How hard could it be?
I was reading about a poetry technique called cataloging. It seemed simple enough. Until I tried it. The technique uses word-repetition to create a sense of praise (for the object, concept, or beloved). Or sometimes to create a sense of magic or prophetic voice.
How hard could it be to repeat words and make a good catalog poem?
Whitman did it in Song of Myself…
Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Robert Desnos did it in The Voice of Robert Desnos…
the one I love is not listening
the one I love does not hear
the one I love does not answer
David K. Wheeler did it in On Restlessness…
There was never a time that I knew everything.
There wasn’t a night I wanted you to lose sleep.
There are some words you can say with a blink.
There are nights I wake up curled on the floor.
There are appliances that refuse to operate.
There are solutions that don’t have a question.
But in the end, I could not write a catalog poem. Not to my satisfaction. So I wrote this poem instead…
Poetry 101: Cataloging
All day I have been tapping out words, trying to catalog
my love for you. I’ve been sketching where the type would go
and the images— Bratz, Tonkas, a red truck that takes off
without pushing, after just a bit of pre-winding against a warm oak floor.
I’ve been shaking words into phrases that could go under little squares
on catalog pages; squares of silken ties, underwear, tube socks
and, surprisingly, Martha Stewart pillows (throw, in all the latest
catalog colors; this year it’s yellow, which is far too bright
for how I feel… a catalog should never steal my love by pushing
the commercial sense of hue and shade on I-love-you; I tried those
too, you know— notebooks stamped I love you, with bubble hearts,
balloons, and ungodly purple butterflies). No matter how I listed,
squared, adjusted like a quintessential Sears, nothing seemed to finally do
what a catalog of broken lines should somehow, without measure, do.
Visit L.L. Barkat at Seedlings in Stone, for more on writing, poetry, art and life. This post is a reprint from Seedlings in Stone.
Further Resources, for Teachers or Writer’s Groups:
How to Write a Catalog Poem
Put That on the List: Collaboratively Writing a Catalog Poem
Subscribe to Every Day Poems— read a poem a day with us, become a better poet or teach others to become better poets.