The Delicious Explanation of Why I Dislike Micropoetry

It’s easiest to start with a thought exercise. Let’s imagine that all of creative writing is a chocolate dessert buffet.

The Chocolate Dessert Buffet

Fiction is the chocolate cake, because it has a good volume of words, and the crumb structure of fiction, eg. plot, character, dialogue, setting, etc. is very important. A novel might be a multi-tied chocolate cake.

This cake represents a novel. Note the distinctive height and plot-crumb structure. Photo by caramelle bakery from Pexels

A chapter would be a slice of the cake. You still have the volume, crumb structure and layers of plot, setting, character and so on, but it’s a manageable section of the novel-cake to enjoy in one sitting. A chapter, like a slice of cake, doesn’t stand alone on its own – it’s part of a larger novel-cake.

Savoring a novel one chapter at a time. It’s important to pace yourself. Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Continuing our analogy, short story and flash fiction would be a cupcake. Still the same cake consistency of fiction, but in smaller size. Unlike the chapter-slice, the short story-cupcake is a a stand alone cake in itself.

A delicious standalone short story-cupcake. Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels

The Poetry Section of the Buffet

Still with me? Let’s move past the fiction-cake section and on to the poetry section of the buffet.

What is poetry? Poetry takes out all of fluffy unnecessary words of fiction, leaving a richer, more intense chocolate flavor and a more luscious dessert experience. Something so rich and concentrated, you only need a few bites to be satisfied. The texture of a poem is more like a mousse or ganache – deep, rich, luscious, intense.

Dark chocolate ganache and mousse…mmm…This is pure poetry. Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels

A formal poem might be more of a layered mousse dessert. Something with distinct formally layered stanzas, where the structure of the mousse to ensure the right amount of air is whipped in for the desired syllabic texture is critically important.

Formal mousse-based poems. I’m not exactly sure what poetic form this is, (and I don’t even typically go for form poetry) but I want this. Photo by Nestor Cortez from Pexels

Whereas a free-verse poem might be more of a rich dark chocolate ganache truffle. Where it’s really about concentrating those images, sharpening the language, and intensifying that dark chocolate flavor, more so than following a specific structure.

Sinfully delicious anthology of free-verse poetry truffles. Image by Nata737 from Pixabay

In either case, poetry has that deep rich intensity of flavor, image, and language. A poem gives a satisfying dessert/reading experience with its brevity because it’s so rich.

Micropoetry

A micropoem is a single M&M candy.

Stock photo of multiple M&Ms. I couldn’t even find a stock photo of a single M&M, it is that unsatisfying. Image by ssunyi from Pixabay

Wikipedia has some interesting information about the history of M&Ms:

Forrest Mars, Sr., son of the Mars Company founder, Frank C. Mars, copied the idea for the candy in the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War when he saw soldiers eating British-made Smarties, chocolate pellets with a colored shell of what confectioners call hard panning (essentially hardened sugar syrup) surrounding the outside, preventing the sweets (candies) from melting. Mars received a patent for his own process on March 3, 1941.[6] …The company’s first big customer was the U.S. Army, which saw the invention as a way to allow soldiers to carry chocolate in tropical climates without it melting… 

Wikipedia

In other words, M&M’s require some noteworthy engineering and technical skill to produce. I respect the science, innovation, and history behind M&M’s (well, except for the part where they basically ripped the idea off the British). I mean, M&M’s were the first candy in space!

But do M&M’s taste good? Are they satisfying? Personally, I think not.

Sure, you get some chocolate (plain, diluted milk chocolate, not good quality dark chocolate), but what you mostly get are the hard candy shell limits of form distracting from the chocolate. Even if the content is decent (eg. a dark chocolate M&M – do these even exist?), what you mostly taste is the form shell, which tastes annoying and disappointing.

The portion size is also unsatisfying. An M&M-sized amount of crappy milk chocolate in an even crappier candy shell does not in any way satisfy my cravings for either chocolate or poetry. Calling a single M&M dessert is insulting to the true dessert-lover.

My dislike of micropoetry comes down to this: I can respect the technical skill and craft behind writing in micropoetic forms. But I do not like micropoetry because I find it deeply unsatisfying in content and flavor.

Craft, Meaning, and Satisfaction

My blogger friend ben Alexander wrote his reflection on micropoetry after having written 365 micropoems in a year. So I’ll respond to some of what ben Alexander wrote.

ben Alexander wrote about how he came to appreciate the craft of micropoetry, the challenge of fitting a poem into a limited number of syllables and/or a tight form. Ultimately, meaning is in the eye of the beholder, but ben Alexander wrote that he found meaning as both a reader and writer of micropoetry – studying the different micro-forms, learning their history and context, and taking on the challenge of cramming meaning into a shorter form.

I agree with ben Alexander on craft and technical skill. Writing poetry in microform with strict syllable/word count is not easy. I somewhat agree with ben Alexander on meaning, in the sense that I don’t think that longer poems necessarily convey more meaning, or that there is a minimum word count for meaning. I do think ben Alexander is overgeneralizing when he says that micropoetry is something that both writers and readers find meaningful. (This is certainly not true for all writers and readers.)

Where I disagree is that I think there’s another quality of poetry that goes beyond meaning – satisfaction. Poetry should be rich enough that the language, imagery and flavor linger on your tongue. Yes, meaning can play a role in creating that satisfying experience, but I think satisfaction in poetry goes beyond meaning. If all I wanted was pithy meaningful sayings, I would buy a calendar of inspirational quotes. With poetry, I want something more. Micropoetry more often than not doesn’t give that poetic satisfaction.

FAQs

I will now overinflate my self-importance by answering some potential questions about my dislike of micropoetry.

Do you hate all micropoetry?

No. There have been times when I’ve read micropoems that I truly enjoyed. When I actually tasted rich chocolate of poetry and not the annoying saccharine shell of the form, or even when the shell actually enhanced the deep chocolate with sweetness and texture. (I will say that this happens a lot less often than micropoetry enthusiasts say that it does.) By and large, I don’t like micropoetry, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions.

Is micropoetry your least favorite form of poetry?

Actually, no. I can appreciate the tiny amount of chocolate and the technical skill and engineering in a micropoem. It isn’t satisfying at all, but there’s an attempt to use language in a creative way.

My least favorite form of poetry is the blitz. The blitz involves stringing together short phrases in a short period of time (essentially causing you to rely on cliché, because that’s what comes to mind first) with a weirdly specific number of lines and weirdly specific rules for the last lines. In my opinion, stringing together clichés does not produce poetry; it produces cliché, which is the opposite of good poetry. In the creative writing chocolate dessert buffet analogy, the blitz would be a Tootsie Roll – corn syrup with a little bit of chocolate flavor and color to trick you into thinking there’s actual chocolate. This is an even more insulting dessert experience than the micropoem-M&M candy.

Blitz poem-Tootsie Roll. This is an even worse dessert that the micropoem-M&M. Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

But I love micropoetry! What should I do now knowing that you don’t like it?

Do you like doughnuts? Avocados? French toast? Olives?

I hate all of those things. I could write passionately about how much I hate them – how very overrated avocados are, how very awful the texture of a doughnut is, how I can’t stand even the smell of French toast. I’ve already written about how much I hate olives.

But you might like one of those things, maybe all of them. And if you love doughnuts, I don’t expect you to stop liking doughnuts just because some random stranger on the internet said she didn’t like them. You should think of my dislike of micropoetry the same way.

Why don’t you do a micropoem-a-day challenge so you learn to appreciate it?

Not interested. I appreciate the technical craft of writing micropoetry. I don’t like the end product. Knowing the skill involved doesn’t cause me to find it satisfying or enjoyable. Like no matter how much I listen to experts like Paul Hollywood talk about the technical aspects of making perfect doughnuts and eclairs (I also hate all things choux pastry) on The Great British Bake Off, it doesn’t make me like doughnuts and eclairs. Or even make me dislike them less. For me, writing a micropoem a day would be like opening up a doughnut bakery or starting an avocado farm – a lot of effort for a product that I don’t like.

But you only improve when you step out of your comfort zone!

True, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone can expose you to different styles and gets you out of old habits. And it’s certainly true that reading helps one grow as a writer. But here’s where I disagree:

  1. I don’t agree that stepping out of one’s comfort zone by writing in a style you don’t enjoy is the only way to improve is a writer. I would argue that actually, the most important thing to do to improve as a writer is to be open to getting constructive feedback on your writing, and being open to revising your writing based on that constructive feedback.
  2. There’s a matter of priority. Expanding my repertoire of poetry styles to include micropoetry is not a priority on my list of writing goals for me to do the personal equivalent of opening a doughnut bakery & French toast café.
  3. Would you really want to get doughnuts from JYP’s Dull Doughnut Bakeshop? Or JYP’s Reluctant Avocado Farm? (Do avocados even grow on farms?) Does the world really need more sad doughnuts and avocados? I really don’t like these products, just as I don’t like micropoetry, and it’ll show in the end product.

TL;DR:

I read and write poetry for satisfaction. I find micropoetry deeply unsatisfying and very much lacking in the richness, content, and flavor that makes poetry poetry. If you love it, feel free to ignore me, just as you would ignore any of my other unpopular opinions on food, no matter how passionately I hold them (and I hold them very passionately). If you didn’t read this post because you got distracted licking all the chocolate dessert photos on your screen, I won’t judge.

If you hate dark chocolate, this post is probably lost on you. Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

62 comments

    • For me, it’s the creativity or language and imagery as well as the way poetry concentrates that imagery into a smaller form to make it more intense. Poetry feels sharper on the tongue than fiction. The flavor of each line of poetry is more intense because you don’t have the fluffiness of extra unnecessary words.

      That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy or appreciate fiction, and actually, I’d like to learn how to write fiction someday. But the above qualities are what I really love about poetry in particular.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m pretty boring in that my favourite form is non-fiction because it’s pure information I can reflect on. Other forms of writing can express a stronger form of emotion, bring out the best in a language or flow better, but the excitement I get from being able to learn something new or take it further makes me smile.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I agree with almost all of this! And I love the presentation. Much of it made me chuckle. The pictures were mouth-watering and I love that you bothered to think it all out so carefully and completely. It’s an excellent essay. I don’t like most micropoetry either and for very similar reasons. But then again, any poetry that conforms to specific rules AND achieves meaning AND poetry (ie something magic in the ideas/language) is truly admirable. Deeply so. I very much admire people you write good rhyming poetry that is still meaningful because I know how hard I find it. And, as Paula said, if Haiku is micropoetry (which I guess it is) it’s a form I like. I think that’s a bias on my part because Haiku traditionally includes nature imagery and I am a sucker for nature imagery. Also my grandfather wrote Haiku. So a personal connection.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I noted this in a reply to Worms on my blog, but I think it bears putting out there for the discussion – micropoetry need not follow any particular rules. Micropoems can also be written in free verse.


      David

      Liked by 2 people

    • It’s absolutely admirable to have poetry that conforms to specific rules and length, has meaning, and the satisfaction of poetry – more often than not, I haven’t found that micropoetry accomplishes this, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t micropoems that do this and that are exquisite.

      Haikus are interesting for me because I’ve definitely read haikus that gave more of that rich chocolate ganache truffle experience as opposed to the M&M candy experience, even though haiku meets the definition of micropoem. The micropoetry that I’ve enjoyed more has tended to be haiku.

      This is actually where the “foods I dislike” metaphor falls apart. With foods I dislike, my dislike is strong and consistent. I hate every flavor of doughnut, I hate avocado in all forms, and even a little bit of olive ruins the pizza/salad/sandwich for me. With micropoetry, the line is nowhere near as strong and solid and there have definitely been times I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the taste and experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Despite Haiku already rating a couple of mentions in other comments, I want to ask your opinion on it specifically. I appreciate its subject and form requirements. I also like to use Haiku to play with meaning. To my mind part of the challenge with Haiku is to create satisfying imagery. What do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haiku is a funny one for me, because I do find many haikus that give me more of that rich dark chocolate ganache truffle experience even though technically, they are micropoems. I think the fact that haikus are traditionally imagery-oriented in addition to having the strict syllable count helps. I would say that the micropoems that I found to be exceptional have been haikus.

      Like

    • I need to think about this some more, but I don’t think that satisfaction is somehow ‘more than’ meaning. I could say that satisfaction is meaningful to me; and I could say that meaning is satisfying. They carry equal weight for me.

      Ultimately, both are subjective; and I would wager that there is a lot of overlap for most people between the two concepts… Although – I do think that your metaphor is apt because cake is satisfying in an experiential, non-cerebral way… and almost nobody would describe eating cake as “meaningful”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • When I wrote that I see satisfaction as something that “goes beyond” meaning in my original post, I meant that it is another quality that to me isn’t fully captured by meaning. Another way I think of the difference is this – meaning is what the poet intends for the poem to say and do, essentially, the intent behind it; satisfaction is about the actual taste experience that the reader has. I do put more weight on satisfaction than meaning personally, although I agree that the concepts are related, as meaning influences that satisfaction experience.

        Now you have me thinking about whether I’ve eaten cake that was meaningful as opposed to merely enjoyable. I think I have, but I also think I was pretty drunk at the time.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I see meaning and satisfaction as two different concepts, although they can be related and there can be overlap. For me, the distinction is most apparent in say an American Sentence. Is it possible to have an American Sentence that is meaningful? Sure. But is the experience of reading that American Sentence any more satisfying than reading some other inspirational quote that isn’t 17 syllables? I certainly haven’t found it to be. Meaning can be part of what gives a poem satisfaction and vice versa, but I do feel as though there is another quality of satisfaction that speaks to the richness. I do think size/quantity plays a role in satisfaction as well, but it’s a little broader than that. For me, satisfaction is around the flavor, mouthfeel, was the experience of biting into that poem a really enjoyable dessert experience – that’s how I feel it.

      Like

    • Thank you! I’ve made myself hungry for a rather unhealthy decadent breakfast.

      Interesting connection between micropoetry and fast-fashion. There are commentators who have said that social media like Instagram and Twitter have fueled micropoetry’s popularity. Arguably, this is not so dissimilar from how fast-fashion becomes popular either.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mmm, chocolate. We have Smarties in Canada. I didn’t know they were the original deal.

    I have never read a poem of any sort that has felt anything like eating a rich chocolate ganache truffle, but then I’m not a poetry person, and I’m very much a chocolate person.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Since I was unfamiliar with micropoetry other than haiku, I had to look it up. While the term is pre-Twitter, micro poetry seems to be very twit oriented. I use the haiku form quite often, but I was un aware it’s part of a twitty trend. Tweetku is one term I came across. Like all things shortened, it takes a lot of skill to write in short verse of any type. Do you remember the old meme about a professor who gave an assignment to write a story that includes religion, sex, and mystery in as few words as possible? One student wrote:”Oh my God I’m pregnant! I wonder who the father is?”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You had me at chocolate! Yes, please pass the chocolate.

    I totally hear you about one M&M. “Time for my daily M&M,” said no one ever.

    I agree with a lot of the analysis about foods! I love writing short stories and flash fiction and microfiction for NYC Midnight. It’s true that the word count limit really makes a difference!!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve never of micropoetry until this post. Seems to me it’s all a matter of taste. This is gonna sound weird but I don’t like the word “micropoetry, ” so I’m probably already prejudiced against it. But I’ll take a look and see how I feel.

    Liked by 2 people

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