One-line poems

William Matthews was an extremely versatile American poet and translator (of Martial and Jean Follain, among others). Almost everything in his Selected Poems and Translations is quotable: he was one of those poets with a real gift for aphorism and memorable lines. (The complete text of his third book, Rising and Falling, is available on-line; check out in particular the closing piece, “Long.”)

But what I want to do here today is reproduce from the Selected Poems and Translations his selection of “One-liners” – possibly one of the most difficult poetic forms to master.

In the book, these are presented just two per page. I’ll leave a lot of white space around them, to try and preserve the effect.
__________

One-liners
by William Matthews

THE NEEDLE’S EYE, THE LENS

    Here comes the blind thread to sew it shut.

LUST ACTS

    But desire is a kind of leisure

SLEEP

    Border with no country

HOW CAREFUL FIRE CAN BE

    is not for fire to tell

SPIRITUAL LIFE

    To be warm, build an igloo

NO TRUE RHYME IN ENGLISH FOR “SILVER”

    “Pilfer” is true enough for me

DAWN

    Insomnia, old tree, when will you shed me?

WHY I DIDN’T NOTICE IT

    The moss on the milk is white

PREMATURE EJACULATION

    I’m sorry this poem’s already finished

THE PAST

    Grief comes to eat without a mouth

SNOW

    The dead are dreaming of breathing

__________

That’s the lot of them. Anyone care to try an imitation? I’m intrigued by the fact that

EVEN THOUGH IT IS ESSENTIAL

    The title doesn’t count

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2 Comments


  1. thank you for this post…loving every bit of it! please introduce some more one line poems if u r aware of of.:-)

    Reply

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