How short can a poem be?

Brevity is the soul of wit, and often short poems are epigrams -- or epitaphs. Maybe you have a few favorites. Another kind of short poem is the haiku. I have seen few really successful examples in English, though, apart from the famous one by Pound, "In a Station of the Metro". But here are a couple of haiku-influenced poems by Cid Corman, who lived many years in Japan and knows its poetry well. If these look casual, look again, and see if you can notice their formal structure or formal principles. I'll limit myself to three.


Mountain
stars

eyes
in the

open
do


Rain-drops. Each
makes a point
of silence.


What's heaped too
high
spills

Emptiness
just
fills.

Here's a haiku by Kikaku, translated by Kenneth Rexroth (One Hundred Poems from the Japanese, New Directions, 1964):
A blind child
Guided by his mother
Admires the cherry blossoms.

and one more by Fujiwara no Kiyosuke, trans. Rexroth:
I may live on until
I long for this time
In which I am so unhappy,
And remember it fondly.


  • Some more of my favorite short poems

  • Updated 18 November 2000