Monday, September 1, 2014

September 2014 Poetry Challenge - a list poem

Dappled Things

A “list poem” (sometimes called a “catalogue poem”) may be composed of only items in a cleverly designed list, or a list may constitute an important segment of a poem, but not be the entire poem.

List poems date back almost to the beginning of poetry.  Lists are common in the Psalms in the Bible. Look for instance at Psalm 15. The psalm begins with the question of who will abide in the tabernacle and dwell on God’s holy hill. The poet then proceeds to list the characteristics of such a person—one who walks uprightly, does righteous works, speaks the truth, and so on.

Another list poem expressing faith is “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, an English poet and Jesuit priest.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Hopkins’ list of reasons for praise s quite interesting. When calling the reader to praise God, why has he picked out “dappled things” for special attention? Why does he move from such objects of the natural world as trout and finches’ wings, and then agricultural land (“Landscape plotted and pieced”) and even include the trades in which human beings participate, and the gear that goes with them, as works of God?

List poems may be about any subject.  In the fourth chapter of the Song of Solomon in the Bible, the narrator describes the lover (Song of Solomon 4:1-5, KJV).

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair;
thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks:
thy hair is as a flock of goats,
that appear from mount Gilead.
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn,
which came up from the washing;
whereof every one bear twins,
and none is barren among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,
and thy speech is comely:
thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury,
whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins,
which feed among the lilies.
This description would not seem very flattering to a modern American woman! It does seem to have been a model for some English-language poets.  William Shakespeare wrote a humorous list poem, poking fun at classical poems describing a poet’s lover:

Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

In her Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning used the list approach to express her love in Sonnet 43:

Sonnet 43

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Here are links to a few list poems on the Internet:

*Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing,” 
*Robert Herrick, “The Argument of His Book,”
*Rebecca Lindenbert, “Catalogue of Ephemera,”
*Serina Matteson, “Morning Sounds All Around,”

September Poetry Challenge

The September poetry challenge is to write a list poem. The poem doesn’t have to be composed only of a list, but a list has to play a very significant role in the poem. Your poem may be free verse or a form, rhymed or unrhymed. If you use a form, specify the form when you submit it. The list should be constructed with intentionality, so that it is poetic, not just a haphazard list. Virtually any topic (no pornography or objectionable language, however).

Submit only one poem. The deadline is September 15. Poems submitted after the September 15 deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however winners are published on this blog. Please use “family-friendly” language.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet.

Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If you poem has been published in a periodical, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Be sure to provide your e-mail address. Include a brief bio which can be printed with your poem, if you are a winner this month.

Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name (exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win) at the end of the poem. Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment. Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all in capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique; I sometimes do it myself. However I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

© Wilda Morris