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What Everyone Should Know About Short Poems
Not everything needs to be long and cumbersome to be considered an art form and in poetry, this is especially the case. Poetry has long broken new frontiers in displaying brevity and concision with words as an artistic expression. From the Japanese haiku of only 17 syllables to the short form of a simple limerick, there are dozens of different kinds of short poetry.
Different Kinds of Short Poems
There are hundreds of different formats of poetry – from the classic sonnet to the increasingly rare sestina. However, very short poems are much rarer than one would expect. Traditional poets almost all followed a preconceived format, with a set meter and line format. It might be considered boring by today’s standards, but it was tradition and as a result, short poems were less common. However, there are some examples that break the rules including:
Haiku is the most famous of short poetic forms. Developed by the Japanese, this simple and elegant style has managed to find popularity in numerous cultures and countries.
Triolets are eight line short poems with a very unique rhyming scheme.
Ghazal is a Persian form of poetry that can be as short as ten lines, famously used by Rumi.
Cinquain is similar to the haiku in that each of the five lines is designated a certain number of syllables.
And of course free verse poems in which any format is acceptable
There are dozens of different forms of poetry though in which short poems can be written, using the familiar conventions and tweaking them with the artistic license that all poets have. In the case of some of history’s greatest poets, form was not nearly as important as substance.
Short Poems from History’s Greatest Poets
John Keats often wrote short, yet elaborate poems designed to capture all of the energies of a larger, more intensely styled work without putting its reader to sleep with overabundant metaphors. Though he only lived a scant 26 years, his work has had a profound effect on just about every poet since the early 19th century.
Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island fame also penned his share of short poems, including “To Friends at Home” a very simple yet poignant message to his fellows back home describing how much he misses them. Like many writers of his time, his poetry has been overlooked in favor of his fiction. However, the two are almost equal in volume, and his short poetry is especially well written.
To friends at home, the lone, the admired, the lost
One of the greatest poets to use short forms was Emily Dickinson. Her poems varied in length according to their subjects, be she was not unknown to have used 8 or fewer lines for her most poignant and ultimately best received poems to date. “A Charm Invests a Face” is a great example of this shortened, yet incredibly vivid style:
A charm invests a face
But peers beyond her mesh,
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