Create #20: Writing a List Poem

By Arji Manuelpillai

There are many different ways to tell a story. Simon Armitage is an amazing storyteller, often finding new and exciting ways to tell a story in his poems.

Look at the following poem, in which Simon uses a list of objects to tell a mysterious story.

The list is a list of all the things found on a dead body. Look carefully at the poem. What can you deduce from the list?

Simon Armitage creates a story out of a list of objects and that is what we’ll be doing in this activity.

But instead of focusing on an individual, we are going to focus on the place where we live.

About his Person

Five pounds fifty in change, exactly,
A library card on its date of expiry.

A postcard stamped,
unwritten, but franked,

A pocket size diary slashed with a pencil
from March twenty-fourth to the first of April.

A brace of keys for a mortise lock,
An analogue watch, self winding, stopped.

A final demand
in his own hand,

A rolled up note of explanation
planted there like a spray carnation

But beheaded, in his fist.
A shopping list.

A giveaway photograph stashed in his wallet,
a keepsake banked in the heart of a locket.

Simon Armitage


  • Let’s imagine the place where you live—but in 150 years’ time
  • Imagine a house and, in that house, a purse or bag
  • Let’s imagine all the things that could be in that bag
  • They could be things that represent the place where we live
  • Or things that represent the time in which we live, e.g. a photo of the arts centre closed down, a wedding ring broken in two
  • Some of the objects could be completely abstract but still hold meaning to you and the time and place we are living in
  • Keep adding ideas of things to your list, the more you have the better
  • Pick the best things on your list and edit their wording
  • Make sure they each have a story to tell in their own right
  • Write a list poem out of those things
  • Edit the list to the raw poetry gold.

And there you have it! Enjoy.

Activity Guide

Click the button to download this activity guide as a PDF. If you would like to receive one of our Activity Packs in the post, please email with your full name and address, including postcode.

Arji has also been running a remote residency, based on Stradbroke Village Archives and peoples’ thoughts and memories about the village; you can see Arji performing some of those poems on the Connect page, linked below.

Policemen and swimming pools in Stradbroke

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