Catalog Definition

Catalog or Catalogue is a literary device used in poetry and prose to give a list of things and create a rhetorical effect. Writers use it to make a list of multiple thoughts in a unified form. However, the poet’s do not add Catalogs randomly, and they are well thought. The list is deliberately inserted to make the audience enjoy the conventional style of poetry. Etymologically, Catalog refers to a list.

Features of Catalog

  • It often involves repetition
  • Catalog verses can be a list of people, places or ideas.
  • It can include rhyme or can be a free verse poem.

Examples of Catalog from Literature

Example #1

Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins

 “Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.”

This extract has been taken from one of the famous poems of Hopkins, “Pied Beauty.” The poet praises God for dappled and spotted things. The poet comments on the changeable nature of the world.  As an act of prayer, he thanks God and provides a list of things God created for mankind. In this stanza, he Catalogs variety of creation by God and symbolically illustrates the existences of all species on the earth. He talks about the seas, the plants, the animals and the landscape that humans have altered in a Catalog.

Example #2

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:

Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,

It’s a long narrative poem about two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, and how Laura tempts to taste the fruits sold by the goblin. The writer Catalogs the variety of fruits available in the Goblin’s market and can be interpreted in various ways. However, the use of cataloging technique has made it a conventional poem.

Example #3

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

This poem is about celebration and the poet wants the entire world to be part of this jubilation. He tries to contain the whole world within himself. Therefore, he provides the list of whole stuff belongs to him. In this part, he presents the Catalog of things he loves and wants to keep in life. He has presented a list of things through a chain of associated thought to make the meanings clear giving a unique quality to the poem.

Example #4

Catalog by Naomi Replansky

My blurring eyes, my deafened ears—
O careless sadism of the years!

Sun-loving and sun-ravaged skin—
One-sided love has done you in.

My teeth—less said, less missed!—my heart—
My runaway, my telltale heart—

Heart whose misfirings can defeat
The pulse of this iambic beat!

(While hypochondria detects
Whatever ill it hears of next.)

She has prepared a long list of her body parts one by one and stated how they are related to her emotions and poetic output. She has started this list from her eyes and goes on to list teeth and heart with each having its own features and contribution in her poetic output.

Example #5

Fear by Raymond Carver

“Fear of seeing a police car pull into the drive.
Fear of falling asleep at night.
Fear of not falling asleep.
Fear of the past rising up.
Fear of the present taking flight.
Fear of the telephone that rings in the dead of night.
Fear of electrical storms.
Fear of the cleaning woman who has a spot on her cheek!
Fear of dogs I’ve been told won’t bite.
Fear of anxiety!
Fear of having to identify the body of a dead friend.
Fear of running out of money.
Fear of having too much, though people will not believe this.
Fear of psychological profiles.
Fear of being late and fear of arriving before anyone else.
Fear of my children’s handwriting on envelopes.
Fear they’ll die before I do, and I’ll feel guilty.
Fear of having to live with my mother in her old age, and mine.
Fear of confusion.
Fear this day will end on an unhappy note.
Fear of waking up to find you gone.
Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.
Fear that what I love will prove lethal to those I love.
Fear of death.
Fear of living too long.
Fear of death.
I’ve said that.”

Raymond Carver, famous for writing short stories, has illustrated the example of Catalog poetry through this poem. He presents the list of the types of fear one by one until he has reached the end of what he has stated earlier. This is one of the best examples of Catalog poem in which an exhausted list has been presented for rhetorical impacts.

Catalog Meaning and Function

Catalog or Catalogue provides writers with a tool to portray their feelings, emotions, and ideas in a logical sequence. The writers use Catalog to assemble multiple things in a series. It gives them a chance to bring together many things, ideas, and images and present them for attention in a poem format. Also, the repetition of the words strengthens the importance of ideas discussed.