Short work

May 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

A poet – I can’t remember who – wrote recently that she’d read a novel and thought: I could do that in ten lines.  It reminded me of a question often asked in creative writing classes I’ve taught over the years.  What’s the difference between fiction and poetry?  To which I start to respond, several times, eventually leaving it hanging, really.

What about the difference between a short poem and a long one?  Okay, perhaps I’m being wilfully naive here.  The Waste Land takes on civilisation; Edward Thomas’ ‘The Cherry Trees’ is but a simple metaphor.  But; but.  Both are elegies; each testifies to the wretchedness wrought on people’s lives and minds by the First World War.  Perhaps the scope of Eliot allows for a recognition of fracture in its form, while the brevity of Thomas’ poem doesn’t.  But as for emotional impact?


The Cherry Trees

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

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