Powerful short poems have been around for a long time. Consider Sappho (670-510 B.C.):
Eros seizes me
Like the wind on the mountain
Shaking ancient leaves.
And the short poem still flourishes in the 21st century. Steve Sanfield published scores of short poems he referred to as “hoops.” Here is one:
The cricket he rescued
from the dishwasher
kept him awake all night.
In this workshop, we’ll look at many extraordinary short poems, from the ancient to contemporary. We’ll uncount our syllables and listen to the sounds, savor the image, the insight, the phrase—and often, transform everything with the perfect title. Will we write in class? We won’t be able to help ourselves! And yes, we will shut off our syllable counters. The workshop should be a challenge and a pleasure for everyone, from accomplished poets to people who love language but have never dared to think of themselves as poets.
Although for years Jim Heynen was best known for his collections of short-shorts about “the boys” (The Man Who Kept Cigars in His Cap, Graywolf Press; You Know What is Right, North Point Press; The One-room Schoolhouse, Knopf; and The Boys’ House, Minnesota Historical Society Press), in 2014 Milkweed Editions published his first collection of short-shorts that feature mostly urban characters: Ordinary Sins: After Theophrastus. Heynen has also published three novels (The Fall of Alice K., Milkweed Editions; Cosmos Coyote and William the Nice, YA, Henry Holt; Being Youngest, YA, Henry Holt), as well as several collections of poetry, including A Suitable Church, Copper Canyon Press and Standing Naked: New and Selected Poems, Confluence Press. He wrote prose vignettes for two photography books published by The University of Iowa Press, Harker’s Barns and Sunday Afternoon on the Porch. His one major nonfiction book, One Hundred Over 100, Fulcrum Publishers, featured 100 American centenarians. Heynen has frequently been featured on National Public Radio reading his own stories and has been awarded National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in both poetry and fiction.