I’ve got a short poem on A Handful of Stones at the moment, and so I thought I’d write something about the appeal of the many forms which come within the definition – if there is a definition.
Some years back Alec Finlay published Atoms of Delight, in his pocketbooks series, and it included a whole selection of different types of work. Haiku were there of course, but so too were two-line poems, one-line poems, and one-word poems (where the title was usually a long and often cryptic clue to the one word which followed). This was a form sometimes used by Ian Hamilton Finlay. The title of the anthology was taken from Neil Gunn, who developed a late interest in short forms (and Zen of course). There are several of my haiku in it, together with a note recalling a conversation I had with Alan Spence about Norman MacCaig’s view of ‘wee poems’.
Haiku are too well known to need description here, but some shorter forms don’t have a formal definition, and some might argue that they aren’t strictly ‘poems’, or not complete poems, merely poetic fragments – Alec’s ‘atoms’. I can’t remember which of Lewis Carroll’s characters said something about words meaning what he chose to make them mean, and that’s maybe what it boils down to. If a poet says that a two-line fragment is a poem, then that’s maybe what it is.
Have a look at A Handful of Stones, and see what you think. I think it’s a delightful site, full of small wonders.