The ‘List’ Poem

The ‘list’ poem is not really a poem at all, just a list of things the poet finds interesting and thinks you might find ‘interesting’ too. The hope is that the combined weght (or attractiveness, or ‘zaniness’, or whatever) of the images will act in an accumulative way on the reader’s head and ‘transport’ him/her … somewhere. In many cases the overall effect is one of tediousness and, if it is along poem, one finds one’s eye beginning to race down the ‘list’ to see if there is any ‘outcome’ to all this verbal pyrotechnics. I’m not faulting a poem that goes off into a list in the workings of its

Pauline Fayne

 discourse (Ginsberg’s stuff), or one that actually ends up somewhere (‘God’s Grandeur’ by Hopkins). It’s ones like Thomas Hood’s ‘November’ that I have in mind, although it IS mercifully short. A poet friend, Pauline Fayne, published something recently which sums of my views much better than I could sum them up myself:


For toothache, swollen knees

and writer’s block —


For food cravings, fantasists

and unrepentant bigots–

nettle soup.

For hot flushes, apathy

and adolescent mood swings–

cold showers.

For posers, bullies

and apprentice saints–

all of the above.

For uninspired poets–

list poems.

Pauline Fayne, by kind permission

(This poem was voted ‘Poem of the Year 2009’ in Michael Flanagan’s long-running ‘Riposte’ poetry broadsheet)

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