Sunday, March 10, 2013

Short Poems

About 10 days ago, I heard an installment of NPR's "Talk of the Nation" which focused on short poems.  The guest on the show was Brad Leithauser, a novelist and poet, who had recently written a piece for The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog entitled In Praise of Concision, where he discussed how profound short poems can be.  

Reportedly, Marilyn Monroe once remarked that she enjoyed reading poetry “because it saves time.”  If poetry is "the chiseled marble of language," these poems have been chiseled more than most.

One of the poems mentioned on the show was The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams:  

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

I remember from my childhood Bill drilling into me the significance of this poem:  how in just a few spare lines it evoked the entire panorama of farmlife.

Leithauser also discussed a poem I hadn't heard before.  I guess that I'm just an old softy, but I really liked it. It sort of had the defiance of John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud."

Jenny kiss'd Me by Leigh Hunt

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.
Leithauser also mentioned Dorothy Parker, but failed to point out her best short poem, "Resumé."

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
Finally, one from the Greek poet Sapphos not mentioned:
Death is an evil; the gods have so judged; had it been good, they would die.


James R said...

Short poem brings home:
concise will suffice.
Long verse, the reverse:
death by heft.

James R said...

Exhausting rhyme's not worth my time.
It's obsolete if it don't tweet.

Big Myk said...

Writing verse?
Keep it terse.

James R said...

Rover ode—
Over load.