|BROADSTONE BOOKS presents
Short poem: Be brief and tell us everything. —Charles Simic
Over a century ago a young art student in New York City (the future poet Vachel
Lindsay) lamented in a letter that the pace of "American Hurry" was too great to
"read a poem twice." Fast forward (of course!) to our era of tweets and sound
bites and his assessment seems even more the case. But what great poets – like
the ones collected in this volume – have always known is that the short poem is
the perfect vehicle to convey the maximum amount of content with the greatest
economy of language; to be, in a word, succinct. The short poem may well be the
perfect literary form to capture the attention and the imagination of readers in the
midst of our own "American Hurry."
Moreover, and however counterintuitively, the short poem serves as an antidote to
acceleration. It often requires – indeed, demands – that we slow down to let each
word speak to us. Like something glimpsed peripherally along the highway that
causes us to pause, reverse, turn back, the short poem intrigues and invites us to
read and re-read, giving up its meaning gradually.
The poems collected here – over 150 of them – come to us across centuries and
from many languages and cultures, but all share the power to stop us in our tracks,
at least for a moment. The arrangement – alphabetically by author – makes for
startling and illuminating juxtapositions. Whether philosophical or poignant,
aggrieved or amused, bucolic or boisterous, each creates a little space containing a
great wide world.
From the Foreword:
"This anthology has been cobbled together slowly over many years to show the
'space' that can be created by the short poem and how that poem can resonate in
that space given the required attention and slow reading it deserves. Reading
without alacrity, turning the pages with hesitation, is the best way to read Succinct.
Short poems might require a reader to enter an unexpected conversation: surprises,
serendipity, references from the dream world, abrupt transitions, the peripheral
visions of experience.
"We have endeavored to cross all the boundaries of poetic schools, nationalities,
and chronologies to show the possibilities of what can be done in a short poem.
Famous poets are placed side-by-side with the less known, translations from
foreign lands with the homegrown, ancient with the contemporary. We hope to
claim a new and well-deserved place for the short poem."
"In Robert Browning’s poem 'Andrea del Sarto,' that painter famously declares,
'Less is more.' While this is not necessarily true of poetry (any more than it is of
painting), the little poem does have its distinctive virtues. It invites maximum
economy of language. It can present a single image or idea with punching force, or
with a delicate flourish. It can be understood quickly, yet may also lend itself to
sophisticated explication. It can be a diamond in the rough, or an exquisitely cut
"We agreed that every poem here would be shorter than a conventional sonnet,
and that no two would be by the same poet, though a poet could appear again as a
translator. As for the translations themselves, they range from close renderings to
"John Frederick Nims wrote that the main thing an anthology should do is surprise.
We trust that Succinct will do that—we hope in good ways—and we wish you
the joy of discovery."
|Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Paperback, 192 pages
Jonathan Greene is the author of over thirty books, his most recent being
Seeking Light, New & Selected Later Poems. He runs Gnomon Press and also
works as a book designer. He lives with his wife, weaver and photographer
Dobree Adams, on a farm on the banks of the Kentucky River outside of
Robert West’s latest collection of poems is the chapbook Convalescent
(Finishing Line Press, 2011). A former editor of The Carolina Quarterly and
Blink: A Little Little Magazine of Little Poems, he is now associate editor of
Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures at Mississippi State
University, where he also teaches in the Department of English. His edition of a
collected poems of A.R. Ammons is forthcoming from W.W. Norton.
The Broadstone Anthology
of Short Poems
& Robert West
"The 161 poems in this anthology, arranged alphabetically by author, cover
centuries of writing and traverse the globe to include poems translated from the
French, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, Japanese, and Sanskrit, to list a few. They are
all 'shorter than a conventional sonnet,' as we are told in the preface, allowing for a
compressed reading experience in time. At their most successful, however, these
poems linger in the mind and heart, snagging attention as does a particular piece of
music in Proust’s descriptions of Swann or as when I am jogging and a bit of song
keeps playing in my mind, distracting me from the physical world and taking me
inward. The poems are a combination of resting places and reflective spaces.
Indeed, with their devilish humor or harrowing despair, their glosses on marriage,
lust, and death, these are poems 'in extremis,' as meaningful as charged last words....
These small poems, disguised as ephemera, as lacy flimsies, are as solid and
permanent and gritty and seductive as all great art must be.
J. W. Bonner, Asheville Poetry Review
"Succinct is a pretty good job overall, showing a lot of care and thought. The
selections are weighted toward the minimal with a strong East Asian influence, but
there is enough diversity that almost any reader should be able to find a goodly
handful of surprising treasures."
Michael Ferguson, Oyster Boy Review
Please note the following corrections to this title:
Page 113: The title of the Ezra Pound poem should read "Fan-Piece, For Her Imperial
Lord" and the final line of the poem should read "You also are laid aside."
Page 170: In the credit line for Bill Deemer's poem "Fame and Fortune" at the top of the
page, the year of publication for the Round Bend Press revised edition of his book
Variations should be 2011. Longhouse published the original version of Variations in
Broadstone Books regrets these errors.