What is a List Poem?
Poetry can be as simple or complex as you, the poet, want it to be. No rule says a poem must be complicated or even hard to write. When writing poetry, the only requirement is to make it exciting and expressive. Today, we’re going to discuss how to write a list poem.
A list poem is a simple poetry structure based on creating an inventory of things. We’re going to define list poems, talk about how to write a list poem, discuss some ideas for list poems, and finally, we’ll look at a few famous examples of list poems. Let’s get started.
List Poem Definition:
A list poem is a poem written as a list. This poem can be an inventory of things, people, words, times, etc. To write a list poem, you may use lines, sentences, or even a list of single words. List poems don’t require a specific rhyme scheme or rhythm, but they can have them.
Structure of a List Poem
List poems have a pretty simple structure. The structure of a list poem is a lot like the structure of an informational text- introduction, body, conclusion. You start with one or two introductory stanzas. Use these opening lines to speak a little about your topic. Then the middle of the poem will consist of the listed items. Close out the poem with a closing stanza that reinforces the main idea of your poem.
The list poem structure looks like this:
How to write a list poem
There isn’t a single prescribed method for writing a list poem; the essential factor is that you list something in poem form (duh). Here is a step-by-step process of how to write a poem, but this will be a broad overview. Fill free to add elements to your list poem that are not discussed here. Let your imagination and your creativity take front and center as you write.
Step 1: Choose a topic
This is step one of a lot of my poem how-tos because having a topic will help focus your writing. The only difference with a list poem is that you may want to choose a general category for your topic. A category can easily translate into a list of things. Here are some examples of broad categories that you could break down into a list of items:
- “Growing-up” moments
- A “junk” drawer
- Locations (i.e., countries, cities, rooms in your home)
- Family relatives
Feel free to write about one of these categories if you can’t think of a topic you would like to write about. You don’t have to choose a category, though. You can write about something specific, like your car. If you want to write about something specific, think of a creative way to turn your particular topic into a list. For example, if you want to write about your car, you could list all the repairs you’ve had to make to it or the story behind each dent or scratch on its body.
Action step: Choose a category of things to write about.
Step 2: Create your list
Let’s start with the body of your poem. Your opening and closing stanzas are an excellent place to introduce and highlight a central idea or theme. You may not know your poem’s central idea until you’ve made your list. Once you’ve written the list, you can look back on it and decide what your message is.
For example, suppose you’re listing all the scratches and dings on your car. In that case, your theme could be how each blemish represents a mistake from which you learned a valuable lesson. After you’re done with your list, you can read over it and decide what the main idea of this could be.
So, take your category and start listing items within it. Your list can be single words or sentences. You can list an item or list an item and comment on that item; here’s what that could look like:
- A single thing- My Uncle Joe.
- An item with a comment- My Uncle Joe, who went to prison for mail fraud.
Action step: start listing items in your category. You can write single words or sentences where you say something about each item.
Step 3: Write your introductory and closing stanzas
Read over your list and decide your theme, main idea, or what you want to say about your category. This central idea doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. If you’re writing about family members, you can say something simple or funny like, “my family is a bunch of whackos.”
Humor works well with this form of poetry, so go for it if you feel comfortable. Otherwise, use figurative language to communicate your message engagingly. If you’d like to learn more about how to use figurative language, I go over several techniques in my article on how to write a poem.
Action steps: Use your introductory stanza(s) to introduce your topic/ category and write a line that transitions into your list.
In your concluding stanza(s), use figurative language to state the message of your poem.
List Poem Ideas
Still having trouble writing your list poem? Here are some ideas for writing a list poem, plus a few resources.
- A shopping list poem
The idea behind a shopping list poem is to make a poem out of an everyday list you’ve already made. You can take any list- a shopping list, to-do list, etc. If you’d like more information on shopping list poems, check out this website.
- “A ______ is” poem
For this poem, fill in the blank with a subject you’re passionate about. The poem consists of a list of sentences or words describing your poem’s subject. Learn more about this type of list poem here.
- A “Hello, Goodbye” poem
In a Hello, Goodbye poem, you’ll write about a transition from one thing to another. You could write a poem about transitioning from one season to another, like Summer to Fall. For this example, in each line, you would say goodbye to something about Summer, like warm nights, and hello to an aspect of fall, like falling leaves. Read more about Hello, Goodbye poems here.
Famous List Poem examples:
Bleezer’s Ice Cream
by Jack Prelutsky
I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
I run BLEEZER’S ICE CREAM STORE,
there are flavors in my freezer
you have never seen before,
twenty-eight divine creations
too delicious to resist,
why not do yourself a favor,
try the flavors on my list:
COCOA MOCHA MACARONI
TAPIOCA SMOKED BALONEY
CHECKERBERRY CHEDDAR CHEW
CHICKEN CHERRY HONEYDEW
TUTTI-FRUTTI STEWED TOMATO
TUNA TACO BAKED POTATO
LOBSTER LITCHI LIMA BEAN
ALMOND HAM MERINGUE SALAMI
YAM ANCHOVY PRUNE PASTRAMI
SASSAFRAS SOUVLAKI HASH
BUTTER BRICKLE PEPPER PICKLE
PEACH PIMENTO PIZZA PLUM
PEANUT PUMPKIN BUBBLEGUM
BROCCOLI BANANA BLUSTER
CHOCOLATE CHOP SUEY CLUSTER
AVOCADO BRUSSELS SPROUT
COTTON CANDY CARROT CUSTARD
CAULIFLOWER COLA MUSTARD
ONION DUMPLING DOUBLE DIP
TURNIP TRUFFLE TRIPLE FLIP
GARLIC GUMBO GRAVY GUAVA
LENTIL LEMON LIVER LAVA
ORANGE OLIVE BAGEL BEET
WATERMELON WAFFLE WHEAT
I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
I run BLEEZER’S ICE CREAM STORE,
taste a flavor from my freezer,
you will surely ask for more.
by Shel Silverstein
“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more—that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut—my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke—
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is—what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!
Check out more examples of list poetry over at PoetrySoup.com.
That’s everything I have on how to write a list poem, but if you’d like to read more about poetry, we’ve got plenty of articles you can find here.