A list poem is a deliberately organized poem containing a list of images or adjectives that build up to describe the poem’s subject matter through an inventory of things.
History of List Poetry
List poetry, also known as catalog verse, as a form and device is widely used, and its roots date back to roughly 100 AD. Verses of lists are present in Homer’s Iliad, which dates to the eighth or seventh century BC. Although, it is unclear exactly when the form and device were formally used in poetry, the list, or catalog, poem is a poetic form, as well as a literary device, that highlights an intentional catalog of people, places, things, and ideas in relation to each other, evoking an emotion or story. There is no specific rhyme scheme or meter that comes with writing a list poem, and often, it features repetition, particularly anaphora.
Examples of List Poetry
List poetry examples range in content, poem length, and tone. One example from the eighteenth century is Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]:”
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there…
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench...
Other examples include Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” poems by Shel Silverstein, “Goblin Market” by Christina Rosetti, “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and “Why We Oppose Pockets for Women” by Alice Duer Miller.