Abecedarian poetry is a form of poetry that uses the letters of the alphabet to guide the organization of the poem. Each line of the poem begins with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. It’s related to acrostic poems where the first letter of each line begins with successive letters of the alphabet.

Experiment with Abecedarian as a Literary Form

The abecedarian form is a great container for a specific theme or topic. Carolyn Forché’s poem, “On Earth,” from her book, Blue Hour, is a stunning 47-page abecedarian poem (a very short excerpt is here). This would be an ambitious model to follow, but a great way to experiment with the form. The key is to find a topic or theme you’re passionate about — once you get started, it might be hard to stop. For a general list of themes to get you thinking, click here.

From Writing the Hawaiʻi Memoir. $6.99 on Kindle.

When writing an abecedarian prose poem, you can start each sentence with a letter from the alphabet, and keep the work together in a single paragraph. There’s a lot of room for creativity here — if the paragraph feels large and unwieldy, experiment with line breaks.

Tip: the line break doesn’t have to happen at the end of a sentence or where there’s a pause with punctuation — try a break in the middle of a sentence. 

You can use each letter of the alphabet as a jumping off point for 26 micro essays — see Dinty Moore’s “Son of Mr. Green Jeans” below.

If you’re writing memoir, the Alphabet Autobiography is another variation (see image). Begin with the letter A, then describe yourself or a memory that starts with the letter A, and continue down the alphabet.

Getting Started

Similar to a free write, the first draft is best done without too much stopping and thinking. If you’re stuck on a letter, skip it and move on. Those are sometimes the good ones that need a little more time to land, so circle back around when you’re done.

The simplest way to do this is to get a sheet of lined paper and write the letters A through Z on the left, with one letter per line. Now start writing!

If you’re writing slower than you’d like, stop and take a breath. Get up, drink some water, then come back and set the timer for 10 or 15 minutes and get back to writing.

Examples of Abecedarian Poems

Keep Learning

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *