Of course, I don’t mean to say that the list poem was founded in America–far from it. The list poem was used by the Greeks and in many books of the Bible. But two of the most popular American poems, Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” are list poems. So what is a list poem?
Basically, a list poem (also known as a catalog poem) is a poem that lists things, whether names, places, actions, thoughts, images, etc. It’s a very flexible and fun form to work with.
For instance, I’ve written a list poem below to describe the experience of watching my high school football team for four years (and maybe that many wins over the entire period). Our team mascot, the Pirate, is clearly visible from I-75 if you’re ever driving between Dayton and Cincinnati. We have a large set of bleachers and even this really cool wood pirate ship with a canon for when we score (sadly, underused most seasons). You would think we’d have some sort of great football team, but:
“Watching the Pirates”
We watched them lose every Friday;
first, they lost to the Beavers;
second, they fell to the Vikings;
third, they were knocked off by Elks;
fourth, the Green Wave swept over them;
fifth, the Trojans had their way;
sixth, they succumbed to Spartans;
seventh, the Skyhawks flew to victory;
eight, the Rams clobbered them;
ninth, it was the Golden Knights;
in the tenth week, they finally won,
but no one was there to see it.