Nano Poetry

I’m thrilled that Poetry International Web (not to be confused with the excellent print publication Poetry International) is starting the year by ramping up their publications to bi-monthly – I always look forward to their email in my inbox and taking the few minutes to discover new poetry. PI is an interesting project that has the potential to be the most important resource for poets interested in reading around the world, and they keep on making the right moves. Each country on the site (though not every country is represented and there are major holes right now including the USA and Chile) is edited by a local expert in the poetry, ensuring that even the best-read (and I don’t think I can count myself among them) will find something new and wonderful on their site.

This first-of-2010 publication focuses on nano-poetics (which I’ve just learned from Gilad Meiri translated by Lisa Katz is mostly about miniaturisation and duplication) and poetry of the everyday. Having taught poetry of the everyday previously in a PEN Prison Writing workshop, I was excited to add more of this to my repertoire, and Japanese poet Yosuke Tanaka in Jeffery Angles’ translation is perhaps the poet I most want to read more of right now. Here is the first four lines of “A River in Summer“:

If no one is looking, I cannot get in.

[A dead bird]
[A bird in various colors]

If no one is looking.

The 10 poems on the site are just a tease really, and will demand a further and closer reading on my part, but someone needs to get me his book Sweet Ultramarine Dreams in English! The pull between experimental and lyrical, the tension of images that only just make sense, and only if you’re willing to leap fully into the language….the little truths just beneath the surface of the everyday. Just another taste, the last four lines from “The Station to Spring“:

In the darkness
The orange juice glows.
It seems to shine from within.
The station to spring is near.

And quite brilliantly the PI people have connected this poetry of the everyday to nano-poetics, which in David Avidan engage with the everyday:


Everything’s miniature, like microfilm.
And at the hour of need – enlarged.
It could have worked for us too.

The world is filled with creatures which are too large
and not always useful and not always necessary.

In nano-poetics, according to Gilad Meiri:

The use of size – poetry’s approach to the small – as an interpretive strategy is a natural extension of an essential feature of poetry itself, for a poem is the smallest, densest unit of aesthetic information there is.

The small is an invitation to intimacy, he says, and through that intimate and minute look at the everyday, through the parodic effect of mechanical duplication and repetition, a concentration of the world in the nano. One last poem from Avidan:

Let me be a mummy.
Wake me
once every thousand years with a shot of undiluted adrenalin, and then
I’ll burn Rome again, report on the event
with a pale face and a pounding heart, first I’ll castrate
all the barbarian warriors who conquered the city, possess
all their young women, so there’ll be
things to burn and men to castrate
in another thousand years. I have
patience for long-run missions.

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