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
Fleas
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”:

shortestpoem

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:

Tears
I. Cry.
MY TURN

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

Amnesia
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.

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6 thoughts on “The Shortest Poem in History

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