Poetry Word Count: Does Size Matter?

assorted wooden alphabets inside the crate

Letters are really interesting when we think about them more in-depthly. Only 26 letters exist in the English alphabet, yet we can sort them in countless combinations to create words. Adding letters or removing them from a single word can alter the meaning. It is those words that are moved and shifted around to create sentences which multiply into paragraphs. As those paragraphs expand, pages pile upon each other. Chapters are then composed into those pages. And it just keeps going from there.

Writing is obviously based off of words, but poetry relies on carefully selected language most of all. Poetry consists of shorter sentences and is in a lot of ways more in touch with literary devices, such as metaphors and similes.

With that being said, it brings us to the question I will be exploring in this post: What makes a better poem, long or short?

Short poems have always been a length in which I write. Why? Personally, I just feel like my best poems are the ones that do not trail on for many consecutive lines. If we are thinking about the best length we write poetry in, the most logical answer for poem lengths is subjective. Some creative writers thrive when their pieces are long, taking them on a stream of consciousness. They can even turn into perfect spoken word pieces.

If the question of poem length is focused more on readers and audience, the answer may be different. Instead, it could be based on satisfaction and creating emotion.

For all writers, readers are our second critics, besides ourselves. Readers want to feel a sense of satisfaction as they read, from the first word to the final. If a piece isn’t compelling and lacks a “wow” factor, and the reader does push through, how they feel after will reveal all. If your audience does not feel some type of satisfaction at the conclusion of your piece, they will consider it a waste of time. The satisfaction aspect has to do solely with content and not length.

Moreover, poetry is one of the best pieces of literature that can cause a memory, emotion, and feeling from the readers. The more felt emotion the more powerful a piece will be considered. That flame of emotion and memory reminder can be thought as the “gift” or “reward” for reading. It is essentially your “thank you” to them.

I have read a number of poems throughout my life. I have read stellar ones that were two lines. I have read ones that could have went on for pages. It is hard to categorize the best pieces based on size, but with content and connection from page to heart, it is a lot easier.

From a creative standpoint, I think length can be a great opportunity for experimenting. Writers occasionally need to be pulled out of their comfort zone, trying something new. If your poems are typically short, trying adding five extra lines to your next piece. On the piece after that, try ten, then fifteen, then twenty. Slowly adding to length over time will seem more natural and you will be able to monitor what does and does not work in your lengthy pieces.

On the flip-side, if your content is extremely lengthy, try working backwards, lessening the lines in which you feature. Cut out five lines, then ten, fifteen, twenty…you get the idea.

So, does poetry length matter?

If you are producing really great content, then length might be irrelevant. But if you are having trouble creating impacting poetry, length might be something to experiment with.


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