Long Poems

Long poems seem to be a difficult sell, at least as far as literary magazines go.  There are reasons for this, I suppose.  The most obvious issue is space.  When you can publish twelve writers on twelve pages, it seems wasteful to use all that space on one writer.  Another reason may be that many people don’t want to commit the energy to reading something that can feel more like fragmented prose than a poem.  This, I think, is especially true for very long free form poetry.  If you feel obliged to really read into poetry (the way they taught you to do in that freshman university course that you hated) then the longer the poem, the more work it is.

The reason I love long poems, however, is that I feel the form takes the stress off each individual word and distributes it across the whole.  It’s a bit like music.  A short song can combine notes into a beautiful melody.  A long song can draw out that melody, introduce new movements, return to the theme, change tempo, crescendo and retard.

Really, this just says something about what kind of writer I am.  I don’t think of myself as a poet.  I’ve written lots of poetry, but the vast majority of it is exceptionally over-the-top.  It was once famously described as “bombastic”, which sums it up pretty well.  Something changes, though, when I’m writing long poetry.  I don’t know why, but I feel better about what I write, and while it may be a mixture of  insecurity and boastfulness to say so, the poems get better when I think they’re better.  The poem becomes a collage, and the central theme has room to breathe.

Although I don’t claim to know who Mimi Khalvati is, I appreciate what she has to say about long poems:

The long poem is as much a space in which to flex one’s muscles, grapple with problems, identify weaknesses, as it is to mine rich seams, give sway to obsessions and vent to narrative.  (I found this quote here.)

So flex and grapple.  Mine and give sway.  Vent!  Write a 400 line poem.



About jackfrey
Jack Frey lives somewhere in Northeast Asia with his wife and two young boys. He finds the letter K to be the most aesthetically pleasing of all the consonants, in both its upper and lowercase forms. Like many of us, he is currently seeking publication of his first novel.

2 Responses to Long Poems

  1. Frey here are 3 long poems that you may or may not like


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