Arts & Culture

The Beauty of One-Sentence Poems

The Red Wheelbarrow

William Carlos Williams

 

so much depends

upon

 

a red wheel

barrow

 

glazed with rain

water

 

beside the white

chickens.

 

“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams is a famous example of a one-sentence poem.  One-sentence poems are very simple but also very intriguing. They are a good way of giving a short but descriptive insight to a person, animal, or object.  One-sentence poems don’t have many guidelines. They must only be one sentence, and although hyphens and semicolons are allowed, they are discouraged.  There is no technical length limit even though one-sentence poems tend to lean towards the shorter side.  However, some are longer than one might expect.  Sometimes, one-sentence poems will be made up of stanzas that would be split into several sentences if they had been written in prose. In the poem, a lack of punctuation separating two or more sentences allows them to merge into one through the poem.  This might be a little confusing right now, but an example will clarify this rule. William Carlos Williams’s poem “This is Just to Say” is a great example.

 

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

 

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

 

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold.  

 

William Carlos Williams doesn’t capitalize the word “and” in his second stanza, but he capitalizes the word “forgive”, even though there has been no apparent end to the sentence before it, and it is not a proper noun.  William Carlos Williams has probably written the greatest quantity of well known one-sentence poems.  Other one-sentence poems of his include “The Thing”, “Wedding Dance in the Open Air”, “To a Poor Old Woman”, and my favorite, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”.  

 

Some people think composing one-sentence poems is really simple.  All one needs to write a one-sentence poem is one or two lines that make up a sentence, right? However, there is a catch: one-sentence poems have to contain at least two stanzas.  For an example, look at Anais Nin’s poem, “Risk”:

 

And then the day came,

when the risk

to remain tight

in a bud was more painful

than the risk

it took

to Blossom.

 

This verse is only one sentence long; however, it is considered more of a free verse poem than a one-sentence poem. Free verse is a different type of poetry that allows the poet to create their own style, and it is a positive way for them to express their thoughts and emotions.  There are no rules and no guidelines, and it doesn’t need to follow any rhythm or pattern.

 

Sadly, one-sentence poems are uncommon.  It’s actually very hard to find information on them, and most poets don’t write in this style anymore.  But simply because they aren’t common doesn’t mean they aren’t written at all, and it doesn’t mean they can’t be written. Here is an example of a one-sentence poem that I wrote. I hope that it inspires you to further explore this genre of poetry and maybe even write a one-sentence poem yourself. 

 

The Staring Moon

Emma E. Grob

 

The moon shone luminously,

dazzlingly,

as it reflected off

the sparkling sea

 

and it smiled at

the couple who were

dancing and jumping on

the glistening seashore, but

 

forgive the poor moon

for it didn’t know

that it isn’t

nice to stare.

 

Works Cited:

 

“The Red Wheelbarrow.” Poetry Foundation.  www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45502/the-red-wheelbarrow.

 

Staves, Dana. “45 Short Poems to Sneak More Poetry into Your Life.”  bookriot.com/2018/01/19/short-poems/  Anais Nin “Risk”

 

“This is Just to Say.” Poets.org.  www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/just-say

6 Comments

  1. Aw, I love your poem! The last stanza is such a nice, surprising ending! I’m excited to follow this collum this year!

  2. You are such a good poet! Thank you for the information and your poetic writing. 🙂

  3. Love you and your writing!!