People are scared of brevity. It’s a limit: the amount of time we are allowed to walk on this Earth, kiss the people we love, watch the sunset. Everything centers around time. Length.

As a poet, I am scared of brevity. I am afraid that my poems will be lacking if they do not filtrate at least half the page. While I have written poems that are shorter, even upon completion, I felt as if they were missing complexity and depth in their truncated state.

This is not to say that I do not admire short poems; there is a tremendous amount of craft in poems that can create feeling and beauty in a smattering of lines. As poets we fall in love with individual lines in a poem before we profess our love for the entire poem. Yet, I still feel as if I must prove something in each poem- instill it with meaning- which often requires a substantial amount of space.

I find it difficult to forge a poem out of a few lines, a few words, though I know it is entirely possible. Look at haikus. People have been writing three-line poems for centuries. Haikus do not seem to be lacking; however, I am still unable to pinpoint what my personal poems seem to be missing when they are condensed.

Does anyone have other thoughts on short poems? Any experience writing short poems?

One Reply to “Brevity”

  1. Rachel,

    I think compression can be useful. Often, self-imposed length constraints force one to distill a poem into its most essential form — force one to find clarity.

    For me, this is useful when I attempt to unravel long strings of complicated thought. After cutting, the thematic elements I’ve prioritized subconsciously become evident. From there, I can begin to rework and refocus the original draft.

    Having said this, I encourage you to approach poetry as a case study in necessity — length is no exception. Give the poem what it calls for.

    Yes, some poets are minimalists — specialize in brevity — but you don’t have to be one of them.


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