This poem was a spontaneous ad lib during a talk to a group of Harvard students in 1975. One brave soul decided to heckle him and shouted out, ‘Give us a poem’, and with barely a moment’s pause this is what Muhammad Ali hit back with.
It competes for the title of world’s shortest poem alongside Adam, Had ’em (Strickland Gillilan) and I, Die (Yours Truly).
The couplet’s brevity is astounding, as concise meaning epitomises the best of what poetry strives to do.
It is also worth noting how similar the two words are. All you have to do is turn the M over one hundred and eighty degrees and hey presto a deep philosophical treatise in four letters.
Four letters! Read ’em and weep Nietzsche. This poem is the winner for the world’s shortest poem in my book as it packs a superior semantic punch. It’s message is a knockout 🥊
As an added bonus here’s one of Ali’s longer poems with the line, ‘I’m so bad I make medicine sick’. Enjoy.