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Abecedarian Poems and the Nature Facts that Inspired Them

Linda Crampton is an experienced teacher who enjoys reading and creative writing. She likes classical literature, fantasy, myth, and poetry.

Wild and cultivated flowers can inspire poetry.

Wild and cultivated flowers can inspire poetry.

The Nature of Abecedarian Poetry

Nature is important in my life. It’s always fascinating and often beautiful. It can be very inspirational for writers, photographers, artists, and people who enjoy exploring the living world. In this article, I include five of my poems about nature that use an abecedarian technique.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word abecedarian means “of or relating to the alphabet” or “alphabetically arranged”. Some writers using an abecedarian technique create poems in which the first letter of each word or of each line follows the alphabet sequentially. Others use the alphabet in a different way as they create poetry. Although it might sound like the requirement to reflect the alphabet would constrain a writer, I've found that it actually creates an enjoyable challenge.

Ann Carr, another writer on this site, introduced me to abecedarian poetry. Ann issued a challenge to her readers. She asked us to create a poem in which each word began with the same letter and showed us a lovely example that she created.

The five poems below are my answer to Ann’s challenge. They each depict a scene from nature but may contain an additional meaning. As both a naturalist and a writer, I couldn’t resist including a few facts about the real-life organisms featured in the poems.

A gray whale spyhopping (lifting its head out of the water while in a vertical position)

A gray whale spyhopping (lifting its head out of the water while in a vertical position)

Mysterious Death of Gray Whales

The inspiration for my first poem came from the mysterious and tragic deaths of gray whales, or Eschrichtius robustus, on the west coast of North America. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says that from January 1st, 2019, to June 3rd, 2022, a total of 578 dead whales have washed ashore in Alaska, Canada, the rest of the United States, and Mexico. Their bodies have sometimes been emaciated. A adult gray whale in good health is around 45 to 50 feet long and weighs about 36 to 40 tons. I've included a link to the relevant NOAA web page at the end of this article so that people can check the latest information about the situation if they wish.

Investigators aren't sure why the whale deaths are occurring. One factor that is being investigated is ecosystem changes that are affecting the habitat and food supply of the whales. Despite their large size, the animals feed on tiny creatures. They are baleen whales that filter small and microscopic creatures from the ocean. Other factors that might be responsible for the problem and are being investigated are disease, harmful algal blooms, predation, and interactions with humans.

Dead Whale on the Beach

Beached behemoth

Bones bleached by brilliance

Brittle beauty bearing blight

Begotten but betrayed

The Keeler oak tree is a white oak (Quercus alba) located in New Jersey. It's believed to be around 300 years old.

The Keeler oak tree is a white oak (Quercus alba) located in New Jersey. It's believed to be around 300 years old.

The Magic of Trees

Trees often seem slightly magical to me, especially the mature and majestic specimens. Sitting under a large tree and looking upwards into its branches is a wonderful way to daydream. The oldest trees have seen a lot of history.

An individual tree can be a joy, but a group offers other benefits. "Forest bathing" is the process of taking a meditative walk through a forest, which can provide mental and physical benefits. Trees help us in additional ways. They absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, reduce soil erosion, provide shade, and act as a buffer against wind.

Branches in the Wind

Branches bend beguiled

Beneficent breeze

bringing blessings

born beyond belief

Hedge bindweed flowers in my neighbourhood

Hedge bindweed flowers in my neighbourhood

A Beautiful and Annoying Plant

Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) belongs to the morning glory family. Its large white flowers are indeed glorious. The showy white blossoms open in the morning and close in the evening or in dim light. They are shaped like a trumpet with a wide opening. The leaves of the plant are shaped like arrows.

The plant is a climbing vine that wraps tightly around objects in its path, including other plants. The second word in the hedge bindweed's name refers to its ability to bind other plants as it twines around them. The vine is hard to remove when it's reached this stage. Its fibrous roots and rhizomes (underground stems) are widespread, so even if the above-ground part of the plant is removed, a gardener still has a challenge ahead.

Hedge Bindweed

Bewitching blossoms

Blooming beautifully

Bestowing bridled bondage

beside bitter bewilderment

Beautiful flowers growing in a park's rose garden

Beautiful flowers growing in a park's rose garden

A Season of Flowers

One of the chief joys of summer for me and I imagine for many other people is the wonderful variety of flowers that can be seen. Their colours and patterns are lovely. It‘s sad when the blooms of a plant die, but they are replaced by flowers of another species in a beautiful succession. I enjoy examining wild and cultivated plants.

Watching insects as they explore blossoms is an intriguing activity, especially when a magnifying glass is used. Bees and beetles are important agents of pollination. Transfer of pollen from one flower to another enables fruit production and plant reproduction. It's a vital activity for us and for the Earth.

Insects and Summer Blossom

Bees buzzing by blooms

Bejeweled beetles beguiled

by blossom blankets

burying burdens beneath beauty

A close-up view of Himalayan blackberry thorns on a big cane after rain

A close-up view of Himalayan blackberry thorns on a big cane after rain

Himalayan Blackberries

Himalayan blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) are an invasive plant where I live. They often form dense and impenetrable thickets that cover items in their path and can be a major nuisance. Their berries are a wonderful treat, though. Blackberries bushes are sometimes known as brambles, especially when someone wants to emphasize their tangled and prickly nature.

The blackberries in my area used to ripen in early fall, but in each of the last few years they have ripened earlier than the year before. Last year I picked blackberries to eat in mid July. Picking the berries requires care due to the plant's thorns. They can give a painful jab.

Blackberries and Brambles

Beautiful berries

Bushes bearing blissful bites

Beloved but bittersweet

Bedeviled brambles bristling

Blunders bled by baleful barbs

Like a bridge over water, a writing challenge can sometimes lead to unexpected discoveries.

Like a bridge over water, a writing challenge can sometimes lead to unexpected discoveries.

Benefits of Writing Challenges and Prompts

Writing challenges can be fun. Participating in a challenge provides more benefits than just enjoyment, however. It's an educational experience. A challenge can push the writer into areas that they haven't experienced before and enable them to explore new skills that they might want to investigate further. The experience can improve the writer's ability, even if they aren't completely happy with the composition that they created for the challenge.

A writing prompt could be considered a subcategory of the writing challenge. A sentence, phrase, question, picture, or other prompt is presented and the writer is asked to respond with a composition. Multiple websites provide free writing prompts. I find some more stimulating than others, but I think it's good practice to try to respond even to prompts that seem uninteresting. They can all provide exercise for the brain, which can be very helpful for writers. Prompting new ideas and enabling writers to practice new skills are important outcomes of any writing challenge.

Reference

Latest information about the gray whale Unusual Mortality Event (UME) from NOAA

© 2019 Linda Crampton

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