Friday, April 2, 2010

The Great List Poem Post & An Invitation

Sometimes the beginning lines of a poem just pop into my head. There’s no advanced warning. I haven’t prepared the way for them. They just come—and I’m always happy to welcome them.

The first few lines of the following list poem about April arrived without an invitation. I hadn’t thought: I’ll sit down now and write a list poem about April. Let’s see—I’ll speak to my muse and get her advice. No, I just listened to the words whispering in my mind and let the poem take me where it wanted to go.

April: A List Poem
April is showers
and blossoming flowers…
their fragrant perfume.
It’s fruit trees in bloom.
It’s cold days adjourning
and robins returning
and swift rivers running…
my dog outside sunning.

April is warmer,
a springtime performer...
delivers bright days
when forsythia blaze
and I hear the sun say:
“You can go out and play—
No wool coat required.”
'Cause winter’s retired.

Here are two more list poems that I posted previously at Wild Rose Reader (I’ve made a couple of small changes in April.) These poems didn't just "pop" into my head. You’ll notice that the spring poem is an also acrostic.


Days crackle with sunlight.
Tree buds burst tight jackets,
Stretch awake.
Jaunty daffodils announce
Spring’s return.
Birds string themselves
Like beads along branches.
Windows yawn open
And houses breathe deep
Warm green air.

Soft, scented breezes, kite-catching winds, the
Pitter patter of warm rain on the
Roof, daffodils and daisies and lilacs
In bloom, apple trees wearing snow-white crowns.
Now the sun lingers at the edge of day and
Green…lovely green…has come home to stay.

Last Sunday, I met with my good friend Brad. Brad also writes and has a passion for poetry. He is a master of haiku. He also loves list poems. I asked if he’d be willing to share some of his original list poems with us. He was most accommodating.

Here are three list poems written by Brad Bennett.
(Each Animal Knew One Word, Vocations, and Spelling List © Brad Bennett. All rights reserved.)

Each Animal Knew One Word

mouse: nibble
rat: gnaw
crow: quibble
bear: thaw

seal: bask
buffalo: wallow
chameleon: mask
python: swallow

eagle: soar
butterfly: flit
squirrel: store
camel: spit


The job of the sky?
To blanket the hills.
The job of the hills?
To cushion the sun.
The job of the sun?
To wake up the trees.
The job of the trees?
To embrace the lake.
The job of the lake?
To mirror the sky.

Spelling List

1. I’ve
2. always
3. loved
4. learning
5. new
6. words
7. especially
8. when
9. they
10. organize
11. themselves
12. into
13. an
14. unexpected
15. poem

About Brad Bennett: Brad is a third grade teacher at the Thoreau School in Concord, Massachusetts. He is also a published poet. We met in 2001 at the First Annual Summer Poetry Institute—an institute for teachers sponsored by the Favorite Poem Project and the School of Education at Boston University. Brad and I have remained friends since that summer. We get together several times a year to talk about poetry, religion, teaching, and life.

If you’d like to read more list poems, I recommend Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems. It was edited by Georgia Heard. The book contains thirty-two poems—many written by some of America’s most highly regarded children’s poets, including Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Marilyn Singer, Kristine O’Connell George, Naomi Shihab Nye, J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen, Bobbi Katz, and Patricia Hubbell.
In the book’s introduction, Georgia Heard explains that “Falling Down the Page sketches the cycle of a school year from summer’s end in Eileen Spinelli’s “Good-byes” to a no school snow day in "Winter’s Presents" by Patricia Hubbell. The poems also trace the arc of an entire school day from “Ways to Greet A Friend” by Avis Harley to end-of-the-day rituals in “Things to Do Today” by Liz Rozenberg.

Here's an excerpt from Eileen Spinelli's Good-byes, the first list poem in the anthology:

It's really hard
to say good-bye
to twinkling beach,
and golden sky,
to castles rising
from the sand,
to Annie's caramel
popcorn stand.

You can read the rest of Eileen’s poem here:

The poems in this collection take on a variety of forms and subjects. Avis Harley writes about how to say hello in different languages in Ways to Greet A Friend. Her poem begins…
Hola is the Spanish Hello,
Italians go for Buon giorno

Konichiwa is Japanese,
Bon dia is the Portuguese,

It ends…

Shalom would be the Hebrew tongue….
So many ways Hello is sung!

Jane Yolen’s poem In My Desk is told in the voice of a child who is upset because recess has been canceled so that students can clean out their desks. The child thinks she has only junk in her desk—and says: “So let them clean it/I don’t care.” The child then lists the pieces of junk--and then has second thoughts about them:

each piece
can tell a tale.
It’s not just
that’s old and stale.
I’ll do that
cleaning out,
you see
each piece of junk’s
my history.

In Clay Play, Kristine O’Connell George talks about some of the different things one can do to and with clay. For example, one can…

Pound it, round it,
stretch it, roll it,
braid it, bowl it,
mold it, fold it.

Press it flat
and very thin
for daisy petals—
fishes’ fins…

In her “recipe” poem, Georgia Heard lists the ingredients one requires for writing an autumn poem. Avis Harley lists the different places one can read books in her rhyming poem Booktime. In J. Patrick Lewis’s poem What is Earth?, different animals are asked the same question—but respond with different answers:

What is earth, whale?
A sea where I sing.
What is earth, robin?
A thing I call Spring.
What is earth, python?
A space to squeeze in.
What is earth, penguin?
A place to freeze in…

The book’s final poem, Things to Do Today by Liz Rosenberg, ends like this:

Brush teeth, spit. Say good-night
To that girl in the mirror.
Get feet back into bed.
Check for moonlight. Starlight. Weather.
Read before sleep.
Remember a good thing that happened.
Forget a not-so-good one.
Tomorrow you get to do it all again.
Lucky you! Don’t watch the clock. Just

And finally, here’s the poem that I contributed to Falling Down the Page:


Be sharp.
Wear a slick yellow suit
and a pink top hat.
Tap your toes on the tabletop,
listen for the right rhythm,
then dance a poem
across the page.

An Invitation
Are you feeling inspired to write a list poem? I hope so. If you do write one, leave it in the comments or email it to me and I’ll post it next week.

More List Poems from Wild Rose Reader and Other Kidlit Bloggers
From Cloudscome at A Wrung Sponge: What I Would Photograph

From Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking from Inside: Things I’m Grateful For

From Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect: How I Write

From Wild Rose Reader: Things to Do: List Poems


The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Book Aunt this week.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you sat and listened - that April list poem is lovely. And I love Brad's "one word" poem - it's brilliant. I rather wish I'd written it!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Thanks! Meeting Brad was the best thing about the Poetry Institute-- which was wonderful. It's great having a friend nearby who shares my passion for poetry.

Jeannine Atkins said...

Elaine, There is so much to love here. First, I like the idea of the poems coming "without invitation." I like all the gaudy pleasures in the April list, and the idea of April as a springtime performer. The Spelling List made me smile. How lucky you are to have a friend like that.

If I were a bit more clever, I would be responding with a list poem, but that's not to be today. One of my children's lit students was crazy about Love That Dog and wrote her final project proposal sort of following some of its shapes. She's since changed her mind about what she wants to do (hey, she's 20), but I loved that proposal!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you liked the list poems post. I won't be posting the list poems people have submitted to Wild Rose Reader until late next week--so there's plenty of time to write one...if inspiration comes your way.

I ordered a copy of BORROWED NAMES through a children's book shop owned by a friend. When I went to pick it up, my friend told me she liked your book so much that she got some copies of it for her store. Once Easter is in the past and I'm finished with my income taxes, I hope to settle myself on our comfy sofa and read your book.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

These list poems are really wonderful. You've done a spectacular job of rounding them up to share! I was thrilled to see you put me in your list of list poems. I noticed the link for me was broken though. Were you looking for this one?

Laura said...


Thank you for the assorted ear and eye candy! What fun!

Laura Evans
all things poetry

Georgia Heard said...

Hi Elaine,
Thanks for including Falling Down the Page on Wild Rose Reader! I love your pencil poem -- I shared it at a workshop recently and everyone wanted a copy. Great job on the April list poem too! Thanks for the inspiration.

Bridget R. Wilson said...

What a great post! All the poems are wonderful. I think I'm inspired to write my own list poem. Just spent the day shopping with my mom. All the stuff we bought would make quite a list.

Mary Lee said...

Hooray for list poems! Thanks for a wonderful post!

Nancye said...

I enjoyed all of these poems! They were all very unique. Most of all I like how each of the poems "paint a picture with words".

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

apple blossom said...

I love reading these poems. Thanks for sharing them.