Bring Back the ABCs, Part Two

There was no contest, so you can breathe easy. No contest, no winners, no competitors, no losers, no forfeitures. Almost a little over a month ago, in “Bring Back the ABCs,” the writer of this website discussed a writing form called an “abecedarian.” An abecedarian is a twenty-six word prose-poem, in which the first word begins with A and the twenty-sixth and final word begins with Z.

An example:

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

I have been playing with these on and off (mostly off) since 2000, and the one above, a recent one, displays my still-amateur status. When I started, I relied too heavily on making these into single, twenty-six word, sentences, and there lies madness sometimes. But I still rely on proper names, especially at the end, the “X-Y-Z Challenge.” I mean, “William Xavier. Yours, Zara.” Look at all those capital letters attacking a slender idea.

I wrote last month:

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. Or so we thought.
 
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-Y-Z 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.)

There are different meanings for the word, each one having to do with learning things or being at the beginning of learning something. As I wrote almost six weeks ago, “there was once a sect of Anabaptists in 16th Century Germany who called themselves ‘Abecedarians.’ The Anabaptists did not call themselves Anabaptists, 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 concept further and held that all human knowledge is an impediment to being saved, and that to even know the letters of the alphabet is to consciously block God’s word from one’s heart.”

The word has a rich history, even for such a minor concept. A writer with a blog about the connections between English and Spanish (“Spanish-English Word Connections“) even discussed the word “abecedarian” in a post from 2011, “abecedario.” His article reveals that in the 1790s, there was an Abecedarian Society in Dublin, Ireland. (His post directed me to the illustration at top, which comes from The Critical Review: Or, Annals of Literature, Volume 70; Volume 1790, edited by Tobias Smollett. [The compiler of that volume, Tobias Smollett, was a major early novelist; if you love Dickens, you love Smollett by osmosis.])

Several readers took up the game and ran with it. They added their contributions in the comments section of the original post, “Bring Back the ABCs.” And then the writer of one of my favorite sites, “1874: First Impressionist Exhibition” started creating and publishing abecedarians. And well, I retire from the contest that is not happening. In “How Much Fun We’ll Have with Our ABCs,” this appeared:

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.

At the Races” followed, and “(A Writer),” and “(taboo).”

Abecedarian fever: Catch it. One last one:

A brutal cold defeated each failure. Golden-hued images joined Klimt, leaving many noble opportunities priapic. Questions remained: Should Tom undergo vicious wandering, x-raying your zebra?

* * * *
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for January 28 asks, “Create a new word and explain its meaning and etymology.”

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5 comments

  1. wscottling · January 28, 2015

    I may have to try writing a sentence like that some day. Maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. camparigirl · January 29, 2015

    Until about 50 or 60 years ago, the first textbook kids were given when starting school was called “Abbecedario”. I never investigated where this old-fashioned word came from. This post was most illuminating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Leigh W. Smith · January 29, 2015

    Mark, I think my head just fell off from the wealth of information here! (“Is your children learning!?”) I love, as I always write, how I discover or re-discover so much by reading your postings. An a-b-c poem/flash looks like a lot of fun, challenging though it is, as well as tempting to use proper nouns. It reminds me–perhaps you saw it–of the NYT’s recent call for a new mnemonic to name all the planets (M-V-E-M-C-J-S-U-N-P-H-M-E), including “dwarfs” like Pluto and Makemake. Have you tried that one? Anyway, love this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Box of Abecedarian Sequences | 1874: First Impressionist Exhibition
  5. Pingback: Poetry Cheat Sheet | 1874: First Impressionist Exhibition

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