Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Micropoetry and more


Despite the above title, the only real “rule” for micropoetry is less, not more. In versions made popular on Twitter, a micro poem, Tweetku, or Twaiku has 140 characters or less as found by using a hashtag with those words or by typing #micropoetry.

In general, a micro poem might have ten words or less or, more likely, one to six lines.

Some writers of these mini poems prefer the structured form of haiku in its traditional form of the English equivalent of 5/ 7/ 5 syllables respectively on three lines, but contemporary versions of haiku often break with that tradition anyway, giving rise to new mini-forms. Unlike most haiku, though, a micro poem might include rhymes with no reference to nature or any particular season of the year.

A pioneer of micropoetic adventures is Editor-Publisher-Poet Frank Watson, who kindly accepted a couple of my poems last year for his first issue of Poetry Nook. Since he liked my poetry, I suspected I would enjoy his work, too, and so I welcomed the review copies he sent me of his books Seas to Mulberries and The Dollhouse Mirror, published by Plum White Press.

In both books, the poet presents tiny cameos, super-short stories, petite prose poems, or fleeting scenes in miniature. Since I've run out of adjectives to tell you about them, let’s look at some micro poems in the first book, Seas to Mulberries.

In a footnote to the poet’s translation of a poem by Li Yi (746-829), we learn that the title phrase “is an idiom reflecting how greatly things can change over time.” Interestingly, that translation from Chinese into four quatrains of English gives us one of the longest poems in the book with examples of change paradoxically showing their timelessness. For instance:

Inquiring on our family names,
Surprised, we begin to see;
We state our names
And reflect upon our changed appearances.

Coming and going, forever changing:
Seas to mulberries, mulberries to seas.
Our words cease
By the evening bell.


More typical, perhaps, is the use of brevity in poetic statements such as:

to feel vs. to know

does it matter
to the soul?


or

you sing
a discordant song
while I play along


Sound echoes of assonance and light rhyme appear in the following poem, too, which also gives us an example of a quickly sketched scene.

desert woman
of the sand

your shadow
touches
an outstretched hand


With few lines to guide our reading of micropoetry, the more we look, the more and more we see story potential:

in history
there is little
but ruined towns

and clouds
that tell a story.


Ironically, perhaps, the first collection of mini-poems by Frank Watson takes up almost 280 pages, whereas the second book, The Dollhouse Mirror, is a slender volume of 58 pages, which I liked as its very slimness contributes to an appropriately slower pace in reading. I also connected more with the immense universality of his micro poems in such lines as these:

to the poet
there is a love of beauty
in all its
terrifying forms


Or:

the forest
curled up
into a story
of stranded souls
away from city lights


As you can see, micro poems may or may not contain punctuation, capitalization, and other markers of English, set often in incomplete sentences as in these lines:

seed planted
on the grave
of yesterday’s tears


But then, you might also find a micro poem completed in one small sentence that memorializes a humorous moment:

a doll stares out
the store window
at the little girl
of her dreams

Using this “form” without a form, a poet can dream or drop in almost anything – past memorabilia, present tensions, and future hopes – with philosophical whispers that linger in our thoughts and in this closing poem:

there is time
enough for weeping
as the dust settles
and all the books
remain closed




©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and poetry editor, invites you to Search this blog for previously discussed poetic forms, terminology, or techniques that interest you, then suggest poetry-related topics you would like to see addressed in future posts. Follow the blog, and you won't miss a thing!


Seas to Mulberries, paperback



The Dollhouse Mirror, paperback




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