Abecedarian Poetry: What Is It? Origins and Some Examples
Sequence of Letters
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!
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Link to Verlie’s hub: https://letterpile.com/poetry/The-Road-Home-Poems
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© 2019 Ann Carr