8:47 a.m. — Walnut Creek
Finally. I am in California, with my mother, where I will spend the next month. Routine. Lovely. Now, where are we in the Summer Tryouts? Ah, the list poem. I love list poems. There is no wrong way to do one and lists allow experimentation, play, fun.
You can go back to the list you made of summer associations and see if there is a list poem within it.
You can check out Walt Whitman, the king of listmakers.
You can try a riddle ala Sylvia Plath. Those who don’t know this poem, every line is a metaphor, as is the whole poem. Everything adds up.
I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.
You can try your hand at a BLAZON, for no other reason than it’s a cool name for a form. Here’s an excerpt from a blazon, a poem that itemises the qualities of something or someone beloved:
a 1931 poem by Andre Breton
My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer
The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut
Whose tongue is an incredible stone
My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child
Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows
My wife whose temples are the slate of greenhouse roofs
With steam on the windows
My wife whose shoulders are champagne
Are fountains that curl from the heads of dolphins over the ice
My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts
Whose fingers are fresh cut hay
If you wish to read the entire poem, you can find it here. Note that Breton starts at the top and is working his way down the form of his wife. That is one of the conventions of a blazon.
A list poem may be short, as in ‘The Grocer’s Children’ by Herbert Scott
The grocer’s children
eat day-old bread
moldy cakes and cheese,
soft black bananas
on stale shredded wheat,
weeviled rice, their plates
heaped high with wilted
greens, bruised fruit
from unlabeled cans,
The grocer’s children
never go hungry.
A site on wikispaces offers a good working definition of a list poem, to go with ‘The Grocer’s Children': ‘List poems are made up of common (but not plain) items, sensory details, metaphor, and uncommon observations or comments. Basically, the poem is a list of images, but at the end the poet sort of answers the “So what?” question we are begging to ask.’
Go forth. Make lists. Play. Post. I am looking forward to reading your list poems. I will also [plan to] finish catching up on last week’s poems as soon as mom and I have groceries. She knew I was coming in on the 2nd. She thought the 2nd was today.
Happy writing everyone.