The list poem is pretty much exactly how it sounds. It is a style of poetry that is organized like a list would be. This form features an inventory of people, places, things, or ideas organized in a special way. The degree in which they look like a list can vary. They can be numbered, bullet points, or a little more loose; there are no set stanzas or meter. It really is up to you, but it should ultimately be a compilation of things resembling a list.
Rules of the List Poem
- Collect content in a list form
- Can include transitional phrases, but not necessary
- No fixed rhyme or meter
Some really famous poems are categorized as lists. Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is technically a list poem. Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is also a list poem. The form is very free, but typically features some repetition in style; use these as inspiration.
Advantages of the Form
List poetry is an incredible tool on two fronts: it is exceptionally fun, and it’s relatively easy. The nature of the list is short, and the power of the poem comes from the compiled content viewed together. Each item on the last can just be poetry fragments all put together. It also can act as an incredibly useful brainstorming tool for larger poems. If you were compiling a list of things that reminded you of love, you might just come up with the next great idea for another poem. The list is a very versatile, approachable and fun poetic form.
Challenges of the Form
This form of poetry can be tricky. I find the hardest part of a writing it is when to know it’s finished. Typically, I just end them when it feels right. Additionally, it is hard to find a format that really resonates with you. Should you number your list? Put it in bullet points? Be a little more free verse with it? It’s important to experiment with the style of your list poem until you find the one that is right for you and your poem.