What Is a List Poem?

Home alone? Nothing to do? Tried poeticizing the list of things that your pet does?

No? You’re missing out, my friend. You can keep your writer-self busy, writing list poems.

Yes, you can make a poem using a written inventory of items or a list of animals, places, and ideas.

Writing poetry has never been easier; you have a list of things, the name of the poem comes from the name of that list, and the poem doesn’t necessarily need to rhyme.

But what is a list poem really? How can you go about writing one? I’ve covered those and more in this post.

Read on!

what is a list poem

Types of Poetry

Before I tell you what a list poem is, let me take you on an important diversion. There are a lot of different types of poems, but I’m going to list a few.

Haiku

One of my favorites, I don’t know why… I just like them. They’re from Japan and have three lines—five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five syllables in the third. The poems often have topics that are nature-related.

haiku heart to pen
Haiku “Heart to Pen”

Quatrain

A quatrain is a poem consisting of four lines. The lines have similar lengths and either line 1 rhymes with 2 and line 3 rhymes with line 4.  Or line 1 with line 3 and line 2 rhymes with 4.

Ballad

Ballads are narrative poems that tell a story just like folk tales. 

Acrostic

The first letters of each line of an acrostic poem form a word or message. For example, you could write “I LOVE YOU” with an eight-line poem.

access microscholarship students participate in u.s. election acrostic poem contest
Access Microscholarship Students Participate in U.S. Election Acrostic Poem Contest. (Image credit: U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine on Flickr)

Limerick

A limerick is a humorous (and, in certain cases, vulgar) poem made up of five anapestic lines. The pattern that a limerick follows is simple: three lines (1, 2, and 5) rhyme and are longer while the other two (3 and 4) rhyme with each other and are… you guessed right, shorter.

Couplet

This is just two lines and they may be rhymed or unrhymed.

List

Yes, the main dish on the menu. Jump to the next section to understand what it is.

Is That All?

There are other types (many of them), but the ones I have briefly explained were the ones that came to my mind first. Others include Shakespearean, ode, pastoral, ballade, ABC, cinquain, burlesque, concrete, epigram, dramatic monologue, iambic pentameter, lyric, and many others.

12 unique poetic forms of poetry.

What is a List Poem?

A “list poem” is what the title says, a poem made up of a list of things.

There aren’t many rules (or should I say any?); all you need is that list. Even without a rhythmic pattern and the order of the things on that list, you can still have a good list poem. Creativity has never been simpler and freewheeling.

List poems are great for teaching kids because they don’t have to look outside their environment to find things to use in their poetry.

Characteristics of a List Poem

1. List of items: A list poem has to be a list or inventory of things in stock, places, cars, etc.

2. Rhyming: The poem can rhyme or not.

3. The last entry has to be effective, strong, or funny. In some list poems, this subtly explains the list. If you intend to be funny, this line has to be funny.

4. Repetition: a list poem can include repetition.

The Structure of a List Poem

List poems can start with a few introductory lines and end with a strong or effective and usually funny few at the end. Usually, you introduce the list at the beginning but you can also start with the list and sort of describing the list at the end.

Generally, the structure of a list poem looks like this:

The opening line(s)

List

List

List

List

The Closing Line(s)

The list can take the shape that you like; you could rhyme or not. But the end has to be good, that’s what usually makes your list poem an exciting one.  This doesn’t have to consist of tangible things only; you can write about thoughts, actions, routines.

How to Write a List Poem in Just 4 Steps

Here’s how you create a list poem in a few simple steps.

how to write a list poem in just 4 steps

1. Choose a Topic

First, you pick a topic you care a lot about or something close to at the time you get down to write your poem. Or if it’s a school assignment, the topic might be chosen for you, so step 1 is half done.

Part 2 of step one involves choosing a title that you think is exciting enough for your target audience. You can also do this after in step 4.

2. Write Down a List of Things

The next thing you have to do is create a well-thought-out list that is related to and turns the title into an exciting or funny topic.

3. Add Some Items to the List

If it’s a list of nouns, add some articles, verbs, adjectives, or whatever is relevant that describes the things and actions or makes fleshes out your lines.

4. Create the Ending and Revise

Once your list is done, you have to create the beginning, then the end, and then you have to revise the list. Giving the list poem a title at this stage is even better because you exactly know what every line is talking about.

Examples of List Poems

I created some basic list poems, and although I have written hundreds of poems, list poems aren’t my cup of tea. I just want to give you an idea of how list poems look like.

Things I Want My Dog to Do

I want my dog to Always being by your side

run up to me I come back home

watch the TV with me

swimming and exercise with me

above all, I want my dog not to act like a cat.

What Was in the Box?

The box had

the lottery

a blind date

changing Rooms

the spice girls

and… Mr. Bean.

Summary

Writing list poems is easy and that’s why it’s the best starting point for teaching kids. All you need is a list; whether it’s people, animals, friends, places, activities, games, etc.

You can ask your students to write about the things they did during their summer holidays or their pets at home.

It’s not for kids only; adults like me can write list poems, and it’s a funny and creative way of cataloging things.

In fact, there are a lot of books with list poems—some of them full of list poems and some mixed with stories and/or other types of poetry. 

About Jessica Majewski

Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories.

She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.