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!


Poem 62 Editing

Gotta love those 60 second write-whatever prompts. More goodness has come out of random writing than anything else. If you are ever in a rut just put a pen to paper and let it go. Your had will hurt but your brain will get it out.

In this case, the result is a mess. Of course there is always editing to help dot those i’s and cross those t’s. When you do like something from a writing session, consider these three options:

1. Is it a poem? Does it make sense as a whole, does it need editing, does it move me, teach me, preach to me, or simply entertain. If not…

2. Is it an inspiration for something else? The poem is the art, but the art needs inspiration, outlining, a heartline to bring it forward. If so, carry on, if not…

3. Is it scrap? No worries about scrap. There is always scrap. Even when we frame a picture there is a border to be cut away before it will fit in the frame.

Once you’ve decided what you’ve come up with during a 60 second session you can get going. I like what this one has become, but the revised version needs more work of course.


There is no wrong way to write. There is also no wrong way to grease the wheels. If you fell the need to dive in, dive on. If you want a warm up, take as long as you need. If you are one of those people who can just write and poem and it’s perfect, we are all jealous. But seriously, loosen up and enjoy the process, it’s the best part, after all.


Poem 62 RevisedPoem 62 Original

Poem A Edited

Dear readers,
I wrote a mother-blanking call to action manifesto yesterday that would have made Literature and Creative Writing professors around the globe shed a tear. It was pinpointed, inspiring and thorough… then, instead of moving forward with my promises and editing the first poem, I planted myself on the couch and watched Family Guy… so there you have it… I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to productivity…
So instead of making the same broad-sweeping claims, I will simply begin by saying that this project will be extensive, comprehensive and harsh. I will be editing and refining every poem written here, in the hope that something more powerful will come in a second and third draft… hopefully… who knows…
With no further delays, in honor of National Poetry Month, let’s begin.
The poem is titled On Modern Art, in conjunction with Wallace Stevens’ Of Modern Poetry. The poem actually came about from a project to emulate Stevens’ work. But after the grades are in and the semester is over, it’s time to consider the poem on its own… and not beside the original inspiration.
The title is highlighted here because it is a maybe… I might need to change things around, remove it… cut it short… Always remember, whether you’re a title person or not, the title of your poem is its business card… so what does it say about your work before your work can speak for itself…
Note the green parenthesis midway through the poem… this is the natural breaking point, where I find a little momentum… I will treat the poem in two sections according to this break. From the start, the poem is pretty mushy, not a lot of structure, consistency or imagery, all about the meta-whatever I was trying to portray… you’ll see a lot of red here… red is bad.
I start with big words like Existence, endow, depend, depend, depend… these are pretty heavy handed. There really isn’t any greatness established to warrant these words… nor is there really a need to come out swinging like that… if this is my way of echoing modern art, I’m doing a shit job.
I get an image at line seven, but it’s not a great one… the idea of images on top of each other opens too many questions. Are they translucent, is the seer omniscient, is there some kind of connection between the images, is the image the painting with sticky brushstrokes or generic images. The painting is still a blur, too much so to build a scene…
More big words like divinity… bla bla bla…
And then we hit it. The point. The idea of modern art I was trying to capture is the duality of imagery. And here it is, buried in the bottom of the poem, one eye seeing something the other does not… I love this line even more now that I am scrutinizing the poem. Is it two eyes of the same viewer, two sets of eyes… the mind’s eye and the seeing eye… it’s a great moment, where the poem actually starts to mean something…
And what does the eye see? Two things that now the reader sees, because I bothered to write them down in the poem, instead of leaving it open. Momentum, gravity, trajectory, all of these real tangible forces of the poem become a reality when I get to the fucking point…
It takes me until line twelve and the other shit is just weighing it down…
And as a side note I end with this notion of capital G God… like hitting a gong at the end of a lullaby… why God, is there a point for that, and if so is there a reason that it takes me all that time to get religious, and why bother getting so heavy handed in a secular poem. There’s a moment of divinity, but why can’t it be the artist that delivers it, why does it need to be God. In this instance, and many others in my work and the work of my contemporaries, we throw in God as a space filler for the real subject. Everything is grander with God. But the truth is, God tends to steal the thunder in poetry, where keeping it intimate and tangible might be a better way to go.
Not bad for a first editing… keeping in mind this poem has been edited before with a lighter touch…
The Takeaway:
There is the poem you write and the poem you’re trying to write. The poem you come up with might not even resemble the poem you are attempting… and that’s ok too… the point is to take a look with fresh eyes (be as objective as possible) and try to find where you were going with this…
For this poem, the real crux was at about line 12. With some tweaking and a whole lot of hacking, I was able to create something powerful… maybe… it might need to be hacked at again… 

Shouting in the Literary Conversation

I promised myself I would never make a blog, but this seems important enough.
Everything I know about poetry lives in anthologies. And then there’s the internet: a swarming mass of untapped inspiration and no one to harness it. So here I am, with my puny blog asking for something bigger than a connection or a website. I’m looking for the next splash in the poetry world. Are you with me?
The literature of the time is decided by men and women at desks with lofty titles. This Cannon will exist beyond this year and the next and eventually define poetry for the future. Even more important than that is the Literary Conversation: a trail of ideas and experiences shared through writing and art that spans generations. Will you be part of it? Are you with me?
The poetry sections in bookstores are too small. There are too many poets writing on napkins and in the margins of textbooks to ignore any longer. Forget what you know and share with me what you see in the world. Throw your ideas into this hat and see if you don’t walk away with something greater.
This space is for sharing, editing, discussing, suggesting. The poems you post will be your own, but the ideas we create will better mold the landscape of poetry and the way we treat inspiration. Are you with me?
I’ll start with a poem very close to my heart. Please tell me what you think, where I can improve. Post one of your own in the comments and we will do the same for you.
–keep writing
On Modern Art
Existence depends on brushstrokes
No matter width or stickiness
This oil on cloth—stretching forward
Endows perspective—we depend on
Disorganized mind-waves
Buckling thought processes
Folding one image upon another
Like a resting fan
Anticipating a flip sunward
Revealing divinity… perhaps
Existence depends on the
Static-electric telepathy between
Minds, where one eye sees
A woman and the other sees a waltz;
Where the two are one. Not a woman
Waltzing but the dichotomy of
Impossibilities. A body. A dance. A hand.
A brushstroke. God paints paradoxes:
Neither dancing nor standing still.