Thursday Trials: Lists=Poetry

04 Nov
Day 092/366 - To Do List

Image by Great Beyond via Flickr

4:17, Thursday, 4 November, 2010 – Atlanta

I find myself working on too many poems at once and may have to back off.  The richness of all that is offered by the web can also become a spider and fly problem. I am so happy to be writing that I have subscribed to Robert Lee Brewer’s November Poetry Challenge, in the middle of which he tossed us a Writer’s Digest rondeau challenge; I am subscribed to Molly Fisk’s November poem a day []; I check Big Tent Poetry for Monday prompts; and One Stop Poetry for Wednesday prompts; and the prompt from Confident Writing; and then there are my own ideas…I came in when invited and now find myself trying to pull back from the sticky web. The danger if I don’t is that I will not write at all.

As today is the official day to give you an exercise, as opposed to yesterday, when that was all I was up to, I think I will start you on lists. Lists are another way of collecting, and I want you to have a large resource pool when we start on more specific prompts that will lead to poems. Having said that, anything you collect can be crafted into a poem by looking for connections amongst what you are collecting and fitting what seems to go together. List poems have a long history and can be composed of anything that entails a list. One of my favourite collection is The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagan, who created lists from everything from things that sail to things that no one notices to things that keep passing by to things that fall from the sky.

“Things that make my heart beat fast
A sparrow with nestlings./Going past a place where tiny children are playing./Lighting some fine incense and then lying down alone to sleep./Looking into a Chinese mirror that’s a little clouded./A fine gentleman pulls up in his carriage and sends in some request./To wash my hair, apply my makeup and put on clothes that are well-scented with incense. Even if I am somewhere where no one special will see me, I still feel a heady sense of pleasure inside./On a night when I am waiting for someone to come, there’s a sudden gust of rain and something rattles in the wind, making my heart suddenly beat faster.” Sei Shonagan

Try it. Make a list of things that can be listed, say about twelve things, then choose one and create a list. Here’s mine:

Signs along Highway 85: Phantom Fireworks SC Exit 1/40+ acres for sale/Cool Metal Roofing Mile 175/Billions and billions of fireworks/Keep Off Median/ Bridge ices before road/ No trucks over 6 wheels allowed in left lane/ Fireworks/Blacklight Mini- Golf/Red Oak Brewery: The Freshest/Grand-daddy’s Antiques the South’s Largest Mall/Mr. B’s Pumpkin Patch – large groups welcome/Guns, Ammo, Hunting, Fishing, Archery/If you die today where will you spend eternity?

Now I listed without any expanding, but I can have fun with that list. It has possibilities. Lists do. More lists to come.


Posted by on 04/11/2010 in poetry, writing


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2 responses to “Thursday Trials: Lists=Poetry

  1. Music&Meaning

    24/11/2010 at 3:24 pm

    margo: “in spring, it is the dawn that is most beautiful…” (Ivan Morris transl)… nobody beats the Pillow Book for prose poetry. RT

    • mroby

      24/11/2010 at 3:26 pm

      So true. Imagery is my weakness. I love reading the Pillow Book Lists to try and train my brain. m


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