A snippet post on short forms that are anything but just snippets.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of smaller poems published or win prizes – in the Financial Times, The Plough Prize (when they still had a short poem category) and Nutshells and Nuggets. (Magma also now runs a short poem category in their annual poetry competition.)

Sometimes short poems, haiku in particular, may be overlooked or dismissed by some critics because of their ‘slight’ length. But I prefer to think of it as a ‘precised’ length.

It is true that very short forms can’t cover as much narrative or detailed ground and don’t require some skills that epic poetry, for example. But forms such as haiku and senryu require a fine attention to detail, awareness, precision, prioritisation and tautness of their own, as well as sharing some poetry tools with longer forms.

It is often quoted that poetry is the best words in the best order, regardless of length. But I think the reader’s attention focusses on each word more intently in short poems; every mistake or superfluous word their carries more weight than in a longer poem, where it may be noticed but then overtaken by later lines.

Among the reasons why short poems such as haiku and senryu appeal to me as a reader and writer are the intensity and clarity of the form, as well as the way that a seemingly simple snapshot can capture so much more than just itself, often giving a sense of a whole character, or even the whole universe in 17 syllables or less.

This is better phrased and expanded upon by Paul Chambers in his Wales Arts Review piece The Deep Sigh: Meditations Upon Haiku.

Another thing that attracts me is the accessibility/popularity with the general public that I’ve found haiku-style poems often have.

When I staged my 2012 exhibition An Eyeful of Words, the photo and haiku combinations were often the highlight poems that registered more strongly on the feedback forms and that were retained for longer in visitors’ minds. These also formed the poetry from my two android smart phone poetry apps: Pocket Gallery: Pic a Poem and Pic Pocket a Poem available to download at google android playstore.

winter overwhelms
with ivy knots and bare wood –
each green leaf is hope

 
 
 
 

In 2014, when I started my #100kindsofhappy haiku-style tweets, I was delighted by the feedback from both poets and non-poets. While my longer poems linked from Facebook or twitter regularly generate likes and feedback, the #100kindsofhappy tweets and Facebook statuses have attracted noticeably more interaction and likes from non-poets.

Of course, talking about size has all sorts of connotations in all sorts of areas in terms of both beauty and attraction. In poetry as much as anywhere else, it is not so much about size as what one can and do do with that size, and short forms can more than pull their own weight.

My News

My recent publications and forthcoming events are all indebted to my family and friends, who help keep me strong.

The past few weeks I have been lucky enough to have another poem in the F.T. (while you’re there, do also check out Claire Leavey’s at the top left of this page), a three-part sequence accepted by Oxford Poetry and a senryu sequence The Caretaker’s Character References on Crowsfeet.

Monday, February 23 – I will be reading in a Worcestershire poetry showcase event at The Hive on Monday, February 23 at 7.30pm with Tood Swift, Ruth Stacey and Ben Parker. Tickets available from The Hive in advance or on the night.

Wednesday, February 25 – Tickets are now available too for my FREE Off the Page reading and Q and A at Birmingham Library on Wednesday, February 25 at 6pm. The evening will be a chance to hear some of my prize-winning poems from last year, as well as poems from my forthcoming collection, The Magnetic Diaries.

I’m also delighted to announce the one-act poetry play version of The Magnetic Diaries has been accepted for the Write On Fest at Hereford’s The Courtyard on Saturday, July 4 (in the studio at 7pm).

I will be playing Em, with soundtrack for the the male voices and technical effects. This is a new, but exciting challenge for me – from understanding and agreeing the contract, to sorting out the tech side and props. Now on to the even scarier line-learning and rehearsals!

Micro-review

It has been a while since I microreviewed properly but Ian Pindar’s Constellations (Carcanet) was worth the wait.

I began reading this book this week at a time when I really needed calmness and beauty, not the crackling sounds, bright images and energetic vibes that I look for in poetry at other times.

This collection of quietly striking lines was perfect for that peace-seeking mood. The book opens with poems of people merged with landscape and world, of watching rivers, skies and tides moving by. As a reader, it as if I am watching from an “awakening shell”, where we “turn into what we watch” (poem 4).

Unusually – or so it seems to me – this is a collection that grows more alive, more sparking as you move towards its centre, its heart. In part II, love. In III, markets forces and politics. And onwards, always onwards.

The wisdom and beauty contained within these mainly quite concise poems is startling/dazzling/profound at times, for all its apparently gentle or barely rippled surface. Its grip strengthen and strengthens until it is almost as if Pindar is inside my head and I am crying the tears of shooting stars and astral dust. Definitely, a collection that I would recommend.