10.29.2006

Essay :: Geof Huth -- "The Art of Pwoermds"

Geof Huth :: "The Art of Pwoermds"


Minimalist poets work with a tiny number of words in each poem, trying to wrest some eternal insight out of the smallest of spaces. The tendency towards minimalism, which was a hallmark of much of twentieth-century art, seems empty to many people, who see minimalism as an anti-art trick. But minimalism is serious play, making it among the purest of the arts.

The height of minimalism in literature is the pwoermd, a one-word poem that has no title save for itself. The pwoermd must make its effects in the smallest of spaces; the very smallest being the four letters of Aram Saroyan's "Blod." Because of the huge limitations on the creators of pwoermds, these poems are one of the most challenging forms to create successfully. Somehow, the pwoermd must capture our intellectual imagination in the space of a few letters. For this reason, many of the best pwoermds focus on language itself and its illuminating shortcomings. Pwoermds tend to come in many styles, though, just as the creators of pwoermds might be visual poets or haiku poets or language poets.

And "pwoermd" itself? Where does it come from? I created it in 1987 by folding the word "poem" into the word "word." "Pwoermd" is a tiny mouthful to pronounce, but that is not a problem, since it is not a word meant for the air. It is meant for the page, and I see it as a little visual pwoermd itself: the "pw" at the front mirroring the "md" at the end, and in the middle there appears that old poetic "o'er."


Geof Huth is a leading critic and creator of visual poetry. He operates the highly trafficked "dbqp", available at http://dbqp.blogspot.com.

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