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Poetic Day 10: How to Write an Abecedarian

April 10, 2019


Poetic Day 10 of National Poetry Month:  April 10, 2019, Wednesday


A chilly rain urged my Leader Dog Willow and me to return inside where we gather around the computer desk so that I can now ponder more about an abecedarian.  With each poetic line beginning with a subsequent letter of the alphabet, the abecedarian is comprised of at least twenty-six poetic lines.  A question or brief stanza may serve as an introduction to the twenty-six lines, or the first line may be the “A” line of your poem.  The following “poem-of-the-day” may also be classified as a “list poem.”


My advice for writing an abecedarian is to select initial words that are strong words.  Thus, for the first word of each line, select only from nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives (excluding articles such as “a, an, the, this, that),.  Most assuredly, do not initiate a line with a conjunction; rarely start a line with a preposition.  Sparingly choose a pronoun or interjection.  Try to select words that are important to your abecedarian’s meaning and purpose.


The rhyming pattern or lack thereof is the poet’s choice.  However, use various poetic techniques so that the poem does sound like a poem when read aloud.


In the abecedarian, “X” is the most challenging line to craft; so good luck with this “X” line.  If you enjoy writing abecedarians, keep a list of usable “X” words and “Z” words to have at your disposal on abecedarian-writing days.


When you are satisfied with your abecedarian, return to the document and boldface the initial letter of each of your “A” to “Z” lines.  For these “pole” letters of the abecedarian, you may also select a different font style or a larger font to make these initial letters stand out on the poetic page.


Happy poetry writing and poetry reading!



An Abecedarian of What a Poet Needs


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


What does a poet need?


Alliteration and alacrity,

brevity and banter,

curiosity, creativity, and candor,

detail and descriptive dance,

effort and elegance,

frills and frivolity,

gardening and grammatical tools,

hope and hyacinths,

interjections and inspiration,

journals and journeys,

knowledge of the poetic canon,

lyrical words and artistic line breaks,

muses and metaphors,

notes and nets for catching ideas,

overtones and opportunities,

passion and punctuation,

quilting patterns and Quixotic dreams,

reading rooms and reading tables,

scents and similes,

timelines and time frames,

umbrage and understanding,

valleys and victories,

Willow and wishes,

xylem and xylophones,

yards and yardsticks,

zephyrs around refreshing tea with a zest of poetry.


* * *




  1. Write an abecedarian focusing on what you think a poet needs or on a topic of your own choosing.
  2. Write a “list poem” of at least a dozen poetic lines, but do not reveal the subject of the list until the last line.
  3. Write a short poem that alliteratively spotlights one letter.
  4. Write an abecedarian/list poem of your favorite things.
  5. Write a poem about something you learned during the past year.


With thanks for celebrating poetry with us,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


April 10, 2019, Wednesday




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  1. Very nicely done, Alice! Since we are learning all the letters of the alphabet in my prekindergarten class, I’m wondering if we could write a class Abecedarian with each child contributing at least one line for the poem. The challenge will also be to select the theme—dinosaurs? Insects? Spring? Thanks for the inspiration! A professor whom I have known for many years advises teachers to read at least two poems a day to their classes—a worthwhile goal!

    • Good evening, Mary–Many thanks for your very interesting comment!  I am delighted to hear that your four- and five-year-old students may soon be writing an abecedarian.  What a wonderful experience for them!  I will eagerly await hearing the topic you select and each student’s contribution to the abecedarian.

      Happy writing to you and your little poets!

      Alice and Willow

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