Marin Poetry Center Writing Retreat
Abecedarian for Day 50 Shelter-in-Place
A Poem for S.
Because you used to leaf through the dictionary,
Casually, as someone might in a barber shop, and
Devotedly, as someone might in a sanctuary,
Each letter would still have your attention if not
For the responsibilities life has tightly fit, like
Gears around the cog of you, like so many petals
Hinged on a daisy. That’s why I’ll just use your
Initial. Do you know that in one treasured story, a
Jewish ancestor, horseback in the woods at Yom
Kippur, and stranded without a prayer book,
Looked into the darkness and realized he had
Merely to name the alphabet to ask forgiveness—
No congregation of figures needed, he could speak
One letter at a time because all of creation
Proceeded from those. He fed his horse, and then
Quietly, because it was from his heart, he
Recited them slowly, from aleph to tav. Within those
Sounds, all others were born, all manner of
Trials, actions, emotions, everything needed to
Understand who he was, had been, how flaws
Venerate the human being, how aspirations return
Without spite. Now for you, may your wife’s
X-ray return with good news, may we raise our
Zarfs to both your names in the Great Book of Life.
Jessica Greenbaum’s poem reminded me of how much I like this form. An abecedarian moves through the letters of the alphabet in order from A to Z. This is often interpreted as having each line start with the next letter of the alphabet but really poets do it all kinds of ways. I like how an abecedarian connects with other texts not intended to be poetry guides (but actually are poetry guides) such as dictionaries, glossaries, and field guides. One of my favorite abecedarian poems is the long poem in Rebecca Lindenberg’s book Love, An Index. I rarely write to a form but I was inspired by Lindenberg’s index and the many appendix (appendices) in Meredith McKinney’s translation of the Pillow Book. These helped my write the long poem, Glossary in Spring and a Thousand Years, Unabridged. The Poets.org website offers some history on the form with links to poems. The Poetry Foundation’s website also has examples of abecedarian poems as well as titles of book length abecedarians.
Prompt: Write an abecedarian interpreting the form any way that you choose. I recommend starting by reading and taking notes from some accidental abecedarian poems such as this Geology Glossary or this Meteorology Glossary.
Journal: Pretty Owl Poetry is a lovely journal currently taking submissions.
Recipe: No-Nut Everything Cookies
(Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)
1 and ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup tahini
½ cup sunflower seed butter (unsweetened – this is important)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
optional: ¼ each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
1. In a medium bowl: mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.
2. In a large bowl: cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs, tahini, sunflower seed butter, and vanilla. Keep stirring until it is combined. (I don’t have a mixer but if you do, it’ll be easier to use it).
3. Combine the dry mixture with the wet ingredients. Add in oats, chocolate chips, raisins, and other seeds. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Spread balls of dough out on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degree for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.