"I realized that my knives were sharp, quite sharp"
Rachel Zucker on Her Recent, Shorter Poems
About 18 months ago I decided to write shorter poems after writing several 20+ page poems. The long poems had taken a lot out of me, where hard to publish and required highly motivated readers. I worried that these long poems were self-indulgent or that I was writing them because my knives weren't sharp enough to cut language into a small dice. I wanted to move away from short poems in series (another kind of long poem) and wanted to push myself to compress, to tighten. I hoped that in writing shorter poems I might also write lighter poems, perhaps even funny poems. Alas. Writing the shorter poems made me realize that one thing I like about the form of the long poem is the way it is a kind of commitment, a kind of monogamy. In a long poem you have time and space to say something-perhaps something horrible or untrue or risky-and then take it back, to reverse your position. The long poem, like a long marriage, allows you to fight and make up, to speak with the confidence that someone is listening. In contrast, the short poems I started to write felt, rather than lighter, more brutal, hateful, lustful, unsatisfied. It is not surprising that they are also love poems or that they address infidelity. Couplets. Unfinished couplets. Uncoupled couplets. I am interested in what happens when you begin a poem (either writing or reading) and see, on that very page, the encroaching end of the poem. The beginning of the poem then becomes imbued with anxiety, despair, the constant awareness of the end. Even the line breaks and stanza breaks, as they draw you strongly down, strongly towards the end, start to feel violent. I realized that my knives were sharp, quite sharp, and that the more finely I diced the smooth globes the more pungent and bitter the bite.