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43 Short Poems to Sneak More Poetry Into Your Life

The first negative review I ever got was for a poem I published in my college lit mag. Titled “In a Booth at the Waffle House,” it was a throwback to Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” and it was about Waffle House chocolate pie, and I was seriously proud of it. Two lines and a title. That’s not easy to do! And while I have lots of love for long poems, there is a special place for the tight economy of short poems. Short poems get us where we’re going quickly, and because there’s no room for meandering, every word weighs a ton. And a short poem puts us in touch with poetry—a shot, a quick snack, an amuse bouche to amp up our poetic reading lives. So for your enjoyment, here’s a list of great short poems.

short poems | Book Riot

But wait! What makes a short poem short? For my purposes here, there are super short poems (fewer than 10 lines) and short-ish poems (10–15 lines). And because poetry exists beyond the page nowadays, taking on visual or spoken word or both, I have a few examples of those for you to enjoy as well. Obviously, this is not a complete list of all the great poems—let alone all the great short poems—but it’s a fine place for us to start. (And don’t worry. My Waffle House poem isn’t one of them.)

Super short poems (fewer than 10 lines)

Margaret Atwood “You Fit Into Me”

Ezra Pound “In a Station of the Metro”

Anais Nin “Risk”

Edna St. Vincent Millay “First Fig”

Emily Dickinson “It’s All I Have to Bring Today”

Henry David Thoreau “My life has been the poem I would have writ”

William Carlos Williams “Red Wheelbarrow”

Stephen Crane “I Stood Upon a High Place”

Maya Angelou “Awakening in New York”

Sylvia Plath “Metaphors”

Robert Frost “The Rose Family”

Anne Sexton “The Black Art”

Joy Harjo “Invisible Fish”

Rita Dove “Happenstance”

Lucille Clifton “My Mama moved among the days”

Short-ish poems (10-15 lines)

Danez Smith “The 17 Year-Old & the Gay Bar”

Jeanine Gailey “Okay, Ophelia”

Natasha Tretheway “Housekeeping”

Naomi Shihab Nye “300 Goats”

Billy Collins “Introduction to Poetry”

Jacqueline Woodson “Church”

Mary Oliver “Sleeping in the Forest”

Karina Borowicz “September Tomatoes”

William Shakespeare “Sonnet 116:  Let me not to the marriage of true minds”

Chen Chen “Self-Portrait as So Much Potential”

Jacqueline Woodson “on paper”

Pablo Neruda “One Hundred Love Sonnets:  XVII”

Maggie Smith “Good Bones”

Francisco Aragón “Lunch Break”

Robert Frost “Dust of Snow”

Ross Gay “A Small Needful Fact”

Natasha Tretheway “Miscegenation”

Lia Purpura “Resolution”

Lucille Clifton “blessing the boats”

Nikki Giovanni “BLK History Month”

Adrienne Rich “A Mark of Resistance”

Langston Hughes “Harlem”

Wendell Berry “The Peace of Wild Things”

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maybe just read the poems to me? okay.

Lee Mokobe 

T. Miller 

Hollie McNish

Want more short poems and poetry? Check out “58 Beautiful Love Poems” or our full poetry archives.