To List or Not to List?

Today we’ll discuss the pros and cons of one of the most popular contemporary poetic forms, specifically, the “list” poem. Some of us decry it, calling foul for the lack of a clear narration or think it’s simply an easy shortcut around the work it takes to create a traditional poem. I can understand the naysayers, having both read (and penned!) some odious versions myself!

But now and again, I will come across a list poem that takes my breath away. One that tells a story even more concisely through the conscious choice of each list item. One that uses the list format itself in creative and unique ways that would not work as well any other way. And as W.H. Auden wisely said: “The formal structure of a poem is not something distinct for its meaning but as intimately bound up in the latter as the body is with the soul.” Leave it to the master to say in one sentence what took me two paragraphs to say!

Today I’ll share three examples of what I think are successful list poems and well worth studying. The kind I wish I had written. What do you think?

As many of you know, April is National Poetry Month. In celebration, I have a special treat. Several of the participants in my poetry workshop last week agreed to allow me to share their poetry with you. We had a great time and experimented with many poetic prompts, including, you guessed it, the list poem.

So stay tuned here while I share some of these works, which come from both experienced and novice poets alike. I’ll space them throughout the next few weeks so we can enjoy a constant stream of poetry!



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