Smaller Still: The Process of the Petit Four

The miniature poems I have been calling Petit Fours were inspired by the french pastry by the same name: a small often square multi layered bite sized dessert sometimes garnished with a bow or flower.

The Petit Four process came out of a realization that people don’t really like reading long poems. There’s a fatigue that sets in around line 20 or 25, or at least it does for me. Even as a Poetry Editor I had trouble with longer pieces… sometimes they were vague, other times they went on tangents that bored me. As a reader and lover of poetry I had to be honest with myself — long works are kind of hard to follow unless done expertly.

It’s the same reason I haven’t gone back to edit my longer poems, I don’t know where to start. So instead of continuing to write poems which toed that line between middle-length and unbearable, I decided to commit to a project that was both rewarding and bite sized.

& thus the Petit Fours were born.

If you want to read up on what inspired them, you can find that here:

Petit Fours: Tiny Poems with a Bite

May 6, 2015

I have a great affinity for short poems because of their structure, They belong to a class of poetry that still follows rules. Not that poems need to have rules: being free is one of my favorite parts of poetry. No, I linger on haikus and couplets for their puzzle-like structure, with every word serving a small perpetual function. I didn’t want to have rules for my poems in a traditional sense.

Instead I developed a simple format to make them consistent:

petit four grid image
(as you can see Microsoft Word doesn’t agree with some of my made up words!)

The format was simple: fit the poem within the space.

I gave myself about 5 lines with each poem (some got 6) and made the page a 3 column format to give myself enough room to see them all at once. You can easily adjust the column width at the top with the rulers, so I was able to make them a little wider as words required.

Then it was go time!

I wrote 12 at a time depending on the mood. I have only done 24 of these total, so I assume eventually they will feel repetitive. The other fun part was adding space to fill out the square. I felt very open and free when writing them… I could capture a small concept in the given space without muddying it with my usual over explanation.

The next part was harder. I made small squares in Photoshop and then imposed images in various transparency to make the poem feel fully formed. In the process of moving them the spacing and lines were adjusted to fit the new font. I lost a little of the squareness but gained a visual element. I think if I planned to print these I would stick to just text… but the internet is a fun place and I didn’t want to seem drab!

So that’s all there is to it!


1 WordDoc split into 3 Columns

12 Poems by 5 Lines each

Add Images & Flare as desired

Hope you try something similar and let me know how it goes! They were fun and fast – a good warm-up to larger pieces or a nice do-one-every-day committment size!

Keep Writing!