List poem

Student activity

Key inquiry question #1

The Wonderful Large Wild Man (ca 1790s), unknown author

Task No. 1

List poem

A Description of a wonderful large wild man, or monstrous giant, brought from Botany-Bay

A list poem consists of a list or inventory of things. The poem is created by a list of images or adjectives that build up to describe its subject. They are very deliberately organised and are not simply random lists of images. The last line of a list poem is usually strong, and is an important element of the poem as list poems often conclude with a startling or surprising image.

List poems are an ancient tradition in poetry. There are examples in The Iliad by Homer and in the Bible.

The poet Christopher Smart composed a famous list poem which details all the daily activities of his cat Jeoffrey.


Compose a list poem where you use a list of similes (see below for information on similes) to describe the physical appearance of The Wonderful Large Wild Man.


You might organise your list poem by starting your description at the very top of the Wonderful Large Wild Man’s head and then working down to his toes. Similarly, you could divide the body of the Wonderful Large Wild Man into thirds, quarters or fifths (or whatever you like) as another way of organising your poem into stanzas.
Another strategy to organise your poem is to write your similes on to strips of paper and then playing around lay around with their order by moving them around on a table. When you are happy with the order of the lines you can paste them onto another sheet of paper.


You might create an “epic” group poem where each student in a class or group contributes a simile describing the Wonderful Large Wild Man.

An epic poem is a very long poem that usually tells a story.

What is a simile?

A simile is an indirect comparison between two things using like, as or than.

Similes used in the broadside to describe the Wonderful Large Wild Man include:

  • “nails of his fingers and toes crook’t like a hawk’s bill and as hard as horn”
  • “hair stronger than a horse’s mane”