Summertime and the Living is Tuesday Tryouts

03 Jul

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:

Free Union
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
surprise treats
from unlabeled cans,
tainted meat.
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.



Posted by on 03/07/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , ,

55 responses to “Summertime and the Living is Tuesday Tryouts

  1. cloudfactor5

    03/07/2012 at 1:25 pm

    Here’s one that’s an Abecedarian and a List Poem combined !!

    • margo roby

      03/07/2012 at 11:26 pm

      Randy, I’m impressed and I haven’t even been over yet!

  2. JulesPaige

    03/07/2012 at 3:47 pm

    • margo roby

      03/07/2012 at 11:27 pm

      I will, Jules. I always do 🙂 Be over shortly.

  3. carolisle

    03/07/2012 at 5:25 pm

    I have several lists in the hopper I’ll see what I can come up with. FYI you are just a few miles from me i out here in CA. If you’re of a mind to visit I bet it could be arranged.

    • Hannah Gosselin

      03/07/2012 at 9:21 pm

      Super jealous!! 😉 How cool that you two are so near each other now! 🙂

      • margo roby

        03/07/2012 at 11:29 pm

        Hannah, you would be surprised to know how many live around here…

        • Hannah Gosselin

          03/07/2012 at 11:31 pm

          The land of the roaming poets!! I need my beam-me-up Scottie machine so I can visit, too!!! 🙂

          • margo roby

            03/07/2012 at 11:32 pm

            It would be lovely to see you. We need a retreat retreat one year where we find a locus that a bunch of us can get to!

    • margo roby

      03/07/2012 at 11:28 pm

      Carolisle, looking forward to what comes out of the hopper.

      Let me think about your kind invitation. I come to mom’s as a sort of retreat.

  4. vivinfrance

    03/07/2012 at 5:32 pm

    Written days ago and forgotten in a shopping list notepad:

    • margo roby

      03/07/2012 at 11:33 pm

      We make so many lists in our lives, ViV. We probably have poems stashed everywhere.

  5. wordsandthoughtspjs

    03/07/2012 at 7:50 pm

    Margo, glad to see you are settled in with your mom. I am thinking of doing this prompt, since time is now a friend of mine 🙂

    • margo roby

      03/07/2012 at 11:31 pm

      Hi, Pamela. It will be nice for you to have time for a while. How long is the vacation?

      I do miss you :-). I also remember how teaching takes everything.

  6. Madeleine Begun Kane

    03/07/2012 at 8:52 pm

    A verse that consists of a list.
    A poem that ends with a twist.
    One stanza with rhyme.
    Some anapest time.
    A lim’rick is hard to resist.

  7. Hannah Gosselin

    03/07/2012 at 10:03 pm

    Well, there!! That was fun!! I’m glad you had that Sylvia Plath example…my brain enjoyed wrapping around that idea. I don’t know if it’s truly a metaphor though? Still, it was fun! :)’s to you, Margo!

    • margo roby

      03/07/2012 at 11:37 pm

      Oh, good, a discussion! Why do you think these are not metaphors — she calls the poem a metaphor, but aside from that? Something must not work for you.

      • Hannah Gosselin

        03/07/2012 at 11:40 pm

        Oh! I mean I’m not sure that my poem ended up being a metaphor or a riddle of sorts. I think hers are…”A comparison in which one thing is said to be another.
        i.e. The cat’s eyes were jewels, gleaming in the darkness.” Ha ha!! I’d just been studying it! She does that but I don’t know if I really did that… 🙂

        • margo roby

          03/07/2012 at 11:57 pm

          Ah! I went back to reread. You have a lovely riddle, but you are right, not a metaphor poem. Plath’s is so clever. She even has nine lines, nine syllables per line. Everything contributes to the answer. Her metaphors are a good lesson in metaphor for me, as I find metaphor difficult.

          • Hannah Gosselin

            04/07/2012 at 12:00 am

            I do too and I think maybe I need to change my blog name to not really metaphors but most definitely smiles!!! Love Plath…I’m going to have to study that one…hmm a challenge!! 🙂 Thank you for looking it over again, Margo!

            • margo roby

              04/07/2012 at 10:10 am

              I love the thought of “Not Really Metaphors…”. As usual the smiles you wish me were there for that.

              • Hannah Gosselin

                04/07/2012 at 10:34 am

                I’m glad that could make you smile, Margo! It made my ears turn up their happy curling lips!! Hee hee fun mental picture for you! 🙂

                • margo roby

                  04/07/2012 at 10:42 am

                  Grin… I was working on the image of your ears, when I read your last sentence.

                • Hannah Gosselin

                  04/07/2012 at 12:07 pm

                  Nice!! Ha! 🙂

  8. pmwanken

    03/07/2012 at 11:00 pm

    I read that Andre Breton poem a couple weeks ago and chuckled at the reference to platypus… 🙂

    I’ll see what I can come up with for this…I’ll add this prompt to my, um, LIST. 😉


  9. Rosanna

    04/07/2012 at 1:40 am

    Hi Margo, I’m new here, but have been writing poems for several years, although I didn’t know there are different kinds of poems. It’s the first time I’ve heard of a list poem, and here’s my first try….

    • margo roby

      04/07/2012 at 10:37 am

      Hi Rosanna. Welcome. I hope now that you are here, you visit often. I’m heading over to read your list poem.

  10. barbara_

    04/07/2012 at 9:57 am

    You did pick the right time to get out of the south. Jim wanted to go somewhere, so I pulled up the US drought maps to look for someplace in a day’s drive that isn’t crisp. You pretty well have to get into the mountains.

    poem’s not much.

    • margo roby

      04/07/2012 at 10:38 am

      Barbara, There are not many refuges. I’m glad I’m out here for all of July, not so amused that we have to return to Atlanta in August.

      Poem’s not much, huh… we’ll see.

  11. Karin Wiberg

    04/07/2012 at 3:53 pm

  12. purplepeninportland

    05/07/2012 at 9:17 pm

    • margo roby

      05/07/2012 at 10:03 pm

      Sara, I’m glad you wrote, despite difficulty.

  13. Annette Mickelson

    06/07/2012 at 12:52 pm

    I tossed the idea of different lists around in my head, settled on the grocery store, and then got stuck in the International foods aisle.

    • margo roby

      06/07/2012 at 1:29 pm

      Annette, how funny. However, you are all ready for this week’s We Write Poems. Head back to the grocer’s!

  14. carolisle

    07/07/2012 at 12:46 pm

    Here’s my mix and match of poetry prompts not to prompt and may not be a list

    • margo roby

      07/07/2012 at 9:47 pm

      Carolisle, I grinned as I read your disclaimer.


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