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  • February 1st, 2011 | 12:17 AM
Poetry Push - List Poems


Today starts a new weekly feature on my blog, a little Poetry Push to help you warm-up your poetic muscles for the day. This also 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 recylce, 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.)

Every Tuesday I'll post one of my cards which I hope you will use as a prompt to create a list poem in the comments, just like laurasalas does with her 15 Words or Less Poems on Thursdays.  Please sign your name with your poem so I can point to them all in the round-up for Poetry Friday.

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.
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 35 comments — Leave comment )
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February 1st, 2011 09:46 am (UTC)
I want to GIVE BACK all the times my father told me I would never amount to anything.
I want to GIVE BACK all the tears I shed when my Mother told me I could not play the games that my brother and sisters played.
I want to GIVE BACK all the times in the playground when the kids laughed at me because I was different from them.
I want to GIVE BACK all the hurt I felt when I could not go places and do the things other kids did because they were impossible for me even though they looked fun.
I want to GIVE BACK all the loneliness I felt in my heart because nobody ever really took the time to understand me and so left me out of most things.
All of these collectively made me who I am today
So I want these people to GIVE BACK all the confidence and the self esteem, they stole from me.
I can then go on with my life and be the person I can be, the person I should be.
If only people GIVE BACK.

- Anne Mckenna
February 1st, 2011 12:32 pm (UTC)
Stunning, Anne. Words fail me . . .
(Deleted comment)
Re: GIVE BACK - kelcrocker - February 1st, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: GIVE BACK - emily_jiang - February 1st, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: GIVE BACK - susanwrites - February 2nd, 2011 05:46 am (UTC) - Expand
February 1st, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC)
I love list poems and this exercise always works with students and blocked writers. I'm even more intrigued with your delightful altered magazine reply cards. What a clever use for those, little works of found art.
February 2nd, 2011 05:47 am (UTC)
Thanks, Candice. I've found the same thing with list poems. I used to do them with simpler phrases like a holiday or a season but I've found that these phrases really seem to help them get to the emotion.

And heck, if there's a reason to practice my doodling, I'm all for it. As you'll see as I post more of these, some are nicer than others. It's a practice for me to let go of the perfectionist.
(Deleted comment)
February 1st, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
fun, Laura!
My favorite line - emily_jiang - February 1st, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - susanwrites - February 2nd, 2011 05:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - toby_speed - February 2nd, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - susanwrites - February 2nd, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
February 1st, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC)
I love the work of art you made from the card -- and Anne's and Laura's poems. Wow. I've got my work set out for me today, but I'll try to come back. What a great idea!
February 2nd, 2011 05:49 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jeannine. Not all the cards are works of art. Some are just scribbles of color to push me past my frustrating need to be perfect. :)
February 1st, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
With the caveat that I'm not a poet (and didn't even know what a list poem was...)

Give Back

Give In
Give Out
Give Off
Give Up
Give Away

Give It
Give It Up
Give Me Five

Give to a Good Cause
Give at The Office
Give Some More
Give Til It Hurts
What Gives?

Give The Order, The Finger, Your First Born
Give Blood
Give a Toast
Give Consent
Give Your Hand

Give up the Ghost
Give Your All, Your Word, Your Right Arm
Give Thanks
Give a Damn
February 1st, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)
You are totally a poet. The ending is especially satisfying. Keep writing!
(no subject) - susanwrites - February 2nd, 2011 05:50 am (UTC) - Expand
February 1st, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
Give Back?
silver mirror
black chair
silver comb
black hair

see it curl
down my spine
below my waist--
it's all mine!

silver shears
shoulder shove
quick snip for
locks of love

--Emily Jiang

Thanks, Susan, for this great prompt! I'm actually donating my hair on Friday.
February 2nd, 2011 05:51 am (UTC)
Re: Give Back?
Beautiful, Emily. I adore the last stanza and how wonderful that you are donating your hair this week! I'm growing mine out a bit more and plan to cut to donate probably just before summer hits.
February 1st, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
I really like the 15 word idea so here goes

I no longer have her
in my life
give back
the one
you took away.

February 2nd, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
Janet, I think this works really well for a 15 word poem too.

This says so much in so few words. Thank you for playing.
(Deleted comment)
February 2nd, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
Oh Jenn, wow...first I was feeling nostalgic and then, that last line, it was a punch to the gut. This is beautiful. Thank you for playing along and for sharing.
February 2nd, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
What a fantastic thing to look forward to every Tuesday! I'm no poet, but maybe as the weeks go by I will be brave enough to try one of these. Thanks, Susan!
February 2nd, 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
Wow! I'm blown away by the poetry shared in the comments section! Wow!
February 2nd, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
Thanks...everyone was amazing for right out of the box. Guess I better write my own, huh?
February 2nd, 2011 05:59 am (UTC)

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.

Edited at 2011-02-02 05:59 am (UTC)
February 2nd, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
Poetry Push has a nice ring to it. Great idea, Susan, and I'll give this a try when I can. The cards are adorable!
February 2nd, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Toby. It will be fun to have you play along, whenever you can.
Torchy Hunter
February 3rd, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
Susan's poem
Wow. I knew/know one of them. Love, Torch
February 4th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Susan's poem
Thanks, Torchy!
February 4th, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC)
This is amazing.
February 4th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I was excited to see everyone's work.
Susie Isome
March 1st, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
No one knows what your dog is thinking when he looks you square in the eye and tilts his head a little.
No one knows how much he loves it when he rolls over and you scratch his belly.
No one knows what he's saying when he barks and barks and barks.
No one knows if he does either.
No one knows what he's dreaming when he cries in his sleep.
No one know just how much he loves you.
March 1st, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful, Susie! I'm so glad you decided to join in the fun and of course the fact that it's a doggie poem went right to my heart.

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( 35 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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