Short Poems Still Sweet to Fans of the Form

Aficionados of the short poem gathered Monday at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York to celebrate the form at the Stephen Crane Festival of the Short Poem.

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You may know him for the "Red Badge of Courage," but Stephen Crane was a poet, too, and for those who try their trade at the short form, he's a hero. Yesterday at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York, short poem aficionados gathered to celebrate creative minimalism at the Stephen Crane Festival of the Short Poem. Emily Botein met up with one of the organizers of the event.

EMILY BOTEIN reporting:

By day, a metals dealer selling stainless nickel, aluminum and titanium, Jim Pinetti(ph) is the ring leader for Brevitas(ph), an online poetry group that's been meeting, sort of, since June. Here's how it works. Twice a month, on the 1st and the 15th, give or take a day or two, each member of the group e-mails the rest a short poem, which, by the group's rules, must be longer than a haiku but shorter than a sonnet.

Mr. JIM PINETTI (Brevitas): So in the middle of your day, whatever you're doing--you're, you know, negotiating a sale; you're buying material somewhere--a poem appears.

BOTEIN: And the words on the screen are often all you get. Many in the group have never met in person.

Mr. PINETTI: Though we all have existed for the last five or six months in this odd online poetry netherworld, where we recognize each other from, you know, poetic devices: you know, metaphor and meter and line length and subject matter. `Oh, well, that's Mike Topp. I mean, who else could it be?'

BOTEIN: So the big day had arrived, and it was hard not to wonder, what would their fellow poets look like.

Mr. PINETTI: I would imagine Mike is tightly packed, compact and perhaps bald.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

Unidentified Man #1: And you are?

SPARROW: Sparrow.

Unidentified Man #1: Ah, Sparrow. You're Sparrow. Hi, Sparrow.

BOTEIN: After matching faces to words, they settle down to read their work.

(Soundbite of event)

Unidentified Man #2: This is called "More Ways to Cook and Eat Celine Dion."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: `Medallion steak Dion, Celine kebobs, tandoori Dion, Celine pot pie.'

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: She was afraid sex would replace kissing. I saw it as giving us more places to kiss.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Woman #1: "Wedgies." `I spent my whole young life fighting underwear and wedgies, and now I am tormented by thongs.'

JIM: I wanted my 83-year-old mother to be here tonight, but she's in the hospital. I'm calling her.

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

JIM: She has no idea about this. Just hold on. Hello, Mom?

Unidentified Woman #2: Yeah?

JIM: You there?

Unidentified Man #4: Yeah.

JIM: OK, everybody's going to say hello now, OK?

Crowd: (In unison) ...(Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #5: Hi, Jim's mom.

JIM: You got that? OK. I can't take up a lot of time, Mom, so just listen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JIM: This is called "Uncle John's Dogs."(ph) `Dutchess(ph), Queenie(ph), Princess(ph), Sandy(ph), Duke(ph), Sandy II(ph), Jack(ph), Lucky(ph), Lucky II(ph).'

(Soundbite of applause)

BOTEIN: And after a little over two hours, the Stephen Crane Festival of the Short Poem was over. Everyone went home to wait for the next poems online. But nothing would quite be the same.

Mr. PINETTI: I was wrong about Mike. He was tightly packed, but he was not bald. He was far from bald.

BOTEIN: For NPR News, I'm Emily Botein.

MICHELE NORRIS (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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