Tag Archives: list poems for chldren

Fat, squelchy, sour, sweet, sticky, gooey, melting, icy, hot … Poetry

Kim Hill had a terrific conversation with Patrick Ness on National Radio on Saturday. When asked that tricky question on what YA fiction is Patrick suggested that teenage fiction is fiction that is enjoyed by teenagers (or something along those lines). Which makes it gloriously open and gloriously real.

I have been pondering the same issue on what children’s poetry is (a highly pertinent question while I am editing an anthology of children’s poetry). As a writer, when I write poems for children that is always my primary audience. I want children to pick up my books and want to read them. If they do, game, set, match.

Poetry can ignite word sparks for children, even the most reluctant reader and writer, in ways that are utterly magical. Poetry can lead a child back to their own world and find surprising and wonderful pathways through. It can lead a child back into memory and it can take a child into the productive world of the imagination. It can do all these things and more, but what makes it such a tool for children is that it can render words delicious. Fat, squelchy, sour, sweet, sticky, gooey, melting, icy, hot. Words are the playground extrordinaire (to shift metaphors) when that playground is full of poetry beams and mats and jungle gyms and whirligigs.

So, yes, a children’s poem is a poem a child wants to pick up and read and then maybe but not necessarily have a go at writing their own. Other poets have other ideas on this of course and rightly so!

One of the biggest thrills I have is when a child comes up to me (or writes) and tells me they have loved one of my poems. This is bigger and better by far than awards or reviews or sales. I am sure other children’s authors will agree with me.

Tips for Writing List Poems

You might like to play with some of these tips when you try a list poem.

1. A list poem just has a list of things in it. The list can be anything but I find my favourite list poems have real things in. It might be a list of objects or places or things that have happened or actions.

2. Once you have your starting point collect as many as words as you can for your list. For my poem ‘The Bonnet Macaque: An Omnivore’ (in Flamingo Bendalingo) I started with what the animal keeps in her cheeks).  Then play around with how you put them into your poem.

3. Every line can start the same in a list poem.

My dog chases cats.

My dog chases fleas.

My dog chases me. (it could be a much longer list of course)

4. Every line can start differently in a list poem.

The house has a yellow roof.

The car has blue wheels.

The tree has purple flowers.

I have a red nose because I have a cold (I don’t really!).

5. Some of my favourite list poems collect two things on a line (this is a bit like a poem I have in Macaroni Moon).  The things might not rhyme. If they do rhyme it might easy Dr Seuss rhyme or tricky rhyme (I have both sorts below). You can have surprising combinations! Or things that go really well together. The world is your oyster when it comes to making lists!

It’s raining cats and dogs

and bees and cheese

and giraffes and scarves

and mushrooms and scooters.

6. Sometimes the last line of a list poem does a twist or backward flip. It breaks the pattern of the list.

It’s raining cats and dogs

and bees and cheese

and giraffes and scarves

and mushrooms and scootrs

so you’d better duck!

Have fun. Use your ears when you write because list poems can sound amazing!

They can be fun, make you think, sound great or surprise the reader (and more!).