List-with-a-Twist Structure

The list-with-a-twist structure includes a list that turns–or twists–significantly toward the end.

Lots of poems use the list-with-a-twist structure.  Many of the poems listed on this blog under other structures also are lists with twists.  The poems here exemplify this structure.

“Orchids are Sprouting from the Floorboards,” by Kaveh Akbar

“Notes on Rejection,” by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

“Elegy with Apples, Pomegranates, Bees, Butterflies, Thorn Bushes, Oak, Pine, Warblers, Crows, Ants, and Worms,” by Hayan Charara

“Mother and Daughter,” by Hayan Charara

“Prayer for the Living,” by Hayan Charara

“The Prize,” by Hayan Charara

“Birds Appearing in a Dream,” by Michael Collier

“Marginalia,” by Billy Collins

“Questions about Angels,” by Billy Collins

“Silence,” by Billy Collins

Billy Collins makes great use of the turn in his poems, and the list-with-a-twist structure can be found throughout his oeuvre.

“plato told,” by e. e. cummings

“The Heart asks Pleasure – first,” by Emily Dickinson

“‘Twas just this time, last year, I died,” by Emily Dickinson

“If Hitler also Spelled Hiedler,” by Joe Dolce

“Counting Sheep,” by Russell Edson

“I Am Waiting,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude,” by Ross Gay

“Guide to the Other Gallery,” by Dana Gioia

“Majority,” by Dana Gioia  Also, a poem that makes use of the retrospective-prospective structure.

“Ten Men,” by Sam Gordon

“Serious Moonlight,” by Camille Guthrie

from “Delphi,” by H. D.

“07/16,” by Lauren Haldeman

“Some Waynes,” by Wayne Holloway-Smith

“what you’d find buried in the dirt under charles f. kettering sr. high school (detroit, michigan),” by Francine J. Harris

“Prayer,” by George Herbert

“Are You Doing the New Amerikan Thing?,” by Juan Felipe Herrera

“Dream Notebook,” by Jane Hirshfield

“To Judgment: An Assay” by Jane Hirshfield 

“For the man with the erection lasting more than four hours,” by John Hodgen

“Baghdad Exceeds Its Object,” by Kent Johnson

Please note that the lineation of this version of the poem is off.  For an accurate printing of the poem, read it in Kent Johnson’s Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz: Eleven Submissions to the War (Austin, TX: Effing Press, 2005), pp. 28-29, or Homage to the Last Avant-Garde (Exeter: Shearsman Books, 2008), pp. 118-19.

“Brother, I’ve seen some…,” by Kabir

“Chewing slowly…,” by Kabir

“How do you…,” by Kabir

“More Foolish Things Remind Me of You,” by X. J. Kennedy

“We Are Afraid,” by Jennifer L. Knox (from A Gringo like Me: Poems (Soft Skull, 2005), pp. 45-46).

“One Train May Hide Another,” by Kenneth Koch

“Lives,” by Derek Mahon

“Capitalist Poem #5,” by Campbell McGrath

“The War Works Hard,” by Dunya Mikhail

“Pity me not because the light of day…,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Now We Are Six,” by A. A. Milne

“One Boy Told Me,” by Naomi Shahib Nye

“I Could Have Loved You–Probably,” by Monica Piotrowski

“Views,” by Alissa Quart

“Subway Seethe,” by J. Allyn Rosser

“England in 1819,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

from Amoretti (Sonnet LXXI: “Fair is my love…”), by Edmund Spenser

“alternate names for black boys,” by Danez Smith

“Reciprocity,” by Wislawa Szymborska

“Some People,” by Wislawa Szymborska

“Under One Small Star,” by Wislawa Szymborska

Notice in Szymborska’s poem the final twist toward speech and the making of poems.  This self-referential turn is a feature common of a lot of poems.  (Check out the Baudelaire and Kinnell poems here.)

“Gloss of the Past,” by David Trinidad

“Impossible Friendships,” by Adam Zagajewski

7 responses

6 03 2009
Q & A, Part 3 « Structure & Surprise

[…] well, um, overlap.  For example, you’ll see that I’ve added a structure on this blog called “List-with-a-Twist.”  One of the things I mention about that structure is that it is one way to describe MANY poems, […]

23 03 2009

Piotrowski and Szymborska on the same page? I think I’ve reached my goal!

23 03 2009
Mike Theune

Yes–you’ve arrived, Monica…congrats!

Thanks again for letting me post your terrific poem!

9 01 2011
Close Reading “Close Reading: Windows” « Structure & Surprise

[…] Wislawa Szymborska’s Some People, a poem employing a List-with-a-Twist Structure, the window-moment occurs at the poem’s final twist.  As Hirshfield notes of the […]

6 11 2013
Billy Collins on “The Ride of Poetry” | Structure & Surprise

[…] this blog’s pages devoted to specific kinds of turns, including “Duck/Rabbit” and “Marginalia.”)  And, as an anthologist, Collins tends to select works that feature prominent turns–I […]

17 03 2014
“If Hitler also Spelled Hiedler,” by Joe Dolce | Structure & Surprise

[…] One of the things I like best about my online work with the poetic turn here and over at Voltage Poetry is that it’s allowed me to come into contact with some great folk, terrific artists, poets and thinkers. Most recently, this work has put me in touch with Joe Dolce, who has allowed me to reprint the above poem, which, among other things is a great example of a list-with-a-twist. […]

16 05 2018

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