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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars short and sweet - indeed, May 6, 2004
This review is from: Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems (Faber Poetry) (Paperback)
The definition chosen for a "short" poem by 36-year-old Englishman Simon Armitage is simple. A short poem is shorter than a sonnet. It has less than 14 lines.
Armitage selected almost exclusively English and American authors' poems for his anthology, and most of them wrote in the 20th century. He begins with the short poems of thirteen lines, like Emily Dickinson's "After great pain, a formal feeling comes"; and he ends the book with Don Paterson's "On Going to Meet a Zen Master in the Kyushu Mountains and Not Finding Him (for A.G.)". The latter consists of nothing but its elaborate title (plus the dedication, of course). Which is not only apt, but also funny.
My personal favorites in this anthology are: "The Winter Palace", Philip Larkin's gruff ode to ageing; Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska's hilarious "Bodybuilders' Contest"; William Carlos Williams' literally sweet and delicious "This is Just to Say"; Mexican poet Octavio Paz's exemplary and witty "Example"; Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice"; and Carol Ann Duffy's "Mrs Darwin."
Some short but sweet quotes from my favorites:
From scalp to sole, all muscles in slow motion.
The ocean of his torso drips with lotion.
The king of all is he who preens and wrestles
with sinews twisted into monstrous pretzels.
(from: Bodybuilders' Contest)
7 April 1852.
Went to the Zoo.
I said to him -
Something about that chimpanzee over there
reminds me of you.
(Mrs Darwin)
The shorter the poems get, the wittier they tend to be:
Siesta of a Hungarian Snake (by Edwin Morgan)
s sz sz SZ sz SZ sz ZS zs ZS zs zs z
To a Friend is Search of Rural Seclusion (by Christopher Logue)
When all else fails,
Try Wales.
As all anthologies, this one, too, is an invitation to read more by the poets that surprised or touched me, or that simply made me chuckle or guffaw. My only complaint in this respect is that Simon Armitage provided only the most basic of information: the year of birth and - should the case be - death of the poets. I found that an anthology gains tremendously from an editor's comments on the poems or the poets. In particular if the editor is an experienced poet himself.
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