Why I adored this issue of the New Quarterly:
1. It’s composed entirely of list poems (“To List is Human” is the theme).
2. Guest editor Diane Schoemperlen’s cover art (a glorious collage) and her prose and collage/images of images, “222 Brief Notes on the Study of Nature, Human and Otherwise,” are exemplary specimens of a list’s power in the service of art-making.
3. What a list can be or how it works can be broadly interpreted. Pat Leech contributes a story, “Joan List,” in the form of a list with un-numbered segments separated by dingbats. Sandra Lambert’s list, “Our Lady of Rue Ste. Marie,” is a prayer in un-numbered verses:
Our lady of ste marie street
our lady of the cul de sac
our lady of chaste lawns
and roofs, intact
virgin of the stinking creek
virgin of the vacant lot.
4. A list can carry great emotional weight as in Angele Gougeon’s “Eighty-Three Days,” a narrative which begins with each numbered day in large bold type to separate the entries: “Day Forty-Two. Woke up, rolled over, forgot to forget.”
5. Lists can be contained inside of other forms, like an essay, as in K.D. Miller’s “Daily Bread,” an illustrated work of prose on the writer’s attempt to write psalms as a Lenten project.
6. Found poems make fine lists. Work by: a) K.V. Skene; b) Schoemperlen; c) Jaclyn Piudik.
7. Inventories make fine (often funny) lists. Lee Cookson’s “Three Lists Written on the Backs of Things” includes full-page four-color blow ups of the things on which the lists are written.
8. Instructions make fine lists. Laurie MacFayden’s “Things you need to know before giving your heart to a poet,” for example: “she want to stay out late, sometimes later than the next morning. / pretend to be ok with this.”
9. A poem that doesn’t even look like a list can make a fine list. “Inheriting the Spoons” by Myrna Garanis shows us how:
After divvying up, there’s little left but spoons
I speak of souvenirs, not sterling silver coffees.
…The spoons a breadcrumbtrail of maiden voyages.
…Home province spoons. Tiger lilies gilded onto stems.
…Returned spoonless. Left me to stir
names around the family cup. Preserve the gathered maps.
10. “There are many ways to divide up the world. One of those divisions is between those who make lists and those who do not,” says the guest editor. We are so lucky she is someone who does.