensated by their continued flavor and the memories they revive.

These are some of my faves from the collection.
By a rich fast moving stream

become a
dragon and
then a poem
about a dragonfly
becoming a dangerous
reader in fast pursuit
of summer transformations.

~John Tagliabue

To a Man in a Picture Window Watching Television

Watching TV,
How aptly
You're framed,
As if on TV --
Observer observed!

Deeper in shade,
Still others may sit
Watching me
Watching you
Watching it.

~Mildred Weston

The Wheel Change

I'm sitting on the grass by the roadside.
The driver is changing the wheel.
I don't like it where I came from.
I don't like it where I'm going to.
Why am I watching the wheel change
With impatience?

~Berthold Brecht, translated by Eric Bentley

Please Tell Me Just the Fabuli

Please tell me just the fabuli,
The miraculi,
The gargantua;
And kindly, kindly spare me
All this insignificia.

~Shel Silverstein


Oh, England.
Sick in the head and sick in the heart,
Sick in the whole and every part:
And yet sicker thou art still
For thinking that thou art not ill.

~Anonymous, seventeenth century (and perhaps a bit closer to home as well)


All this aching
Go to making

~Alun Lewis

The round-up for Poetry Friday is at Becky's Book Reviews today.
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