Bring Back the ABCs

About fifteen years ago, give or take, some friends and I started exchanging by email these twenty-six-word-long prose-poems which one of us took to calling “abecedarians,” because that is what they are called.

In Merriam-Webster, an abecedarian (noun) is a novice learning the rudiments, the beginning steps, of something. (How does one learn the alphabet?) My friends and I were turning an adjective into a noun: an “abecedarian sequence” is a set of things arranged alphabetically; we were writing abecedarians, twenty-six word paragraphs that sometimes almost meant something. It was our own invention.

(Actually it was not. Robert Pinsky, the former poet laureate, wrote an ABC poem, appropriately called “ABC”:

Any body can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,

Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Quickest respite.

Sweet time unafflicted,
Various world:
X=your zenith.

And he found a terrible solution to the X Challenge, which confronts every pursuer of the perfect abecedarian. “X=your zenith.” Oh, sweet honey and the rock, that’s awful, but most of them are.

As my friend John, who started the thing off, wrote, “They are awfully fun to speed-write stream of consciously while at work or elsewhere.” Yes, at work. At the time, I was creating instruction manuals that had parts labeled A, B, and C on our illustrations (one had so many parts that it went around the alphabet and even used AA, BB, CC), so I could claim my abecedarians as work-related research.

Here are a few, which all date from spring 2001 and my work email account:

Alan’s bountiful charms developed even further God’s handiwork. “It justifies knives, leaving me nearly … oh, perfect. Questions? Rotten stuff, that ugliness.” Vigorously wiggles. “XXX!’ (Youth’s zenith.)

I have not included my friends’ offerings because they ought to be under their copyright, should they wish to ever use them. All of these are mine.

A bistro coffee (decaf) eventually forces growing humility: “It’s just Kona.” Let me notice our position: “Quality really sucks. Totally.” Underlined violently. Wow. Xed-out of your Zagats.
“Alright, boisterous Charles, dedicated event financier, go have imagined justice, Korean laughter. Man no open parapets! Question revolutions solving truth! Until vile wishes X-tend, Yours, Zebediah.”
Another behemoth cooed delightedly, elevating Father Gordon H. Ionesco’s jowls kinkily. “Lovely monster.” “Next opinion?” pressed Questa Rodriguez-Sanchez, totally unimpressed Vice-Warden. “X- X- X-” yammered Zionist.
Ambient balloons clownishly detour eccentric focaccia; gorgeous Hellespont invokes judicious knowledge; lovely millionaire Newton optimistically predicts qualm-free results, sending trivial ultimatums violently wandering; “‘xtraordinary,” yawns Zeus.
August Browning captures Dardanelles easily from Germany. He insists jokingly kangaroos leave momentarily; nodding openly, primly querying “Really? So they …”, urging Victor Watson: “X-coordinate! You Zed!”
A broken cut developed easily from goring hunters into juicy Kosciusko-less millions now, or perpetually, quelling righteous salves thick under victory while xaviering your zoo.
All boyos consider donuts easy food, guessing heavy-duty, intelligent judges know leisure-time munching no-way offers possible questions re: sluggish, tortoise-like, useless, vitamins, where X-Street’s youths zip by.

The abecedarian pieces filled my email world for a couple of months, with even my mother and sister joining the fray. According to my email account (my Yahoo mail, which is no longer my main email, but I keep it active as it is a historical record of fifteen-plus years of historical records), I attempted to revive the phenomenon five years later, which is now almost nine years ago. There were no takers. The abecedarian moment had been a flash in the pan.

One final piece of history: Some who are students of religion will remember that there was once a sect of Anabaptists in 16th Century Germany who called themselves “Abecedarians.” The Anabaptists did not call themselves this term, which roughly translates from Greek as people who “baptize twice.” They were ridiculed and worse, persecuted, for baptizing adults who had been baptized in infancy, but that was their point: Infants can not confess their faith, so they are not candidates for true baptism. Belief comes from within and baptism is for those who can understand. The Abecedarians took this further and held that all human knowledge is an impediment to being saved, that to even know the letters of the alphabet is to consciously block God’s word from the human heart. Hence their name.

A new one:

About Butch Cassidy Don English found good heightened information: Just knowing lies makes not one person quite really sated. Try under “Violence,” William Xavier. Yours, Zara

The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 13, 2014, asks, “Write down the letters of the ABC. For each one, choose a word that begins with that letter. Now, write a post about anything—using all the words you’ve selected.”

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  1. Teresa Oh · December 13, 2014

    Three letters… WOW!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rose Red · December 13, 2014

    So interesting. I enjoyed this, thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Martha Kennedy · December 13, 2014

    Those were fun! Always believed connived dark eloquence fails greatly. Hopefulll, I just kept listing, mindlessly, not overly prudent, quickly revealed silly tendency under vast wildly Xquisite,yellow zephyrs. (Good god…)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lifelessons · December 13, 2014

    So fun to play games with words. And you are good at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aruna @RipplesnReflections · December 14, 2014

    Awesome Post… loved it… the term abecedarian itself was a great “discovery” ! Nice, very nice!!
    Awesome, buddy..cannot diverge ever from general happy ideas; just knowing life may not overwhelm people quietly reading to use verdant words Xtends zest !!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tgutier240 · December 15, 2014

    So fun, Mark.

    A bronze cauldron did erupt flinging gold hellions. In juxtaposition, knowing lamenting, mastering nothing. On praying, querying, saving that underlies vastness. Wanting. Xenophobia yearns zoning.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mark Aldrich · December 15, 2014

    I love that people stepped up and started to contribute their own ABCDarian works.


  8. timelesslady · December 15, 2014

    A brain can definitely evolve forward gung-ho into jovial kindred love manifesting new occupations presently quite remarklable surely to understand various wonderful Xcellent yeildless zeal.

    Oh What Fun! I felt like I was in my 1970’s Creative Writing class today. I even remembered the first line of a poem we were assigned in that class over forty years ago. The poem had to be along the same lines as the Jabberwocky, with your own made-up words. My opening lines were:

    “The Zamberdrote with eyes of Jude…”

    Thanks for the fun today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • timelesslady · December 15, 2014

      I’m wishing now for an edit button and a retake to add punctutation, oh well…Que sera, sera


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