Poetry Friday: An Abecedarian

The first few lines of this poem, inspired by the first prompt of Laura Shovan’s 6th Annual February Daily Poem Project, came to me in alphabetical order. I’ve been working on an abecedarian for my WIP, so I decided to go with my instinct and get some practice with the form.

According to the Academy of American Poets, an abecedarian is 

an ancient poetic form guided by alphabetical order. Generally each line or stanza begins with the first letter of the alphabet and is followed by the successive letter, until the final letter is reached.

Unfinished self-portrait by Jay Shovan

To me, the pain in this painting is palpable, but Jay’s eyes are strong and steady. It felt necessary to acknowledge a possible source of what look like bruises (Real? Metaphorical? Does it matter?), yet see into the fulfilling future those piercing eyes are looking toward.

Bully’s words,
Calculated for maximum
Echo through my brain
Grow softer, but never fully
I want to scream, “Who are you to
Judge me?  Because I
Lurking behind your
Malicious mask is a
Neglected soul.
On my neck, this
Quilt of colors will fade,
Recede from sight and I will
Stitch my soul back
White sails unfurl. I’ll become a
Xebec,* sail to far away shores, leaving
Your taunts behind, reaching my
Zenith despite you.

* “a small, three-masted ship with overhanging bow and stern, once common in the Mediterranean.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Don’t forget to visit Donna Smith at Mainely Write for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Also, please stop by my friend and critique group partner Linda Mitchell’s blog, A Word Edgewise. Linda invited me to answer a few questions about poetry and writing. It was revealing process to reflect on Linda’s questions, and I thank her for the opportunity. As usually happens, when I read my responses, I realized I neglected to mention all my poetry mentors, especially Laura Purdie Salas and Mary Lee Hahn. Forgive my addled brain!

23 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: An Abecedarian

  1. I love this form of poetry, and your example inspires me to try it again. Thanks… ekphrastic and abc’s work beautifully together, and I would not have thought of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This just blows me away! The form is so challenging and you nailed it. A bully’s bruises fade but never fully heal. Unfortunately, too many kids know this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! This form really works for this ekphrastic poem. I am failing miserably at keeping up at reading all the poem offerings on the daily poem project. So, I really appreciate a chance to read this today. The lines that really carry the story forward areT”Lurking behind your
    Malicious mask is a
    Neglected soul.”
    The narrator has empathy for the bully….which is so human and so related to a kid with those kind of piercing eyes….eyes that really see with understanding.
    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really liked this, Catherine! The image of the white sail, heading off, is so vibrant, and illustrates so well that the bruises genuinely DO fade and you don’t stay put with your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think I saw this on FB and it is powerful and poignant. I’m reading a memoir and the boy just told how each day he came home to ice his bruises so his mother might not see them. It happens, and I like that you’ve given him hope to ‘sail away’.


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