Write a Catalog Poem
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.
The Steps to Write a Catalog Poem Are Simple
1. Repeat a single word or phrase at the beginning of your lines
2. Repeat a single word or phrase at the end of your lines
3. Mix it up. When it starts to feel boring, stop cataloging for a few lines
So. 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.
Featured image by Luis de Bethencourt, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by L.L. Barkat, author of Love, Etc.: Poems of Love, Laughter, Longing & Loss
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Attempted Catalog Poem
By the way…ov.wjj/2011
By the way, I spoke to Father today ,He said long time my son
By the way he spoke He was far away ,Out of sight , waiting , for my long return
By the way It looks there is no end or middle of the road
By the way it feels, oh ,so nice to touch smooth skin, the velvet and her taffeta rose
By the way He said his name I knew, His speaking likely was the truth
By the way I learned of biblical tales, the Lord ,my Master, faithful Moabite Ruth
By the way I left my mark right here, the tree has grown since this high
By the way I saw my mark lifted clear ,reaching ever higher into the endless sky
By the way I feel I need to rest or drink
By the way I came here needing to sit I think?
By the way of this path long rides I’ve gone .
By the way I saw my child hood home .
By the way we think , or receive the rest we seek
Lay gently here and of Him I speak
By the way we go our life is spent
Long ,green branch life is often bent
By the way our time , it is always treasured
By the way ,as it ends ,our time is always measured
By the way , By the way
L.L. Barkat says
William, you tried it! I especially love the velvet and taffeta rose part 🙂
Perusing the Spice Aisle/Hunting for Flavor
It can take awhile
It can take quite a while
When you’re a newbie
When you’re a newbie cook
To find the one
To find the one you need
Yes, they are in order
Yes, they are in alphabetical order
Yet, sometimes I don’t know
Just, which one I need
Just which one I need for
the soup or the stew?
the roast or the brew?
Literacy helps in culinary pursuits
Literacy helps – and knowing your colors, too!
Madhulika Garimella says
What does cataloging mean in terms of a speech?
L.L. Barkat says
It definitely would strengthen a speech, building momentum and power through the repetitions.
Does this help?