How to Write a Funny List Poem

Shopping List

What is a list poem?

A “list poem” gets its name from the fact that most of the poem is made up of a long list of things.

Two famous list poems are “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” by Jack Prelutsky and “Sick” by Shel Silverstein. Another of my favorite list poems is “An Everything Pizza” by Linda Knaus. You will even find some of my list poems on poetry4kids.com, such as “My Lunch” and “That Explains It!

These are not the only list poems, though. Many children’s poets have written fun list poems, and you can even write your own. This lesson will show you how.

The structure of a list poem

List poems usually have a list in the middle, plus a few lines at the beginning and a few lines at the end. You can think of the beginning and end of a list poem like the top and bottom slices of bread in a sandwich. The list is like the meat or peanut butter or whatever else is between the bread. Picture it like this:

Beginning
List
List
List
List
Ending

List poems often rhyme, and they are usually funny. If you look at poems like Shel Silverstein’s “Sick” or Jack Prelutsky’s “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” you will notice that the lists also include very unusual items. Putting strange, unexpected, or exaggerated things on your list is a good way to make your poem funny.

Getting started

Here are two easy ways to start writing a list poem:

1.u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0 Start with someone else’s beginning and end, but make your own list in the middle.

2.u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0u00c2u00a0 Start by writing a list of your own, and then write your own beginning and end to go with the list.

You can decide for yourself whether it will be easier to write your own list poem from scratch, or to use someone else’s poem as a starting point.

Starting with someone else’s poem

It’s okay to use someone else’s list poem as the starting point for your own poem. (Just be sure to say your creation was “Based on…” the poem you used.) For example, here is my poem “That Explains It!”:

That Explains It!

I went to the doctor. He x-rayed my head.
He stared for a moment and here’s what he said.
“It looks like you’ve got a banana in there,
an apple, an orange, a peach, and a pear.
I also see something that looks like a shoe,
a plate of spaghetti, some fake doggy doo,
an airplane, an arrow, a barrel, a chair,
a salmon, a camera, some old underwear,
a penny, a pickle, a pencil, a pen,
a hairy canary, a hammer, a hen,
a whistle, a thistle, a missile, a duck,
an icicle, bicycle, tricycle, truck.
with all of the junk that you have in your head
it’s kind of amazing you got out of bed.
The good news, at least, is you shouldn’t feel pain.
From what I can see here you don’t have a brain.”

Notice that this poem begins with the four lines that set up the story, and ends with four lines that make it even funnier. You can use the same beginning and end, if you like, while putting your own list in the middle.

For example, what would the doctor find in your head? Since this list has rhymes at the end of each line, you can start with a few rhymes, like this:

house
mouse
cat
hat

Once you’ve got a few rhymes, you can add as many items as you want, like this:

“I also see something that looks like a house,
a monkey, a meerkat, a mink, and a mouse,
a laptop computer, a boat, and a cat,
an old pair of glasses, a coat, and a hat,

Of course, you don’t have to use my poem; you can use any list poem you like to create your own new list poem, or you can even create one from scratch.

Starting with your own list

If you prefer to write your own list poem from scratch, one easy way is to figure out what you’re going to make a list of. For example, you could make a grocery list, a list of things in your backpack, a list of your favorite sweets, a list of things you want for Christmas, and so on.

Let’s try it with a list of sweets. First let’s try to think of candies and sweets that rhyme.

Nestle’s Crunch
Hawaiian Punch
Dots
Zotz
Tootsie Pops
Lemon drops
Whoppers
Gobstoppers

Now that you’ve got some rhymes, put them into a list, adding a few more items to make the lines each about the same length:

A half a dozen Nestle’s Crunch.
A gallon of Hawaiian Punch.
Some Cracker Jacks. A box of Dots.
Some Pop Rocks and a jar of Zotz.
Reese’s Pieces. Tootsie Pops.
Hershey Kisses. Lemon drops.
Candy Corn, Milk Duds, and Whoppers.
Skittles, Snickers, and Gobstoppers.

Once your rhyming list is done, give it a beginning, an end, and a title and you’re all done.

My Shopping List

My mother said, “Go buy some bread,”
but this is what I got instead.

A half a dozen Nestle’s Crunch.
A gallon of Hawaiian Punch.
Some Cracker Jacks. A box of Dots.
Some Pop Rocks and a jar of Zotz.
Reese’s Pieces. Tootsie Pops.
Hershey Kisses. Lemon drops.
Candy Corn, Milk Duds, and Whoppers.
Skittles, Snickers, and Gobstoppers.
When mother needs things from the store
She never sends me anymore.

And that’s all there is to it. Now it’s your turn. Make a list of animals, friends, monsters, games, foods, places you’d like to go on vacation, or anything else you like, and see if you can turn it into a funny list poem of your own!