Epigram

Pronunciation: listen

Definition

An epigram is a short, succinct poem, often with witty (or even vicious) content. Coleridge wrote an epigram to define an epigram: "What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole, / Its body brevity and wit its soul." It is worth noting that this is a stricter definition than epigrams seem to have had in classical Greece and Rome, where the form originates; it is probably the eighteenth-century fondness for a smart wit and the epigrams of Martial that tightened the definition thus. The preference in contemporary poetry for exploring an issue rather than summing it up means epigrams are not as popular as they were then, but Anne Stevenson's 'On Going Deaf', with its wit, rhyme and definite opinion, is probably the closest example within the Archive.

How to use this term

Samuel Menashe's 'The Living End' manages to fit mysticism into an epigram.
 

Related Terms

 

Related Poems

The Children's Archive

This part of the Archive is full of poems chosen specially for children. Meet old favourites and make new discoveries.

Support The Poetry Archive
The Poetry Archive depends on donations from public bodies and private individuals. Find out how you can contribute to the work of the Archive.
Search for a poem or a poet:

My Archive

Create lists of your favourite poems and poets and share them with friends.

Browse all poets by name

View all poets

Browse all poems by title

View all poems

Glossary of poetic terms

View full glossary