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on 12 July 2010
I have many poetry books, 50% classics, 50% anthologies.
The anthology "Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems" is the best I have read in many a year and has revived my interest in poetry. With a brilliant introduction, the selection cuts straight to the heart of the essence of poetry. I read the anthology backwards (ie: from the shortest poem {no lines, just a title} to the longest {13 lines}) to test my attention span and also get a feel for my personal preference of an optimum length of a poem (the poems longer than 8-9 lines started to feel a bit 'padded out').
If you've never read any poetry, I recommend start here with "Short & Sweet" ... or if poetry has become mundane for you, then re-start with same.
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I collect these things myself, and I have to say this could hardly be done better. Constantly surprising - though I would draw the line at Innisfree, both hackneyed and too long (12 lines is fine* as long as the lines are short), whereas the other Yeats he includes is a killer. He also includes *two* Salamuns, in versions by himself with different collaborators, and an Apollinaire for which he modestly declines to take any credit (though the attendant ambiguity rather flags up this 'modesty'!) It's unfairly forgotten these days that Apollinaire was no Frenchman but an 'Italo-Russe' (according to his call-up papers) of Polish stock; wonder where he fished up his flourish of a pseudonym? Anyway, a lovely, and loving, piece of work, though I should have thought Herrick merited inclusion - poor Herrick, fated alas like Stevie Smith (and possibly Paul Muldoon?) to be known for a mere handful of words. And how about this for Simon's shortissimo sequel (Miljkovic/Simic: spelling anglicized)

While the river banks are quarrelling,
The waters flow quietly.

I must confess I hadn't picked up on the diminuendo concept, Josh - and I approve of reading books backwards (does Kindle permit this?) - though it does mean lots of 12-liners clustered together; personally I quite like the randomness of alphabetically-by-first-line. Hopefully Armitage is working on his selection of 101 prose poems for Faber as we speak (pure fantasy on my part)

*Frank Ormsby in The Hip Flask [*****] sets himself a limit of 10, but perhaps Irish poetry is peculiarly apt for such constriction. William Cole went for Eight Lines and Under - but was it art? And then there's the one-liner. Oh yes.. come on, Armitage!
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on 10 November 1999
Each poem in this book is less than 13 lines long, and the smallest has no lines at all but does have a fantastic title. As a compilation, the style and tone of the poems vary considerably but many are witty and pithy. Simon Armitage's introduction is worth the price of admission alone.
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on 5 April 2013
These poems are indeed 'short and sweet' - they are a very well chosen collection of poems, leaving you able to flick through and find poems that attract you. (Because they are so short and extremely well written and resonating poems, it is actually quite addictive!) The book is small, thin and lightweight too, meaning that it is a great travel companion.
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on 20 July 2013
A great selection of poetry, some well know some more obscure. A little book that's worth it's weight in gold. There's things you'll read here that'll stay with you forever. Ian Hamilton Findlay's - Catch, stands out as one of the best!
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on 6 February 2001
A collection of short poems. some are very short - 2 lines - others are longer - a whole verse. all are short and sweet. An excellent book for dipping into and worth owning!
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on 26 January 2014
A good idea, but fails to deliver. only one poem per page, although some are single lines, which means jt takes barely an hour to get through the book. but is is the selection that is the real disappointment. there are one or two poems translated into English, so why not include a few classic haikus - short poems par excellence? I would have expected one or two of Ogden Nash's witty squibs, one or two of Pound's haiku-like efforts (so much better than the interminable and indigestible cantos), the emperor Hadrian's epitaph (possibly the greatest epitaph ever, and certainly one of the most moving and goose-pimple inspiring short poems)...........
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on 21 September 2010
Some great choices of poetry from Simon Armitage but others he lost me on! The siesta of a Hungarian snake ... not exactly Hardy but did make me laugh!
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on 30 August 2013
An interesting variety of poems. As it says 'Short and Sweet' and yet not short on content and thought. An interesting book to keep and reflect on.
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on 21 February 2003
This one's an essential buy for two reasons. First, you always need a well chosen collection of short poems in your pocket in case the train is late. Second, Simon Armitage's introduction is a gem. Witty and low key as always, he quietly offers us a thought provoking definition and defence of short poems and poems in general, while slily denying any such intention.
Classing a short poem as anything less than a sonnet, Armitage offers us a dazzling variety. From fragments of Sappho through favourites from Hopkins to a couple of ultra short items that stretch anyone's definition of a poem, there is enough here to transform any number of bad train days. There are upsides and downsides to the choices of course. He has provocatively ignored the convention of only including one poem per poet - good news for James Tate fans - but has modestly stuck with another one by not giving us even a measly one of his own poems. And the Robert Frost seems a bit long to me if one of the definitions of a short poem is something you can learn by heart and carry around with you intact, even when you've left the book on the train. But these are quibbles. With the poems arranged as a countdown from thirteen line poems to none, you even get a choice of which end to start, to suit the time available.
Short and Sweet was firmly aimed at the Christmas market, which certainly worked on me - I bought it as a present for myself. Don't let that put you off though, it's a classic.
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