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10 Very Short American Poems Everyone Should Read

The best short poems by American poets

In the past, we’ve offered a crash course in Victorian poetry by choosing ten incredibly short poems by Victorian writers, as a sort of ‘taste test’ for the style and themes of Victorian verse. In this post, we offer ten extremely short poems by American poets (i.e. no longer than 14 lines), as a way into the rich diversity of American verse produced since the nineteenth century. What are your favourite short American poems? And are there any poets we’ve left off the list who wrote a mini-masterpiece you think should have been included?

NB: we’ve had to exercise somewhat arbitrary rules when deciding what counts as an ‘American poem’ or an ‘American poet’ here. Sylvia Plath was born in the US but wrote much of her mature poetry in England; Ezra Pound was also an American expatriate living in Europe. And yet we include the former and not the latter. This is a contentious decision, but our ruling is largely that Pound (and T. S. Eliot, for that matter) consciously embraced a European tradition and deliberately broke with American literature. Read the rest of this entry