The Shortest Poem in History

When I came across Strickland Gillilan’s 1927 poem, “Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes,” I had a good laugh. Not only because it’s a concise, funny poem but because the long, complicated title is comically in contrast. Apparently, someone else thought the same thing (as far as I can tell, nobody has fessed up yet) and later shortened the title to “fleas.” So here it is, the shortest poem in history:

Photo, with thanks, by Georgio Travato
Adam had'em.
Not so fast!

Let’s not hand out the trophy yet! There seems to be some controversy as to who is the winner of the shortest poem penned award. Aram Saroyan wrote this poem in the seventies at just one-letter long. It’s a four legged letter “M”:


What the heck does this poem mean? I haven’t a clue, but poet, Bob Grumman, interprets the poem in this way, “it snaps us visually into the center of an alphabet just starting to form, between its m and n.” And he says, “The poem also comes across as a pun for the word, “am,” to suggest some kind of superior, or perhaps gross, state of being–an “am” times one-and-a-half.”

That’s pretty deep for this girl, but I will say it does a poem’s job and this is to get us thinking.

A little more than a decade later, JW Curry composed this one-letter poem in which he portrays his complete individuality with his thumbprint as the dot of the letter I. Some say his is the shortest poem ever. I say it’s pretty clever:

are these really poems?

A poem tells a brief story with one or more poetic techniques including, imagery, emotion, figurative language, tone, mood, rhyme, rhythm, etc. Based on poetic technique, all three of these examples, though short, are indeed poems.

and the winner is…

The Shortest Poem in History is still up for grabs as it depends on who you ask. However, if I were sitting in the judge’s seat, I’d say Gillian’s “fleas” is the shortest “couplet” and Aram Saroyan’s one-word poem, “M,” wins the shortest poem prize because he wrote his one-letter poem before Curry did.

jumping on for THE ride

Since then, many other poets have had the pleasure of trying their hand at writing their shortest poem. Including poet William C. Wilkinsen when he penned this two-word poem titled Tears:

I. Cry.

Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give it a try. Here are my shortest poem contributions:

Brain drain. 

Sugar Daddy
Pay Pal.

Family Reunion
Mixed Nuts.

Triplet Babies
Poop Group.
Your turn

Want to give it a try? Feel free to leave your shortest poem in the comments below (scroll way down). I look forward to seeing how clever my readers can be. For those of you who would like to share or comment anonymously, I’ve created settings to allow you to do so. Simply reply without signing into your WordPress account.

Please follow the blog to receive weekly posts. And as always, thank you for popping in!

32 thoughts on “The Shortest Poem in History

  1. So… based on the criteria of what I read above … I just might have the shortest poem ever.

    “Dollar Tree” by Daniel Goodland (composed this day, 2022-05-03)

    My poem uses no words or letter to give its message, but instead, it is the symbol for the dollar growing out of the metaphorical page before the reader. Since symbols came before the modern written word, that would place it before a single letter in the quest for shortest poem ever.

  2. Popsicle…Please Freeze by Charlotte Coffield age 7, Truck…Boy Toy by Connor Coffield age 4. Connor…Fart Tart by Charlotte Coffield sister, age 7

  3. who wrote the poem that reads:

    “A Nun in the supermarket waiting in the queue wondering what its like to buy groceries for two”

  4. what about Jose Garcia Villa’s The Emperor’s New Sonnet? zero words, zero lines. Only smart people can read it 😁.

  5. Not mine, but Jose Garcia Villa wrote “The Emperor’s New Sonnet”. Zero lines, zero words…and only smart people can read it 😉😁.

    1. Ha! yes, there’s that blank page of a poem which raises the question does a poem need words to be a poem? Being a lover of words, I tend to think so 🙂 With that said, in art and poetry there is something for everyone.

  6. This one is not mine, but that of Kirsi Kunnas, a famous Finnish childrens’ author. It has been published in her anthology “Tiitiäisen satupuu”.


    sanoi omenamato.


    Shortage of homes,
    said the apple worm.)

    – Susanna Viljanen, Helsinki, Finland –

Leave a Reply