Poetry challenge: The Catalog Poem
The catalog or list poem isn't so much a poetic form as a strategy.Â The idea is to write a poem by creating a list of things.Â You might list things associated with a particular person, or a place, season, event, even something as abstract as "things people are often wrong about."Â The "things" can be actual objects, or more abstract things such asâ€”if the subject is a personâ€”emotions or memories.Â It often works well to intermingle the concrete and the more abstract.Â The group of objects should, of course, add up to something more than a mere list.Â The list should reveal, surprise, entertain . . . whatever you want the poem to do.Â One of the most dazzling examples of this strategyâ€”though it's not presented as a poemâ€”is the title chapter of Tim O'Brien's novel/short story cycle about the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried.Â O'Brien's list (of the things carried by soldiers in Vietnam) reveals much of the suffering, banality and human experience of the war.Â Another famous example is section 15 of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself.
This approach can produce a poem that is, in fact, a list.Â It can also be an idea-generating exercise, a way of brainstorming images and ideas for use in any sort of poem.
Here's the challenge:Â Write a catalog poem.Â Be sure to include "catalog poem challenge" as a tag.Â
Examples of catalog poems:
If you'd like to see an example of a catalog poem, see my poem, "The Things Emily Carries, an after-school inventory," here:
Better yet, click on the "catalog poem" tag to see a list of all the catalog poems posted so far. Thanks to all who've given it a try!