Alphabet poems are also known as Abecedarian and ABC poems and are related to the Acrostic. In this poem, the first letter of each line begins with the letter A and follows sequentially through the alphabet to Z. Each line focuses on the subject of the poem and builds to create a specific story or mood. There are variations of this form that use a partial alphabet. Below you will find three examples.
Example #1 USING ONE LETTER OF THE ALPHABET
- Select a letter of the alphabet
- Examine the letter, letting the character suggest an image.
- Write a short poem telling the reader what you see
- Remember to add details, what is the image doing, seeing, feeling?
E.E. Cummings saw a child’s head and body in a lower case “i” in his poem, who are you, little i
who are you, little i (five or six years old) peering from some high window at the gold of November sunset (and feeling that if day has to become night this is a beautiful way)
Example #2 USING THE ENTIRE ALPHABET
- Start with the letter A and create a poem that begins with each letter of the alphabet, moving to the letter Z. Each line builds upon the main topic of the poem, creating a mood and a picture in the reader’s mind. ABC poems using the entire alphabet is an ancient form of poetry called the Abecedarian poem.
- Or you might start with the letter Z and go backward, ending with the letter A.
- Or you might choose to use 5 or 10 of the letters in alphabetical order.
In Edwars Lear’s poem “Alphabet” (1812-1888) below, he uses all 26 letters:
A tumbled down, and hurt his Arm, against a bit of wood. B said, "My Boy, O! do not cry' it cannot do you good!" C said, "A Cup of Coffee hot can't do you any harm." D said, "A Doctor should be fetched, and he would cure the arm." E said, "An Egg beat up in milk would quickly make him well." F said, "A Fish, if broiled, might cure, if only by the smell." G said, "Green Gooseberry fool, the best of cures I hold." H said, "His Hat should be kept on, keep him from the cold." I said, "Some Ice upon his head will make him better soon." J said, "Some Jam, if spread on bread, or given in a spoon." K said, "A Kangaroo is here,—this picture let him see." L said, "A Lamp pray keep alight, to make some barley tea." M said, "A Mulberry or two might give him satisfaction." N said, "Some Nuts, if rolled about, might be a slight attraction." O said, "An Owl might make him laugh, if only it would wink." P said, "Some Poetry might be read aloud, to make him think." Q said, "A Quince I recommend,—A Quince, or else a Quail." R said, "Some Rats might make him move, if fastened by their tail." S said, "A Song should now be sung, in hopes to make him laugh!" T said, "A Turnip might avail, if sliced or cut in half." U said, "An Urn, with water hot, place underneath his chin!" V said, "I'll stand upon a chair, and play a Violin!" W said, "Some Whiskey-Whizzgigs fetch, some marbles and a ball!" X said, "Some double XX ale would be the best of all!" Y said, "Some Yeast mised up with salt would make a perfect plaster!" Z said, "Here is a box of Zinc! Get in my little master! We'll shut you up! We'll nail you down! We will, my little master! We think we've all heard quite enough of this sad disaster!"
Example #3 ANOTHER 26 LETTER POEM
The alphabet book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, written by Edward Gorey first published in 1963 uses all 26 letters and is one of my favorite of his books. The story begins like this:
A is for Amy who fell down the stairs B is for Basil assaulted by bears C is for Clara who wasted away D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh
As you can see the poem is macabre humor in all it’s Gorey, er I mean glory. I urge you to check out The Gashlycrumb Tinies in its entirety.