Abecedarian Poetry: What Is It? Origins and Some Examples

Updated on July 23, 2019
annart profile image

Ann loves to write poetry and stories. Current poetry on Trains, English Counties, Travel & beyond, including varied poetic structures.

Sequence of Letters

Poetical sequence of words
Poetical sequence of words | Source

Inspiration

Inspired by Verlie Burroughs, a fellow Hubber, I wanted to attempt an ‘abecedarian’ poem. In fact, she issued me a challenge! A versatile and accomplished poet, Verlie is a hard act to follow (see link below).

I had never heard of this word before but was amazed to find that its earliest use in texts was around 1665.

If you say it aloud it’s obvious that it is connected to the English alphabet. It refers to a person who is learning the alphabet or the rudiments of a subject, or to something which is alphabetically arranged.

This form of poetry requires choosing words in alphabetical order, one at a time, to create a meaningful verse. Being careful in your choice, to create a mood or keep to a theme, is not easy. Being disciplined, as any concise form of poetry dictates, is a challenge. Being brave (or is it foolish?) enough to try is scary.

I decided my attempt would be about my garden. There is so much variety of growth, colour and wildlife (sometimes including the grandchildren) all around our house so plenty to feed on. Here goes!



Goldfinch

Gregarious Goldfinch
Gregarious Goldfinch | Source

Aerial

Angelic birdsong crowds deciduous elegance

from goldfinch hordes in jostling, keen lines, musical nature offers perfection.

Quarrelsome ranges startle the undergrowth, vying, wild, xylophone-yellow zones.


Peony

Velvet puff-ball
Velvet puff-ball | Source

Borders

Azaleas bursting, captivating, drawing eyes further;

glorious hydrangeas in jewelled kaleidoscopes, layered mounds nestling

over peonies quietly reviving souls, tender ombré-velvet weaving xana*, your zen.

(*xana: a beautiful nymph)


My Garden

Springy turf, perfect for playing!
Springy turf, perfect for playing! | Source

Carpet

Access broad, casting dip-entered footsteps, green haven in jade karma,

letting my noisy offspring peruse quests, running, swerving, tumbling, using vibrant words,

x-raying youth’s zest.


Surrounding Scenery

I love trees and there is a bank of wonderful willows by our house, not the weeping kind but those well-known in Somerset for use in basket weaving and the production of cricket bats. So I’m adding a version of ‘abc’ poetry, choosing to use just one letter to start all the words; the letter T.


Somerset Willows

Tops of Willows from the Top Window
Tops of Willows from the Top Window | Source

Trees

Tantalisingly tall, trunks tapering to thin tips, tender twining tapestry

tossed to tempers, trading temperate times.

Tearing through time, telling tales to tempt travellers,

taking their thoughts to tributary threads.

Trees trailing tracks, talons touching time, trusty tones tuning the turbulent thunder

to tender themes tonight.


English

The English language has so many diverse roots spread over the four nations of Great Britain, its indigenous languages and its former occupying invaders. Add to that the variations of American and Antipodean English, the ‘borrowing’ of Indian and other eastern words, and you end up with a rich well of vocabulary to use. We need to delve more deeply into that resource, use the less common words which will otherwise die, cherish the exciting vibrancy of speech and writing at our disposal, in order to nurture and evolve this precious commodity.

Experiment, mix your choices, mix your metaphors, even conjure up your own words. One which sticks in my mind from the excellent writer Robert Macfarlane (in ‘Landmarks’) is a word made up by his son: it means the bunching up of water going downstream when it comes across a large stone in its path; ‘current bum’!

I had to reach into distant corners to pull out relevant words for the poem ‘Trees’, trying not to sound contrived; it was more difficult than I expected and I could no doubt improve it but that might take years! I’ll return to it now and then, tweak the verse, find richer words to suit my purpose and reach into the further depths of that well.


Handsome Hydrangea

Source

Challenge

I therefore challenge those who feel inclined to create verses using the same initial letter for each word. Choose any letter from the alphabet and write at least two verses about any subject. If you're stuck, use the Hydrangea above. Enjoy!


Do you write poetry?

Which type of poetry do you prefer to write?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Ann Carr

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      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        13 days ago from SW England

        Thank you for your visit and comment, Luis.

        Ann

      • Luis G Asuncion profile image

        Luis G Asuncion 

        13 days ago from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines

        Thanks for sharing. Yes, I do write poetry, usually free verse.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        3 months ago from SW England

        Glad you enjoy reading poetry, Lawrence, and thanks for reading these.

        Ann

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        3 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Ann

        I once wrote a couple of Haiku for a creative writing class, but otherwise i just don't wrote poetry, though I like reading it.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        3 months ago from SW England

        I didn't take the Goldfinch photo but the flowers and garden photos are all mine. This is the first year I've grown tomatoes at this house but they haven't done very well - too much wind by the sea! The leaves get burnt on many of the plants if there is a prolonged strong wind.

        I try to grow wild flowers like poppy and cornflower and forget-me-not as they are some of my favourites and usually grow well; I think they are more hardy.

        Thank you for your best wishes.

        Ann

      • DREAM ON profile image

        DREAM ON 

        3 months ago

        Your yard is beautiful. What plants do you have? Are the pictures of the flowers from your yard? Gardens and flowers take a lot of time. This year I didn't grow any tomato plants or even a garden. Too busy doing other things. People in the neighborhood said this was a great year to grow tomatoes. The right combination of sun and rain. Go figure. I missed out. There is always next year. In the past, I have had a garden and it has received too much rain. So it didn't do too well. So I skipped it this year. I love wildflowers. So I am having fun moving them all around the yard. Hopefully, they will return next year. Happy morning and I hope you accomplish all you set out to do.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        3 months ago from SW England

        Dream On: Thank you for such kind words. I'm glad I can be of some inspiration.

        Ann

      • DREAM ON profile image

        DREAM ON 

        3 months ago

        Wow, you wrote something very inspirational and challenging to all writers everywhere. I love to scroll down and read all your comments. I can see how you have touched so many lives. That is good writing at it's best. You have a beautiful gift. I am watching and learning from you. Thank you for sharing and expressing great talent. Have one incredible day.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        3 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Rodric. You certainly did understand it! Have read it and left a response just now.

        Ann

      • Rodric29 profile image

        Rodric Anthony 

        3 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

        Here is my attempt to at the challenge. I think that I understood it appropriately. https://hubpages.com/literature/Abecedarian-Poetry...

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        3 months ago from SW England

        I'm sorry, Mel! I could've sworn that I'd answered your comment but it seems to have disappeared!

        Thank you for your very kind compliments. 'Wordplay' is what I love doing so I'm glad it worked.

        I hope you do try your hand at this. You have a way with words too so I'm sure it'll be well worth the read; looking forward to it.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        3 months ago from SW England

        Thank you Rodric. Haven't seen you for a while so glad that you're back. I'll look forward to reading your response to the challenge! Thanks for the visit.

        Ann

      • Rodric29 profile image

        Rodric Anthony 

        3 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

        Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiice writing here. I came here via John Hansen's poems having been absent HP or here sporadically. I want to try the challenge.

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        3 months ago from San Diego California

        What glorious, delightful wordplay here! I usually cringe when reading hubber poets, but you have a real mastery of our common tongue. Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful poetry form, maybe I'll try my hand.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thanks John; have now been to read it - well done!

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, John! Off to have a look now.

        Ann

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        4 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Hi Ann, I did take up the challenge: https://letterpile.com/poetry/Hating-the-Word-Fail...

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, John. I'll wait with interest to see what you come up with!

        Ann

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        4 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Great job with these verses Ann. The first I had heard of abecedarian poetry was through Verlie’s hub. Thank you for issuing the challenge, it certainly is an interesting one. I will see what I can do but am currently travelling so it may have to wait until I return home in a few days.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Jo! I've always loved trees, since I was very young; they have a certain mystery and grace and of course are so important to our survival.

        Thanks for the visit.

        Ann

      • jo miller profile image

        Jo Miller 

        4 months ago from Tennessee

        Well done, Ann. As a fellow tree lover, I'm especially impressed by the tree poem.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you William, for the visit and for your kind comments.

        Ann

      • lifegate profile image

        William Kovacic 

        4 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

        My goodness, Ann. I wouldn't even know where to start. Thank you for the introduction to something new. You did a wonderful job with it.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Dora. What a lovely comment!

        Ann

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        4 months ago from The Caribbean

        Ann, your poems are excellent. It seems quite a challenge, but real poets are magical. Pleasurable read!

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Rinita. Your response was magnificent!

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Rinita; off to read it now...

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        You're welcome, Eric! Thanks for the double visit.

        Ann

      • Senoritaa profile image

        Rinita Sen 

        4 months ago

        Well, I wasn't sure I could do this, but I tried. Here's the outcome if you would like to grace my page with your presence.

        https://letterpile.com/poetry/Abecedarian-Poetry-V...

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        4 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        I was out in my garden - our garden - and thought of this again. And so thanks again.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you very much, Rinita, for such a lovely comment. It's good to see you again.

        Hope to read some more from you too.

        Ann

      • Senoritaa profile image

        Rinita Sen 

        4 months ago

        I remember Verlie trying out this style in our 10-word Tuesday thread. I have been irregular on HP since then, so haven't checked out her creation that you provided as a link, but I will.

        Your creations are not just outstanding in creativity, but also soothing to the soul. Your garden truly inspires. Thank you for another informative article, Ann.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you Lori. I hope you do take up the challenge.

        Verlie is an amazing poet. She manages to say such a lot in so few words and the images she conjures up are outstanding.

        I appreciate your visit, as always.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Gypsy Rose Lee: Thank you. Yes, I like free verse too. As you say, it's a more versatile form of poetry; you can still have a rhythm but no need to worry about rhyme!

        Ann

      • lambservant profile image

        Lori Colbo 

        4 months ago from Pacific Northwest

        I had never heard of this type of poetry before and I will attempt to take up your challenge. You did an amazing job. I did not know of Verlie either so I will check her out.

      • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

        Gypsy Rose Lee 

        4 months ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

        You have a lovely garden. Thank you for the informative article. I write free verse because then I can just let my inspiration flow and take me in whatever direction it chooses.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Nithya. I have just about got my garden as I want it after three years of replanting and seeding the grass! It was in an awful state when we bought the house.

        I'm glad you enjoyed the poems and I appreciate the compliment.

        Ann

      • Vellur profile image

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 months ago from Dubai

        You have a beautiful garden! All the poems were excellent keeping in tune to the ‘abecedarian’ form of a poem. Enjoyed reading them all.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Linda. It's a while since I've written anything but this spurred me to break the silence!

        Well, if you find that your attempt is pleasing, which I'm sure it will be, maybe you'll share it with us...? Have fun!

        Ann

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Your poems are excellent, Ann. You've met the challenge brilliantly. I'll try your challenge, though probably just for my own enjoyment.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you Verlie! Thanks, too, for the inspiration; I'm especially pleased that you like it.

        Looking forward to reading your response - it's bound to be brilliant!

        Ann

      • snakeslane profile image

        Verlie Burroughs 

        4 months ago from Canada

        This is brilliant Ann! Gorgeous poetry. And you make it look like fun! Thanks for the link, you are so generous. I like your challenge too, I will see what I can come up with. Cheers!

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thanks Ruby. Why don't you have a go? I'm sure you'd come up with something amazing. Looking forward to reading it asap!

        Ann

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        4 months ago from Southern Illinois

        This is amazing poetry. I would like to try it?

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you kindly, bill. Yes, it's a photo of our back piece of garden which is quite typical for an 'English' garden, along with the traditional roses etc.. We have a triangular plot so there are two other pieces, one to the front and one at the other corner, which all means that I can have three different types of garden! Also plenty of places to sit, depending on shade or full sun - I think it's perfect but then I would, wouldn't I?!

        Nothing wrong with a ramble. I do it often and it keeps me sane, I think...

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Yes, Eric. I suppose everything starts with the abc! Good to see you and I always love your comments.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thanks, Pamela! It's not easy but I can't resist a challenge. There's always a first time so grab the nettle!

        I appreciate you stopping by.

        Ann

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I rarely read a hub which has a title word I can't pronounce, but in your case I'll make an exception, and since you were inspired by Verlie, well, this then becomes a "must read."

        As always you've done a brilliant job of traversing the language and tossing out tidbits of knowledge. Is that a picture of your actual backyard? If so, for whatever reason, I'm always surprised how similar life is in our two countries....that looks like an American yard. Perhaps it is...now I'm rambling....well done, you!

        bill

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        4 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Wonderful Ann. Just getting back into poetry myself. But this is slanted toward your love of words, which we share. Very cool. My understanding is this was first a teaching tool.

        Well then another life lesson to learn. Thank you.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        4 months ago from Sunny Florida

        This is all new to me. I thought you did a wonderful job with the alphabet and the T. It looks rather difficult to find some words that fit the theme when using x and z. I will consider your challenge, but I have never written any poetry on Hubpages.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thanks, Flourish! Yes those particular letters certainly stretch the mind but it made me search for words and learn some new ones in the process.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Brenda. I appreciate your visit. Glad you enjoyed this.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Hello Patricia! Thank you for your kind words. I have a great affinity to trees too and they are so much a part of sustaining our world.

        Lovely to see you here.

        Ann

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        4 months ago from USA

        I didn’t know what this was. Your results were amazing. Those x, y, q, k, u, and z words are challenging!

      • Brenda Arledge profile image

        BRENDA ARLEDGE 

        4 months ago from Washington Court House

        I have never heard of this before but it is interesting.

        You did a great job on your pieces.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        4 months ago from North Central Florida

        How cool is this. Since I am certain I was a tree in another life my favorite one is the one on trees. A very clever and entertaining style. Angels are headed your way this afternoon. ps

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Liz! Yes, I suppose it could though I didn't find any reference to that possibility. Logically, if the words are still in alphabetical order then it must be allowed. Good point!

        Thanks for reading and for your valuable input.

        Ann

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 

        4 months ago from Oakley, CA

        WOW! Very creative, and yes, very challenging. I wonder, though, it seems it could still be "abecedarian," even if it does not go through the entire alphabet, as you have so cleverly done!

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you very much, Liz, for your kind comment! Good to see you here.

        Ann

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        4 months ago from UK

        I admire your skill. You have done well to create such good poetry within tight constraints and added good photos too.

      working

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