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GET Poetic! The Dictionary
article [ Creative ]
Using a dictionary to create poetry

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by [CBaker ]

2003-12-30  |     | 

The dictionary? That dry, watch-the-grass-grow kind of reading? You’re not actually going to tell me to read the dictionary, are you?

Well, let’s try a single word:

ABECEDARIAN: adj. In alphabetic order.

Abecedarian poetry is usually free verse poetry, where each word begins with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet, and all 26 letters are used (making each poem 26 words long). As an example, take a look at the following two poems:


Father greets
His Isaac James,
Kisses loving mother.

Nearing offspring,
Papa quietly rounds
Son’s teddy universe,

Vaulting worlds
Xing yonder zenith
Above baby’s crib.


Grasping honor in journals?

Knowing labor makes neighbors
Of publishers:

Quatrains rehashed,
Sestinas trashed,

Unwanted villanelles—
Writers’ x-rated yells,

Zip aimlessly by,
Cursing deadeye!
Each poem (including the title) has twenty-six words, arranged in order (it’s not necessary to begin each poem with the letter “A”).

You might notice that I’ve gone a step further, and linked the titles of the poems. The first poems in this series are called “African Blues”, “Blues Control”, and “Control Dada”. The three following the examples are “Fare Game”, “Game Hunter”, and “Hunter Instruction”. You get the idea . . .

The dictionary comes in handy for k, q, x, and z words, and sometimes, you just have to GET creative! Forms can also change. Notice that my first poem is completely free verse, but the second, “Entry Fare”, contains internal rhyme (“labor / neighbor”) and three sets of rhyming couplets. This structure is much harder, much more restrictive—but a good challenge!

Why not try one today? Or, if you prefer, try one of the following options:

1. Use 26 words, beginning with 26 different letters of the alphabet, but put them in any order.
2. Try a short poem to get used to it. Use the first ten letters and make a haiku. Use 14 letters and make a rhyming couplet.
3. Use reverse alphabetical order.

Now you know your A-B-C’s,
Won’t you write a verse with me?

Until next time, remember to
GET Poetic!

Copyright December 21, 2003 Charles Baker

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