A few years ago, my husband and I walked along the Milwaukee River on a warm April morning. We picked up litter as we walked, appalled at the mountains of trash in the water and on the banks. I listed each object I collected. Later, I turned my list into a list poem. I'm posting it for Earth Day, coming up next week.
Dainty speckled dog’s tooth violet
leaves poke up from warming soil
through a six-foot strip of muddy
shredded plastic bag,
plastic straws, a root beer can,
caution tape, a bottle top,
a lip gloss tube, old newspapers,
a spray paint can, and one flip-flop.
Two red-bellied woodpeckers
shriek and tap above our heads
as we survey the rushing river
and the garbage on its banks:
plastic lighter, cigarette butts,
chunks of broken Styrofoam,
coffee cups with plastic lids,
a bandage strip, a plastic comb.
Mama goose sits on her nest
amid the evidence of thoughtless
picnickers and fishermen,
hikers, joggers, families:
McDonald’s ketchup packet, wrappers
(Kit-Kat, Slim Jim, Power Shot,
Cheetos), plastic bait container,
broken plastic flower pot.
Multicolored shopping bags
flutter from just-budding trees.
Ducks glide past a bobbing bottle,
half a pound of plain cream cheese.
Fish swim under plastic buckets.
Water bottles tip on top
of water bottles ten feet from
a trash container—
this must stop!
On, and on, the river
carries everything we toss it,
and we toss too much to bear.
Wake up, people!
Don’t you care
what happens to this rushing river,
the gliding ducks,
Wake up and smell the dog tooth violets,
The picture is also from a few years ago. Unfortunately, the river and its banks are still littered with trash.
Begin a list poem of your own for Earth Day or any other day by thinking of a subject or a place you are passionate about. Observe it carefully or remember it and list its important details. Include more than just the list—tell the reader why the details are important.
I used rhyme because I liked the singsong, careless feel it implied and I wanted to lighten the heavy message, but your poem doesn't have to rhyme. Speak your mind and make your message clear.
For more list poems, see Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard.
The winner of this week's giveaway of an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step is B.J. Lee.
Post a comment on today's post to enter for another chance to win. I’ll choose a winner at random next Friday from all entries posted by midnight (CST) Thursday, notify the winner by email, and ask for a mailing address and personalization request. Good luck!
Look for me each Wednesday during National Poetry month at TeachingAuthors.com, where I'm posting poetry-themed Wednesday Writing Workouts.
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Life on the Deckle Edge. Enjoy!