What is a Long Poem?


Seems like a strange genre. Is it a genre? How can the term “Long Poem” apply to both Eliot’s Wasteland and Zukofsky’s A, when the former is 434 lines and the latter is over 800 pages? How come everybody’s always yapping about Pound’s Cantos, when they should be yapping about Stanford’s The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You? Does Chelsey Minnis’s Poemland count as a Long Poem? What about Ben Lerner’s Angle of Yaw?

Edgar Allen Poe says: “I hold that a long poem does not exist. I maintain that the phrase, “a long poem,” is simply a flat contradiction in terms.”

Peter Middleton asks: “What significance does the adjective ‘long’ carry when we talk about the long poem? Is it literal or metaphorical, or a more or less implicit proper name?”

Rachel Blau DuPlessis says: “[W]e could say that the lyric/short poem haunts the long poem even as the long poem surrounds it, trumps it, smashes it, and envelops it. Even when it is made to disappear, or to become untenable, perhaps the ghost of lyric/shortness does variously haunt the long poem.”