Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

July 22, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 3:46 am

Tonight, I wrote my first one-word “poem”–if that’s what this is:


My thought was that any one-word poem cannot truly qualify as a one-word poem if a title is there elaborating, doing almost all the poetical work. The word must be a poem, not only in and of itself, but simply by itself. But, this thought gets quickly overruled at, for instance, this site: One-Word Poems by Douglas A. Mackey.

Each poem of Mackey’s is one word, but needs the title to complete it as a poem. Such as this poem, entitled “The Last Breath of a Famous Philosopher”:

Why . . .

Commentary after the poem is also used by some poets, such as at Monoverbum Poems, where this poem entitled “Why” by Charlie Koscak appears:


But, there is no poem without this commentary:

This poem is an exploration of the feelings the poet has to deal with when creating the second monoverbum poem without creative assistant. There is a sense of loneliness the author feels, but the final letter, a vowel, leaves the reader with a spirit of strength to continue through life’s difficulties.

It is difficult not to consider the idea of “Why . . .” as a plagiarism of “Why”–or vice versa. And although to my memory, I have never encountered “immortal” before, someone could easily have thought of it and written it down, even in doodling before. But although I may now be open to a plagiarism charge, I find it difficult to think I could be hit with a copyright infringement for writing “Why . . .”

From the commentary idea, comes the curious thought for a poem by David R. Slavitt:


It certainly is emotionally charged and tells some story, even touching most people’s lives personally sooner or later, but maybe all people’s fears sooner or later. Yet, even Slavitt pulls up short on asserting it as a poem. The poem that contains “Motherless” is, infact, called “One-Word Poem”, and can be read in its entirety here: American Academy of Poets. This is how the beginning of the poem appears:

One-Word Poem
by David R. Slavitt


Discussion questions.

1. Is this a joke? And, if so, is it a joke of the poet in which the editor of the magazine (or, later, the book publisher or the textbook writers) has conspired? Or is it a joke on the editors and publishers? Is the reader the audience of the poem?

There are 10 discussion questions in all. So the poem, albeit clever, is even far from minimalist.

Another idea of one-word poems, is to contain the word within a drawing, for instance here: Alice George: One-Word Poems & Collages (grades 5-12). Here is “Serenity” by Nat from that collection:

When Aram Saroyan writes minimalist poetry, he gets it down to one word or less, for some terrific musing. Here’s the one by him that some consider the greatest one-word poem, and my favorite too:


This poem is published within a series of Saroyan’s minimalist poems at U B U W E B

In fact, here is a one-letter poem by him:

For more thoughts on one-word poems, and an even smaller poem than Saroyan’s one-letter poem above, visit this web page:

MNMLST POETRY: Unacclaimed but Flourishing by Bob Grumman

There you’ll also find commentary on “lighght”.

~ ~ ~

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