By Mark Aldrich
Oh, sweet honey and the rock, that’s awful, but most of the solutions to the “X Challenge” are awful …
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About twenty years ago, some friends and I started to exchange by email these twenty-six-word-long alphabetical prose-poems which one of us started to call “abecedarians,” because—as it turns out—this is what writers have always called them.
In Merriam-Webster, an abecedarian (noun) is a novice who has not yet mastered the rudiments, the beginning steps, of something. (Just think: How does one learn the alphabet from scratch?) As an adjective, it means, “of or related to the alphabet.” My friends and I had turned an adjective into a noun: an “abecedarian sequence” is a set of things arranged alphabetically; we were writing abecedarians, twenty-six-word alphabetical paragraphs that sometimes almost meant something. It was our own invention. Or so we thought.
It was not. Many writers taken a turn or two at the abecedarian form. Robert Pinsky, the former poet laureate, wrote an ABC poem that he rather appropriately titled “ABC”:
Any body can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,
Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Sweet time unafflicted,
And he found a terrible solution to the “X Challenge,” which confronts each and every pursuer of the perfect abecedarian. “X=your zenith.” Oh, sweet honey and the rock, that’s awful, but most of the solutions to the “X Challenge” are. See mine, below.
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