Lists, lists and more lists

List poems are a listing of various ideas elaborating a central conceit but without any transitional phrases. Sometimes the list loads and overloads descriptions piling up a backdrop until the last line comes as cathartic change. Examples of list poems are numerous across the ages, and include My November Guest by Robert Frost, The Lost Lost-Property Office by Roger McGough. There are more examples in the reference list of poetry below.

Anyway, this is a blog about writing sonnets and I believe that given the concision required of a sonnet, the list form is not compatible. However, some aspects of repetition may be useful. Repetition can include repetition of adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, nouns or even sentence structures.

I have heard other poets say they do not like repetition. Use of repetition can be effective but also can be a sign of laziness or word-padding. Personally, I use it sparingly. I accept that it can be effective if used judiciously.

The special effect of repetition is used often enough to figure in the pantheon of rhetorical figures. Here are just a couple of examples.

One example of a list in a rhetorical figure is congeries: where there is a list of adjectives or nouns, all stacked up to create a dense, overloaded, cumulative, intense or claustrophobic effect. Just like that.

There is also the rhetorical figure of anaphora, which means starting each sentence with the same word; a famous example in a poem being Rudyard Kipling’s If:

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …”. This popular poem is also an example of a list poem, with the cathartic ending:

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it …”.


On a slightly different subject, let me finish with some hopefully useful lists, that of competitions and publishers you may wish to consider entering your new work to.

Useful lists of competitions and independent presses:

Competition listings:

  • UK’s Writing Magazine Competitions Listing – a periodic supplement listing forthcoming competitions;
  • Subscribe to a literary magazine that provides these, such as Orbis who have a regular list of forthcoming interest called Kudos. Subscribers can receive Xtra Kudos a couple of times each month. And Xtra Kudos is now available to non-subscribers, for a payment;

Independent Presses in the UK:

Lists of poems:


20210427 Lists, lists and more lists - Title

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