Sara Robinson https://www.facebook.com/
What is the “normal” size of a poem? Is there a “calibration standard” for poetry length? We don’t use calipers or carpenter squares to measure length on a page. That is too left-brain for us creative types. But we do study and investigate words to ponder over stresses, syllables, and metrical formats, especially if we are writing formally (i.e. sonnets). Most of us contemporary poets embrace free verse style, so we think about compression and compaction when we compose. We edit a lot, revise a bunch, and throw away words that we decide will be unnecessary or even lazy.
Getting the words down, then getting them good is our faithful mantra. This also means words play a major role in length. The novelist Greg Iles says he writes “in a granular way,” meaning his descriptions often unfold minute-by-minute. That’s why most of his novels are long and epic. I love his writing.
Poet C.D. Wright was one of many writers who composed “verse novels” using topics, such as civil rights, to engage her readers. Her verse-book, One With Others, is a testament to how incorporation of letters, lists, reporting, comes together as poetry. To tackle a big heavy, such as civil rights, she needed to be different, and she succeeded.
While we may not have something that large inside us, we still have plenty of space to occupy between a great length and a few lines. What we strive for is that at the end of the last line of the last stanza our readers are left wanting more.
Here is William Carlos Williams’ The Manoeuvre
“I saw the two starlings
coming in toward the wires.
But at the last,
Just before alighting, they
turned in the air together
and landed backwards!
that’s what got me— to
face into the wind’s teeth.”
Every word counts in what is a normal-size poem for you. The big can be seen in the small. Face the wind and pull your words out of clouds.