Often, I have realized, small poems are the best kind of poems. No disrespect meant to the monstrosities of Howl and The Waste Land and Song of Myself, but small poems are easily memorized, easily recited, and easily scribbled out on a scrap of paper fished out of the bowels of one’s purse. Here are some of my favorite small poems:
In a Train, Robert Bly
There has been a light snow.
Dark car tracks move in out of the darkness.
I stare at the train window marked with soft dust.
I have awakened at Missoula, Montana, utterly happy.
Not in Vain, Emily Dickinson
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain
First Fig, Edna St. Vincent Millay
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light.
1079, Monk Ryokan (translated by Steven D. Carter)
At least the robber
left this one thing behind —
moon in my window.
This is Just to Say, William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold