Today gives me the chance to share one of my favorite poetry lessons that I use when I teach – LIST POEMS!

It started when I was teaching poetry to teens in detention facilities. I learned early on that it was good for me to have a few extra poetry lessons in my pocket for days when things didn’t go quite the way I wanted them to. So I cut some phrases out of magazines, taped them to some index cards, and handed them out as poetry prompts for list poems. The kids soon learned that we would warm-up every session with a quick list poem. Sometimes we did them individually and sometimes we did them as a group on the board. It was a great warm-up for the class and once the students got to know how to do them, I could just pass out a card and they could go to work. This came in handy for kids coming in late or one of those days when I needed something to fill the last 10 minutes of the class.

The only trouble with the index cards was that the kids like to bend them and tear them so I made some larger cards that I decorated and then laminated and they are much more durable. (And for all you people who like to recycle, instead of index cards, I used those magazine subscription cards that fall out of magazines. I painted one side and glued construction paper on the other side. Then I glued the magazine phrase on the construction paper, drew some doodles, and laminated them.You can see more pictures here.)

I’ll start sharing some of my cards here which I hope you will use as a prompt to create a list poem in the comments.

And hey, if you are not a poet or don’t want to play with poetry, you could consider this a simple creative writing prompt. Give yourself 10 minutes and see where it takes you.

List poems are so much fun to write and even the most reluctant poet can usually manage to get some words down on the page. I usually tell the students to start by brainstorming a list of everything thing they can around the given topic. From there they try to expand with more poetic language, metaphors, and try to evoke a feeling from the reader.

List poems itemize things or events. They can be short or long, rhymed or not.

Falling Down the Page by Georgia Heard is a great book of list poems. Some online examples can be found here. A longer one is Fear by Dorianne Laux.

Ready to play? Here’s today’s List Poem Poetry Push.


Have fun. Start with a list that comes to mind when you read the prompt and see where it takes you. I’m looking forward to reading your responses.

Here’s mine:

You took
my self-esteem
my laughter
my pride in how I dress
my ability to trust
and to see the good in most people

You took
my dog, my cat
my good credit rating and almost,
my car

You took
my trust
my friends
my music

You gave back
a broken heart
a shattered dream
and finally, freedom.

Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved
Edited at 2011-02-01 09:59 pm (local)