Mind ur sms poetry

Maybe you’re one of the new poets. Or perhaps you’re one of the old poets writing the new poetry. It could be you’re one of those who’ve been composing it for nearly a decade now. If so, you know all about sms poetry.

If not, then here is something new for you. And here is your opportunity to win a brand new iPod nano. So what’s all this talk about sms poetry?

A definition of sms poetry:

What are SMS Poems? Simply put: it is poetry that fits inside a text message; i.e. poetry that is less than 160 characters long. Text message poems cover the same themes as ordinary poetry like love, friendship, jokes etc. but this time your poem fits inside a standard-size sms.

A couple of websites to help you read some of the sms abbreviations in some of the poems:



The first sms poem ever (written by UK poet Andrew Wilson):

weighing less,
folded up,
than tea towels,
on bare legs
and backs,
from holidays
and fake.

The first published book of sms poetry (a paper book with a cover, also by poet Wilson, not yet for the Kindle or the Nook or the iPad):

An interview with sms poet Wilson (and his answer to a question):

3. Text message poetry, what’s it all about? Is it any different from conventional poetry?

No. If it’s good as a text it’ll be good on paper, and the other way round. The difference is in how you receive it – the message symbol on the phone screen makes you clear your head for a few seconds, gets you ready to receive something new, and that space is just right for a poem. You can be sitting in a train station and get a text message poem about going on a train journey. If it’s a good poem, that can be really powerful

The winning entry of the first sms poetry contest (run by the Guardian):

txtin iz messin,
mi headn’me englis,
try2rite essays,
they all come out txtis.
gran not plsed w/letters shes getn,
swears i wrote better
b4 comin2uni.
&she’s african

by Hetty Hughes, who tells her story here.

All the other winning entries from the contest, reproduced here:


Your opportunity to win that iPod nano (since you already have an sms device presumably):

  • SMS Text Poetry Contest 15
    Closing Date 31st October, 2010
    (New Beginnings Theme)

After a 3 year break due to life responsibilities, I’ve finally managed to get the chance to refocus on the txt2nite website and to run the SMS poetry contests again. The purpose of the SMS poetry competition is to write a poem that is short enough to fit in a single 160 character mobile phone SMS text message.

The theme of this competition is NEW BEGINNINGS. As long as your poem can be related to new beginnings in some way then it’s acceptable. You can enter as many times as you like but your poems MUST be a maximum 160 characters long (including punctuation and spaces). The first prize is an iPod nano and the deadline is 31st October 2010. Good luck!

You can enter the competition here


Good Luck


Some advice for composing the poetry, from sms poet Wilson:

Do it on the bus. The best time to write poetry is sitting next to an old lady with her shopping from the market.

A digital magazine where you can find ur sms poetry published or can read others’ poems:

My favorite poem there (from issue Two of OneSixty), by Sarah Davies:

1 room,40 x 20
4 16 people
airfreshnr,fake forest
otsde wndow cypress blows
striplights bare u
hdfones mute songs
no contact, only contract

What’s yours?


6 responses to “Mind ur sms poetry

  1. Fascinating stuff! I discovered a poem on that website about my alma mater. The observations therein still hold somewhat, though I think less so now than whenever the author might have attended. I actually really like that last poem you include. “no contact, only contract”–simple but so moving, and it sounds a lot like my life right now, unfortunately. 😦

    • Thanks for sharing the observations. Very short poems have been around for a long while, so I think the sms technology forces or encourages some new dimensions. It really is fascinating that just a few characters can so convey memories, can evoke feelings. Ur use of the emoticon shares much, and I’m sure wd b allwd.

  2. Hi Kurk,

    At one time I tended to be impressed by how much people could write about subjects (such as 1000-page commentaries), but these days I tend to prize concision instead. However, trying to say something meaningful in just 160 characters may be taking that ideal a bit too far.

    The other issue I have is that I’m not fluent in textspeak, so I didn’t go for those that used it. (I’m afraid that on the odd occasion I do text I still tend to write “proper” English, even down to capitalisation and punctuation.) To be fair, I’d probably say the same of poetry written in other forms of “non-standard” English. I suspect that, for me to enjoy it, poetry has to “speak my language” (or some form that I might aspire to).

    Now I’m not being a snob; probably just the opposite. Indeed, the combination of brevity and communication technology reminded me not of some famous sonnet but of Carlene Carter’s “Little Love Letter #1” (although with a reference to fax machines it is perhaps showing its age: the album is from 1993). With some difficulty I resisted the urge to add punctuation.

    My answer machine is feelin’ lonely and blue
    ’Cause it ain’t seen a message in an hour or two
    And my fax machine has tears in its eyes
    ’Cause there ain’t no words burnin’ through its wires
    Is it something I did
    Is it something I said
    Is it something I sang
    Or is it something you read
    Come clean with me or else instead
    I’m gonna wash my hands of you
    Hey like Elvis said, “We’re goin’ separate ways”
    I’m gonna wash my hands of you

    And could anyone be a snob and, at the same time, think that A A Milne’s Pooh books are works of genius? (Although they undoubtedly are.)

    But then, as that esteemed poet once said: “… it isn’t Easy, because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you.”

    “Hallo, Pooh,” said Rabbit.
    “Hallo, Rabbit,” said Pooh dreamily.
    “Did you make that song up?”
    “Well, I sort of made it up,” said Pooh. “It isn’t Brain,” he went on humbly, “because You Know Why, Rabbit; but it comes to me sometimes.”
    “Ah!” said Rabbit, who never let things come to him, but always went and fetched them.

    So the reason I don’t write poetry could simply be that I’ve never found where that place is. And the fact that it doesn’t just “come to me” when I’m not looking may be explained by there being too much of Rabbit in me (although I’m much too lazy to be Rabbit).

    Of course Pooh was really a philosopher at heart (as perhaps all the great poets are):

    On Monday, when the sun is hot
    I wonder to myself a lot:
    Now is it true, or is it not,
    That what is which and which is what?
    On Tuesday, when it hails and snows
    The feeling on me grows and grows
    That hardly anybody knows
    If those are these or these are those.
    On Wednesday, when the sky is blue,
    And I have nothing else to do,
    I sometimes wonder if it’s true
    That who is what and what is who.
    On Thursday, when it starts to freeze
    And hoar-frost twinkles on the trees,
    How very readily one sees
    That these are whose- but whose are these?
    On Friday …

    * * *

    If Rabbit
    Was bigger
    And fatter
    And stronger,
    Or bigger
    Than Tigger,
    If Tigger was smaller,
    Then Tigger’s bad habit
    Of bouncing at Rabbit
    Would matter
    No longer,
    If Rabbit
    Was taller.

    But even Pooh could lose the muse:

    This warm and sunny Spot
    Belongs to Pooh
    And here he wonders what
    He’s going to do.
    Oh, bother, I forget –
    It’s Piglet’s too.

    Have a good day.

    • Hi John,
      Your interest in concision reminds me of something Robert E. Quinn wrote:

      Oliver Wendell Holmes once remarked that he placed little value on simplicity that lay on this side of complexity but a great deal of value on simplicity that lay on the other side. Put another way, there is a vast chasm between being simple and being simplistic. I would like to suggest something similar.

      I believe that in any activity there are many novices, a few experts, and very occasionally there is an extraordinary master. If you ask a novice about a topic, the novice will give you a very simple (simplistic) explanation that will be of little value. If you ask an expert the same question, the expert will give you a complex explanation that will also be of little value. If you ask a master the same question, the master’s explanation may be simple, breathtakingly elegant, and remarkably effective. But the master’s answer will only be valuable, breathtaking, and effective if you and I are ready to hear it and act on it.

      (Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Results, page xi)

      And, I’ll spare you the quotations, but you’re quoting from Winnie the Pooh makes me think of the hilarious spoofs on U.S. English Department academia: the books by Frederick Crews, The Pooh Perplex and Postmodern Pooh.

      Unfortunately, I think, children these days are only finding Pooh and his friends in animated cartoons or picture books. The A A Milne’s books are too dense, it seems, for young readers, and we now miss the genius. Fortunately, I believe, the sms technology is finding some richness in the poetry of (mostly young) people. I doubt that will languish anytime soon.

      You have a good day too, thanks!

  3. Unfortunately, I think, children these days are only finding Pooh and his friends in animated cartoons or picture books.

    In my opinion, the worst thing to happen to Pooh was the copyright being sold to Disney. As far as I’m concerned (and here I may indeed sound like a snob): the characters should look like Shepherd drew them and, in my head at least, they sound nothing like they do in the cartoons.

    Of course I’m sure Pooh would have used a mobile phone if he’d had one, and (although he might have needed a “big button” phone) I’m sure he would’ve texted, although whether anyone would have been able to understand the texts is another question. (“You can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”) So I’m certainly not dissing the sms poets.

    As regards elegant simplicity, I entirely agree. I doubt, though, that there are any subjects where I qualify as a master, so my explanations are unusually somewhere between the novice and the expert. But I admire elegant simplicity when I see (or hear) it (and hate substitutes from the “form before function” school).

    • Of course I’m sure Pooh would have used a mobile phone if he’d had one, and (although he might have needed a “big button” phone)

      Pooh would’ve certainly left his button gloves undone for that. Which reminds me of that poem, “If I Were A King,” in When We Were Very Young. Of course, we’re not quite sure it’s Winne the Pooh there. A. A. Milne starts his book with a more careful explanation:

      “At one time (but I have changed my mind now) I thought I was going to write a little Note at the top of each of these poems [in this book], in the manner of Mr. William Wordsworth, who liked to tell his readers where he was staying, and which of his friends he was walking with, and what he was thinking about, when the idea of writing his poem came to him. You will find some lines about a swan here, if you get as far as that, and I should have explained to you in the Note that Christopher Robin, who feeds this swan in the mornings, has given him the name of ‘Pooh.” This is a very fine name for a swan, becaus, if you call him and he doesn’t come (which is a thing swans are good at), then you can pretend that you were just saying ‘Pooh!’ to show how little you wanted him. Well, I should hvae told you that there are six cows who come down to Pooh’s lake every afternoon to drink, and of course they say ‘Moo’ as they come. So I thought to myself one fine day, walking with my friend Christopher Robin, ‘Moo thymes with Pooh! Surely there is a bit of poetry to be got out of that?’ Well, then, I began to think about the swan on his lake; and at first I though how lucky it was that his name was Pooh; and then I didn’t think about that any more . . . and the poem came quite differently from what I intended . . . and all I can say for it now is that, if it hadn’t been for Christofpher Robin, I shouldn’t have written it ; which, indeed, is all I can say for any of the others. So this is why these verses go about goether, because they are all friends of Christopher Robin; and if I left out one because it was not quite like the one before, then I should have to leave out the one before because it was not quite like the next, which would be disappointing for them.

      Then there is another thing. You may wonder sometimes who is supposed to be saying these verses. Is it the Author, that strange but uninteresting person, or is it Christopher Robin, or some other boy or girl, or Nurse, or Hoo? If I had followed Mr. Wordsworth’s plan I could have explained this each time; but, as it is, you will have to decide for yourselves. If you are not quite sure, then it is probably Hoo. I don’t know if you have ever met Hoo, but he is one of those curious children who look four on Monday, and eight on Tuesday, and are really twenty-eight on Saturday, and you never know whether it is the day when he can pronounce his ‘r‘s.’ He Had a great deal to do with these verses. In fact, you might almost say that this book is entirely the unaided work of Christopher Robin, Hoo, and Mr. Shepard who drew the pictures. They have said ‘Thank you’ politely to each other several times, and now they say it to you for taking them into your house. ‘Thank you so much for asking us. We’ve come.’

      Anyway, here’s that poem:

      I often wish I were a King,
      And then I could do anything.

      If only I were King of Spain,
      I’d take my hat off in the rain.

      If only I were King of France,
      I wouldn’t brush my hair for aunts.

      I think, if I were King of Greece,
      I’d push things off the mantelpiece.

      If I were King of Norroway,
      I’d ask an elephant to stay.

      If I were King of Babylon,
      I’d leave my button gloves undone.

      If I were King of Timbuctoo,
      I’d think of lovely things to do.

      If I were King of anything,
      I’d tell the soldiers, “I’m the King!”

      And, to be sure, it loses much and gains some more, when a 159 character sms poem. Dnt ask Hoo txtd:

      f I wr King of Norroway
      Id ask an 6\/) 2 stay

      f I wr King of Babylon
      Id leaV my butN glovz undone

      f I wr King of NEfin
      Id tel d soldiers Im d King

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