Roof Books, $14.95 (paper)
Flood Editions, $12.95 (paper)
When you read poems of some length—a double sonnet, or a book-length verse diary—you might well envision each poem as a self-contained entity: a “little world made cunningly,” in John Donne’s phrase, or a “machine made of words,” as William Carlos Williams wrote, propelled by the interactions among its own parts. When you read a very short poem—two lines, or twenty syllables—you might still ask about its moving parts, but you might also acknowledge that the parts do not move on their own: such a small object clearly depends, for much of its meaning, emotion, and force, on the expectations that we bring. Very short poems, in other words, can go a very long way to ask, and to answer, questions about what we expect out of poems in general, about what poetry—or a particular kind of poetry—is.