An obvious point: in poetry, a great deal can be accomplished in a small space. Another obvious point: in poetry, a great deal can be accomplished with commonplace objects. In my dotage, these features are assuming greater importance.
Who knows why certain poems stay with you and others disappear? For some reason, the following poems have hung around. I believe that they are fine instances of poems in which much is accomplished in a short time with what might seem to be trivial objects.
The Tuft of Kelp
All dripping in tangles green,
Cast up by a lonely sea,
If purer for that, O Weed,
Bitterer, too, are ye?
Herman Melville, John Marr and Other Sailors (1888).
One is tempted to read the course of Melville's life back into the poem: the early praise and fame; the criticism and neglect that followed; and, finally, the decades of obscurity. (John Marr and Other Sailors was privately printed by Melville in an edition of 25 copies.) But is such a reading necessary? The poem can just as easily be about each of us. And it can just as easily be about . . . a tuft of kelp.
"Receding Tide, Near Coolum, Queensland" (c. 1940-1950)
The following untitled poem is by Trumbull Stickney (1874-1904).
Sir, say no more.
Within me 't is as if
The green and climbing eyesight of a cat
Crawled near my mind's poor birds.
George Cabot Lodge, et al. (editors), The Poems of Trumbull Stickney (1905).
Again, one is tempted to read the course of Stickney's life back into the poem: he died at the age of 30 of a brain tumor, and this fragment was one of the last things that he wrote. But, again, it can just as easily be about each of us.