Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Poems that List/Take Inventory/Catalog

from the lovely Moonrise Kingdom, a love letter to letters and lists!

I’ve been thinking a lot about list poems lately. These poems might be explicit lists (and perhaps their title addresses this) of things, actions, or people. But I’m also including in this definition poems that want to gather, to present some kind of collection. These poems might read as an inventory, or a recipe, or instructions.

This Saturday, I’m so excited to lead a workshop on this topic at the Columbus State Writers Conference. I’ll share some list-ish poems with the writers in my workshop, and then we’ll write our own versions. Fun, right?

The pieces I’m considering using (although I won’t use all of them):
-“What the Gravedigger Needs,” Rachel Loden
-“Full of Knives,” Zachary Schomburg
-“Poem Without an End,” by Yehuda Amichai (translated by Chana Bloch)
-“The Car,” by Raymond Carver
-"How to Make a Crab Cake,” January Gill O’Neil
-“Inventory,” Gunter Eich (translated by Joshua Mehigan)
-“Stamp Collecting,” Kathy Song
-“Nine Days,” Suzanne LaFetra (not a poem, but an excellent piece!)
-Google Poetics

So now I ask you, oh readerly and writerly friends—do you have any favorite list poems or pieces to share/recommend?


  1. Hannah, wish I could have a seat & listen to the workshop. Though I don't know exactly I have understood well this very concept of list poetry, I'm proud to say I had my, somewhat close, take to it in 2014. It was January last year, I had to go visit a booksale store to help out my sister find a book about insects for her thesis (she was taking a course in forestry then). After a couple of attempts we did find one showcasing different photographs of beautiful butterflies. I got fascinated with the names of these wonderful creatures so ideas came to mind & taddah... right after I arrived home I knew exactly I needed a pen & a sheet of paper, and immediately wrote: "Naming the Butterflies" ...

    I always wondered about the differences in a list poem from a cento, found poem, and poems derived from as they all seemed the same as to the sourcing of ideas & thoughts, arranging them to produce a legit new work of art. Since my introduction to found poetry in 2013, I got this growing fascination up until today about this creative technique of finding, listing & arranging series &/or random words, prhases & thoughts to create a poem.

    A month ago, I wrote my very first cento, "Poetry:", sourcing 100% of the content & even the title from random poem titles of some of my favourite poets like Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, Seamus Heaney, Ezra Pound, etc.

    I have my share too at "googlism" poems or poems derived via a list of search results using the, here take a look: "How to Live like an Urban Man" ---the phrase I used was "Urban Man".

    Another list poem from my archive, "In Heaven, There is No Tea", was inspired by a list of scenes from a day-to-day commute on going to work & going back to home.

    However, in consideration of your request for any recommendations, "Sustenance" by Samuel Peralta, & "Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood would both make a good example for your workshop.

    As always, thanks for the read. I have enjoyed some of the links you have included here.

  2. What gorgeous list poems you have linked to here - many of them unknown to me. I really enjoyed that, thank you. Good luck with workshop.
    One of my favourites is Wislawa Szymborska's 'Possibilities' - or is that too well-known?
    And for a classic example, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How do I love thee?


The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.