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September 8, 2017

Poetry Friday--Abecedarian

Last week, at Today's Little Ditty, Michelle Barnes had an interview with Carole Boston Weatherford who challenged TLD readers to write an abecedarian poem for the September DMC challenge. I posted one on the TLD padlet, illustrated it, and was going to post it today. Following the news of Hurricane Irma, though, led to thinking about hurricane poems.

I remembered a poem I had received through a "poem-of-the-" email subscription many years ago. If I remember correctly, I believe it came from Milkweed Editions, but I can't be sure because I lost all my back emails three years ago in a crash. [I had been using an online back-up program that allowed me to reload all my files with the exception of my emails. There's something nice about getting rid of the old stuff and starting all over, but on the other hand, when you're looking for a poem you had saved, you're out of luck.]

I figured I must have written a hurricane haiku over the years, so I did a search of my files. It turns out I had written a whole book's worth of hurricane poems and forgotten about them! It was for a project I worked on back in 2003 on The Great New England Hurricane of 1938. One of the poems turned out to be an abecedarian poem! (It seems I posted another one of the poems back in 2011, which you can read here.)

Today's forecasters can warn of hurricanes far in advance of their hitting a location. Back then, forecasting, without the benefit of satellites and computers was an art at best. There was no FEMA assistance to help in the recovery, either. Some of the stories of the devastation would make your hair curl.

Apples (Macintosh)
Bathtub (claw-footed)
Cushion (sofa)
Doll (baby, fully-clothed except for socks and shoes)
Eyeglasses (tortoiseshell frame)
Fedora (size 7 3/8)
Galosh (left foot only)
Hymnal (Presbyterian)
Icebox (sliced bologna and half a pound of butter inside)
Jacket (child’s, red)
Knob (brass, door attached)
Life preserver (with survivor)
Milkcan (empty)
Nightstick (wrist strap missing)
Oilskin (and sou’wester)
Portrait (unidentified, 1700s?)
Quahog basket (no quahogs)
Rubber ball (black)
Staircase (minus banister)
Toddler (on shingled roof fragment)
Ukelele (strings intact)
Vacuum cleaner (electric cord frayed)
Window (six paned, with and without glass)
X-ing sign (railroad)
Yacht (her mast broken)
Zwieback (one box, unopened)

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

I never did finish the project, despite having 34 poems written. As I mentioned above, the devastation was awful, and after a while, it was too depressing to continue.

I hope all our southern neighbors escape unscathed. We'll be thinking of you.

The Round-Up is being hosted by Matt Forrest Esenwine. Matt is also celebrating the "birth" of his first picture book, Flashlight Night. Way to go, Matt!


  1. I'm happy that in your search you discovered this poem and the older hurricane project, Diane. This is so clever, that "ABC of Floating Debris", but poignant, too, a piece of history from far away. It makes me wonder what might be in your poem if written about these recent hurricanes. I enjoyed the post very much!

    1. Thanks, Linda. Maybe it's time to revisit the collection.

  2. Definitely time to revisit and reconsider this collection, Dine -if this poem's any indication, you could have a solid book on your hands.

  3. The list takes my breath away. What will survivors find in the debris left behind this time?

    1. A lot of STUFF. We've become a nation of more is better. The Great Hurricane came at the end of the Depression and people were relatively possession-poor.

  4. What a fortunate find! I agree it's time to revisit the collection....all this severe weather and talk of climate is the perfect er, CLIMATE for your collection. I used to go to Watch Hill as a kid. The foundations of those old mansions always fascinated me.

    1. That whole strip of RI beach was stripped. I have a photo somewhere, I'll have to dig it out.

  5. I had to google "quahog." Good poem, Diane. I can see why it was a tough collection to write.

  6. To anyone else who doesn't know what a quahog is, it's a hard shelled clam.

  7. This poem, like the debris, washed up for you at just the right time. Thinking of all the loss hurts. I've been through a hurricane or two.

  8. Yep, I think there is a project in this, Diane. The destruction from these hurricanes and disasters makes you consider, what's a need? And what's clutter...? (And what is a selfish waste of money?) There certainly are lots of needs out there!

  9. Diane, I read this on Friday and now I am back again to comment. Your poem brought to mind the disasters that have occurred throughout the states in past and current times. During Superstorm Sandy, I saw mighty trees topple over and one went through my friend's home. That was a scary time on Long Island but I think Hurricane Irma is going to bring debris floating as the storm picks up. Your poem should be sent to your local newspaper as a forewarning of what is to come.

  10. Diane, I forgot to say that your poem provided the inspirational spark to write an ABC poem that is a reflective ending thought for my summer, http://beyondliteracylink.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-abcs-of-summer.html.

  11. Your poem is amazing, in its anchor in time, definitely not modern, and its focus on things with people as side thoughts. We are side thoughts to nature, aren't we? Yet, we float there on our shingles. Perhaps your hurricane project should be a group project, with a last section on rebuilding. With more authors to keep your spirits up.

  12. Sorry so late to your post, Diane. I think I had to let Irma fully pass before I could bring myself to read about more destruction. There's something about the list and abecedarian formats combined that really tugs at the heart. Would you mind posting this one on the padlet too, so I can share both of your poems in the end-of-month wrap-up?

  13. I feel like I took a step back in time–a long time ago for the 1938 abecedarian poem and a closer step back for your 2011 hurricane poem. I like the detail of the items in your THE ABC OF FLOATING DEBRIS poem. Though sad, and devastating areas and experiences to reflect on I enjoyed both of these, thanks.