Catalog/List Poem

The list is a very frequently used technique in poetry. The list poem consists of an itemization of things or events. Lists and list poems can be of any length.

1. Read the following example poems. Use a list/catalog within a poem that provides description and repetition.

There are many reasons to incoporate a list in a poem:

• A list can create a sense of familiarity with a subject or locale.

• By naming specific things that are found in a certain place, a list provides authenticity for the speaking voice [a reader is likely to believe that the speaker has actually been to a place if the speaker names things that he/she couldn't possibly know unless he/she had been there].

• A list can provide a sense of building rhythm that eventually delivers astrong and memorable line.

• A list can provide a sense that the speaker is ticking off his memory (as though the speaker is spontaneously remembering something as he/she is speaking)

• A list can provide the speaker with appearance of intelligence (as though the speaking voice is a meticulous cataloger and classifier of all items that surround him/her).

• A list can create the illusion that the speaker is somehow invoking his/her world by naming the things that are in it (much the way a shaman might use a list in some sort of ritual performance).


1. Shirt—Robert Pinsky

2. Chorus—Robert Pinsky

3. from "Howl"—Allen Ginsberg [video]

4. The Way of the Coventicle of Trees—Hayden Carruth

5. Kissing Again—Dorianne Laux

6. Litany—Billy Collins [video]