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I am on a small journey to help me understand what the definition of a poem is to different people, what poems mean to them.

This made me wonder, some poems are longer than others, so:

How short can a poem be until it can no longer be a poem?

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Also see: worldsshortestpoem.com (Adam Had'em!) –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 25 at 20:28
Another contender for the spot: poetry.rapgenius.com/… (Me? Whee!) –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 25 at 20:29
There is another: by Joost van den Vondel reads: U NU! (translated as You Now!) –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 25 at 20:32
However, I think what's answer best suits you. The claims are debatable (at least some of the above quoted). –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 25 at 20:33

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The shortest poems are




by Aram Saroyan.

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Was just about to type the same answer! –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 25 at 20:21
Also interesting is the poem "Fleas" which reads: "Adam <linebreak> Had'em" –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 25 at 20:22
is that second one just ......Empty? –  hello_there_andy Mar 25 at 20:22
@hello_there_andy No. It reads "m". "a one-letter poem comprising a four-legged version of the letter "m"" -Wikipedia –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 25 at 20:23
Yes, it is a poem. It is a "minimalistic" poem. "Saroyan's four-legged "m" has been cited in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's shortest poem. Admirer Bob Grumman has written that the poem plays on formation of an alphabet, as if 'm' and 'n' are in the process of separating. It can also be understood as a pun on "I am", implying the formation of consciousness itself." - Wikipedia –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 25 at 20:27

Since asking the question, I stumbled across another single-letter poem.


I was skeptical about accepting such poems as true poems, but this is a rather neat one I have to say:

enter image description here


The letter i with the author's own unique thumbprint to complete it. The thumbprint is the most meaningful symbol that can express the meaning of the object it labels - more so than a name (names rarely are unique, at least in English).

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Unlike a work of prose, which has a generally accepted predefined length (be it a short story, novella, novel, etc.) poetry is not governed by such precepts. Poetry is akin to art. A white canvas with a single stroke of paint on it can be a painting, if that is the intention of its creator. A poem can be any number of words, or just one, or even one letter, if that is the intent of its author. Public acceptance of such a work as a poem, however, is another matter entirely. Nearly 100 years ago, Marcel Duchamp submitted a urinal labelled "R.Mutt" to an art exhibition, and people have been arguing "Is it art?" ever since.


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Beautiful @Stephen-Ross –  hello_there_andy Mar 27 at 12:50

I know.

So go.

Doesn't that qualify? It rhymes, keeps a meter, and "says" more than it says. That's pretty much my definition of poetry. Not saying it's any good, though. Even more minimal:



(Wow, that's soooo deep. The minimalism powerfully evokes the impoverishment of social interactions in a technological society, especially with regard to oppressed minority groups.)

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Not the shortest but +1 for expanding the discussion, and nice explanation :) –  hello_there_andy Mar 25 at 20:37
BTW, those are my original poems, copyright 2014. So from now on, anytime two people say Hi/Bye, they must pay me a royalty. (Actually, even just Hi or Bye would be 50% of my poem, which exceeds fair use.) Email me for terms. –  dmm Mar 26 at 4:05

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