Brevity: Short and Sweet


A poetry group I belong to thought it might be a good idea to write one poem a day for April 2015 – National Poetry Month – so we gave it a try.  I managed to do it without missing a day, but doing so caused a few muscle cramps along the way. The unexpected result – at least for me – was that we produced some interesting poems on demand, and we all enjoyed it enough to do it again during the current month. Again, a few muscle cramps, but the process is feeling less strenuous now – any exercise feels better if you do it daily instead of sporadically. Of course, I’m not writing the same kind of poetry I usually write, the kind with what I’ll call, for lack of a better word, complications. Instead, I’m going for short, accepting the fact that a lot of what I produce will be chaff instead of wheat, and I’m learning a few things about the sweet joys of brevity.  The essence of a poem’s inspiration – similar to photography’s decisive moment – comes through with more clarity.  Brevity can feel clean and uncluttered.

For example, the other day I saw a good friend who went through my MFA program with me, and for the first time I met his daughter, who is now four. She was shy at first, but when she got more comfortable, she began to tell stories and giggle and chat and do what four-year old girls normally do – steal the limelight. The more my friend wanted to catch up with me, the more his daughter wanted to bring the light back to her own observations. She’s a natural sharer, and so is my grandson – both of them delightful and both of them with a lot to say.  At a certain point, she began to pat her dad’s cheeks and say, “Look, Daddy. Look, Daddy. Daddy, look!”  and I thought about my own kids, grown now and no longer in need of my attention that way – no one patting my cheeks, no one thrilled by my attention. And I thought of my husband, and how I used to watch him be a father, which I get to see only once in awhile now, since it’s just the two of us at home.

I knew what I was feeling would be a good opportunity for a poem – not an expansive poem but a zen moment kind of a poem – a small observation meant to capture a large and bittersweet longing, kind of like the image of the small goldfish in the large bowl which I put at the top of this post – something small floating in an expansive space. My poem for the day was this:

She Was Thinking All Night

…about the things she missed most, like
the way a little girl says daddy look
look daddy and then the way a daddy
turns and looks

Twenty-five words. It captures what I was thinking about for the rest of the night, after my friend and I said goodbye. For all I know, it will be too long before I see him again. If so, his daughter will be more independent and need his attention less. We’ll probably catch up more, but I won’t get that moment when she pats his cheeks and says “Look, Daddy.” Moments, poems, observations, feelings – there’s a lot out there that comes and goes quickly. For those of us who, in their writing, tend to go on a bit, and then a bit more, I recommend brevity on occasion.


Kimberly Moran is the host for this week’s Poetry Friday. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

13 responses to “Brevity: Short and Sweet

  1. What a lovely post, Julie. Like a haiku moment, you’ve captured the essence of the encounter.

    As far as brevity is concerned, I’m all for it!

  2. Beautifully written. Often short is better and this is excellent. Thank you.

  3. I love this Julie. And I agree with Diane, brevity works very well in this instance. I wrote all of April with Mary Lee and several others, have not written a poem since. And I wonder why…

  4. Delicious poem, Julie. A moment to savor and remember.
    I did a similar poetry exchange in April, and we are repeating it for July (although skipping weekends in July.) I had a harder time starting this month, but now it is feeling easier again.

  5. I wish I could say I’d written every day like in April, but I haven’t. It’s been a month of discombobulation! Soon! You inspire even in your brief words, Julie. This is poignant, that sweet time, like others remembered.

  6. I have a little lump in my throat. We visited my youngest daughter last week in Chicago. I can remember her voice chiming, “Look, Daddy!” Ah, me. They do grow up fast.

  7. Another hazard parenting books don’t warn you about: someday you will ache with longing for this tiny person. Your brief (good advice!) reflection is beautiful.

  8. Love your poem, Julie. So perfect in its twenty-five words.

  9. Just beautiful, Julie.

  10. Echoing all these responses – beautifully captured! And my hat’s off to your discipline (& all those who’ve been doing daily challenges back in Poetry Month and beyond – especially during the summer!).

  11. Lovely post. It was wonderful to remember that stage of childhood.

  12. Recommend the haiku poetry site: Lilliput Review, edited by a friend. He is a master of writing haiku, publishing haiku and teaching about the form. He has two beautiful books out now–Past All Traps and Yield to the Willow.

  13. Nice!!

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