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January, 2008

The Writer at Work
The World's Shortest Poem (Kid's Lit)
First it was fleas, but now it's personal
By  Christopher Teague

The smallest poem in the world does not need a magnifying glass to entertain you.
Since the first Guinness Book Of World Records hit bookstores in the early 1960s, readers have been fascinated by rare and amazing feats, the latest, greatest accomplishments that break all previous records. Not to be outdone is the longest and shortest of those world record lists.

By their own nature, literary feats are perhaps the rarest of all. Other than the staggering numbers associated with the lists for the world "best-sellers," the only "feat" in literary circles would be that of the longest and shortest works ever written.

For many years the clever little light verse poem "Fleas" was thought to be the shortest poem in the English language. Because of its perky rhyme and humorous, irreverent biblical allusion, the poem is easily remembered and often quoted. It is the perfect trivia question for cocktail party banter.


Had 'em.

The debate as to who was the original author of that poem continues today with most scholars giving credit to Paul Engle, Ogden Nash or Shel Silverstein.

"Fleas" is a very clever couplet, but it is not the shortest poem in the English language. It has two words too many.

For the record, the shortest poem in the English language contains only one word and begs probably the most important, single, universal question ever posed to mankind.

The poem contains one word in the title ("I") and one in the actual body of the poem. It is a poem written by popular kids poet and monthly IN contributor Charles Ghigna, affectionately known to children everywhere as Father Goose.

Though primarily known as a children's poet with more than 30 books of poetry to his credit, Ghigna is also a serious poet for adults whose poems have appeared in a wide-range of books, newspapers, anthologies and magazines such as The New Yorker, Harper's and The New York Times.

For your reading pleasure and information the poem, which can now be used to truly stump those cocktail party trivia pursuit debaters, is ...



Along with its title, the poem creates a haunting, understated little couplet that continues to beg the most poignant, timeless, rhetorical question of our existence. The poem "I" by Ghigna is truly the shortest poem in the world, the content being a topic of debate and discussion since humankind became self-aware.

It is only fitting that its meaning is the one that the rest of the world's serious poets ponder with each new poem that they write.IN Icon

Christopher Teague is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence and a haunter of old bookstores. He is also a freelance writer living in a hovel overlooking Central Park. He is currently at work on his third unpublished novel, a series of prose poems about the tempestuous and often torrid relationship between Sara Teasdale and Vachel Lindsay. Email:

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© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049

IN This Issue
The Long Life Of Poetry
Marketplaces For Your Poetry
Haiku: Highest Art
What Am I Doing Wrong?
Lyrically Speaking
Writing Poems
The Mind Of A Poet
A Poem Is A Little Path
Seeing Like A Poet
Speaking In Tongues (Excerpt)

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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