Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Poetry Challenge #6: Abecedarian

Before we get going, please do check out the lovely sonnets presented over the past week. Nice job to all of my poets!

OK, here's another new one. I thought after the brain-bending we all underwent to wrestle a sonnet to the ground, a nice, flexible medium would be a good one to do next. The abecedarian is a poem with origins in religious devotion. Its only rule is that it is guided by alphabetical order. That could mean that every stanza starts with a new letter of the alphabet, or that every line does. Rhyme and meter are entirely up to you. A cousin of this form is the acrostic, that probably many of you created with the letters of your name at some point in your elementary school career.

For examples, I will first borrow an aptly baseball-themed poem (in honor of today's All-Star Game) from Ogden Nash:

Line-Up for Yesterday

A is for Alex 
The great Alexander; 
More goose eggs he pitched 
Than a popular gander.

B is for Bresnahan 
Back of the plate; 
The Cubs were his love, 
and McGraw his hate.

C is for Cobb, 
Who grew spikes and not corn, 
And made all the basemen 
Wish they weren't born.

D is for Dean, 
The grammatical Diz, 
When they asked, Who's the tops? 
Said correctly, I is.

E is for Evers, 
His jaw in advance; 
Never afraid 
To tinker with chance.

F is for Fordham 
And Frankie and Frisch; 
I wish he were back 
With the Giants, I wish.

G is for Gehrig, 
The Pride of the Stadium; 
His record pure gold, 
His courage, pure radium.

H is for Hornsby; 
When pitching to Rog, 
The pitcher would pitch, 
Then the pitcher would dodge.

I is for Me, 
Not a hard-hitting man, 
But an outstanding all-time 
Incurable fan.

J is for Johnson 
The Big Train in his prime 
Was so fast he could throw 
Three strikes at a time.

K is for Keeler, 
As fresh as green paint, 
The fastest and mostest 
To hit where they ain't.

L is for Lajoie 
Whom Clevelanders love, 
Napolean himself, 
With glue in his glove.

M is for Matty, 
Who carried a charm 
In the form of an extra 
brain in his arm.

N is for Newsom, 
Bobo's favorite kin. 
You ask how he's here, 
He talked himself in.

O is for Ott 
Of the restless right foot. 
When he leaned on the pellet, 
The pellet stayed put.

P is for Plank, 
The arm of the A's; 
When he tangled with Matty 
Games lasted for days.

Q is for Don Quixote 
Cornelius Mack; 
Neither Yankees nor years 
Can halt his attack.

R is for Ruth. 
To tell you the truth, 
There's just no more to be said, 
Just R is for Ruth.

S is for Speaker, 
Swift center-field tender, 
When the ball saw him coming, 
It yelled, "I surrender."

T is for Terry 
The Giant from Memphis 
Whose .400 average 
You can't overemphis.

U would be 'Ubell 
If Carl were a cockney; 
We say Hubbell and baseball 
Like football and Rockne.

V is for Vance 
The Dodger's very own Dazzy; 
None of his rivals 
Could throw as fast as he.

W is for Wagner, 
The bowlegged beauty; 
Short was closed to all traffic 
With Honus on duty.

X is the first 
of two x's in Foxx 
Who was right behind Ruth 
with his powerful soxx.

Y is for Young 
The magnificent Cy; 
People battled against him, 
But I never knew why.

Z is for Zenith 
The summit of fame. 
These men are up there. 
These men are the game.

Please also check out my husband Bill's excellent modern take on Nash's poem on his blog, here.
You can read the full story of the abecedarian here, along with many more examples.
For my own example today, I thought I'd stick with the main theme of this here blog and do an abecedarian of poets. This poem took me quite a while (I had to do a little research), but I wanted to post it before midnight my time, so here's my rough draft. I may have to pick at it as the week goes on.

Abecedarian of Poets

A is for the great Maya Angelou;

her words are so sinuous,

her readers must chew.

B is for Blake, ahead of his time,

His tyger roared

and made some want to rhyme.

C is for Carroll, creator of chaos,

his nonsense creations

with laughter could slay us.

D is for Dickinson, quiet and shy,

she shut up her poetry, 

but now it can fly.

E is for ee (cummings of course)

his ignoring of “rules”

became an influential force

F is for Frost, Robert by name,

his simplification

changed poetry’s game.

G is for Ginsberg, a man of the beat,

his “Howl” ensured

he rejected the neat.

H is for Heaney, the Nobel Prize winner,

a great voice of Ireland--

he’s no beginner.

I is for Iqbal, Muhammad Allama,

his prayerful writing

is given by Allah.

J is for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,

the heart of Germany,

his words didn’t hurt her.

K is for Kahlil Gibran, whose words are a vision,

his striking imagery

caused no derision.

L is for Larkin, a gloomy gus,

but he saw clearly

the failings in us.

M is for Edna St. Vincent Millay,

a lyrical mistress,

her words dance and play.

N is for Neruda, Pablo for friends,

his poems often speak 

of love that never ends.

O is for Octavio, Paz by birth,

Even in English,

his poems have worth.

P is for Pound, that Ezra was sharp.

“In a Station of the Metro”

has made its mark.

Q is for Quinn, Peter S.,

as no other Qs came up,

this choice was made under duress.

R is for Rilke, Rainier Maria,

your words have married

with many an aria.

S is for Shel, and Silverstein too,

try reading him aloud,

he’ll youthify you.

T is for Thomas, Dylan from Wales,

“Child’s Christmas” was his,

and “Good Night” as well.

U is for unsilenced Joseph Brodsky, a titan,

Russia tried to imprison him,

but he wouldn’t stop writing.

V is for Van Dyke, not Dick but Henry,

a friend of Twain’s, his words are quaint,

but still worth some envy.

W is for Williams, a doctor by trade,

his un-fussy poetry

earned him high praise.

X is for X.J. Kennedy (some call him Joe),

though he’s writing now,

the past his poems owe.

Y is for Yeats, an Irish classic,

his poems went realist

from initially lyric.

Z is for Adam Zagajewski, my mentor,

he opens up poetry

for students to enter.


Alicia said...

A summer long ago,
Before him, there was you.
Carefully playing the summer away.
Dating? Never!
Ever so careful.
Feet on the line, but
Go no further.
Hold me close,
Imagining what could be.
Just another afternoon of carefree fun.
Keen eyes watch this young
Love blossom on those lazy afternoons.
My innocent heart
Near to you as
One day turns into another.
Playing with my hair, you
Quiz me about the future.
Reality sure to interfere.
Sweet kiss, nothing more,
Too much a gentleman.
Unfortante, perhaps only in my eyes.
Vacation is nearly over, and this
World is too big for us.
(e)Xperience not soon forgotten...
You and I will always have the

I know I cheated the X, but I was stuck and didn't want to stick a stupid word in there just to make it fit. LOL! Hope it's close enough.

Minerva said...

Excellent work, Alicia. I will not penalize the approximation for the X, that is definitely a hard one. 1,000 points for your bravery in bringing up an old flame! (I'm guessing the hubby won't be reading this one? ;-) )

Alicia said...

I will definitely NOT let hubby read this. HA! That was a looong time ago. Made for a good poem, though.

paige said...

So, it's not very good - but i've never been one to let that hold me back... it's more of an acrostic... but it's FRIDAY & i didn't want to miss out... :)

Effortlessly -
Flawlessly -
Happiness and
Kindness and
Mixed in
One Child.
Saints and
Vicariously, with
Wings like a
Zealousness - makes us fly.

Minerva said...

Paige--you seem to be able to retain your poetic voice no matter what type of poem you try. That is a true gift, as your lyric ear is very well attuned! 1,000 points to you! Also, I believe acrostics usually spell words, so yours is still a true abecedarian. :)