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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spotlight on the Acrostic - Part II

During the centennial celebrations of the Library of Congress in 2000, a lecture on the ancient origins of poetry as a memory device was delivered by Poet Laureate, Mr. Robert Pinsky. He is purported to have said, from what I understood in his discourse is that the technology is an extension of poetry and that poetry is a technique developed by this animal. His statement is further compounded by his remark that poetry has no claws, no hide, no real teeth and it doesn’t run fast, but it is clever and it looks around a lot. He concluded that in order to ensure its survival it developed forms of communication evolved for such purposes of memory, for the effective storage of important information and the transmission of that information accurately and effectively from one person to that person’s peers.

What do you suppose Mr. Pinsky is saying?

Mr. Pinsky has admitted that he uses modern technology to write his poems. So what can be extrapolated from Mr. Pinsky’s remarks on the ancient origins of poetry? This is my take on his remarks. Foremost in my mind is that as long as homo sapiens are around poetry will survive. He alluded to the fact that it is hard to come up with one precise definition that would do justice to this emotional workhorse for language communication and expression for the ever roving mind. He also gave an insight into the evolutionary process of poetry and the impact computers are having on this literary and artistic expression falling short of naming the computer generated poetry known as Diastic Poetry that is a leader in avant-garde poetry today. It was clear going when extrapolating from his remarks that poetry takes care of mankind’s emotional needs by its capacity to convey every aspect of our feelings and to be involved in the educative process.

Poetry is not an exact science and is not listed on the core curriculum of schools that I know of but is found in the hidden curriculum. That, being the case, how can poetry be involved in the learning process?

One way to approach this argument is to accept the fact that every body loves poetry in whatever form it takes. Believe you me; the forms are many even among avant-garde poetry. Teachers know this and would agree that poetry has the capacity to engage students at all age levels in many wonderful ways, especially when it becomes part of integrated lessons. No doubt about that! Poetry facilitates the easy transfer of concepts across subject areas. Students get to see and understand social connections. It is a very effective way to teach reading to reluctant students and those with special needs. It allows students to demonstrate their comprehension of the social and cultural aspects of the country and the historical time-line through its vibrant imagery. It allows students to think “outside the box” and to express themselves more clearly in all subjects. Now I extend the argument by reflecting as best as I can on my early childhood education.

As I take this stroll down memory lane, I now recall learning my ABCs in this novel way while a pupil in Infants A class in a rural school in Barbados. The teacher stood before the blackboard, now called the whiteboard. Now wait a minute, whiteboard no longer in use today. It is referred to as the greenboard. Well, excuse me! One thing for sure, educational terminology is never static and so is education per se. Anyway, as I was about to say, the teacher pointed to the blackboard on which an alphabetic chart hung. In unison the teacher invited her pupils to recite after her the alphabet sing-song. I remembered the rhythmic beat as we read aloud “A is for apple, B is for bat, C is for cat, D is for dog," and so on until the last letter was reached, and folks this was many moons ago. So that was my first exposure to some type of poetic form which facilitated the mastery of the English alphabet. It proved very effective because to this day the mastery of the English alphabet has not diminished over the years.

What do you think the teacher did in the situation described above?

Yes, indeed! The teacher used a form of poetry called the Abecedarian to teach her charges the English alphabet. The use of this poetic form has not diminished in contemporary society because early childhood and special needs educators still use the Abecedarian and other forms of Acrostic poetry to assist learning. The poems, Censorship and Turbulent Times are written in the form of the Abecedarian. Click on the titles to read the poems. In “Turbulent Times” the form has been extended into what is referred to as the double-reversed Abecedarian.

The Abecedarian is a very old poetic form directed by alphabetic arrangement. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s An ABC also known as "La Priere De Nostre Dame" is an excellent medieval example of this form. Click on the title to read his poem. He created his translation of a French prayer into twenty-three eight-line stanzas that followed the alphabet. Of course, Chaucer left out the letters J, V and W for some reason, I really don’t know. The Abecedarian form of poetry was frequently used in ancient cultures for sacred composition, such as hymns, prayers, and psalms. Numerous examples of this artistic expression can be found in the Hebrew Bible.

How to create poetry in the Abecedarian form?

When creating an Abecedarian poem begin each line or stanza with the first letter of the alphabet. Then follow on remaining lines or stanzas with the successive letter until the final letter is reached. In Poetry For All Seasons the poems, Censorship and Turbulent Times are written in the Abecedarian format. The poet is free to create many variations in this genre. One such variation is shown as the double reversed Abecedarion in the poem, Turbulent Times.

How to create a double-reversed Abecedarian poem?

The double Abecedarian is simply the arrangement of the alphabetical letters in the lines or stanzas at the left and right sides of the poem. Then, the first letter of the first line is the same as the last letter of the first line. This forward layout is carried on until all the letters of the alphabet are used up.

When this forward movement of the alphabet letters on one of the two sides of the poem is reversed or shows a backward movement of the alphabet letters, then a double-reversed Abecedarian is created.

© Paterika Hengreaves

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Haiti Under Rubble from 7.0 Earthquake

Natural disasters whenever and wherever they occur impact on all of our lives. The Good Book says we are our brothers and sisters keepers lead by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we must do our part when disaster shows its ugly face. Any assistance, great or small, given from generous and loving hearts has equal weight. I'm passing on this information I received that Barbadians can go to First Caribbean Bank to donate to the Disaster Relief Fund for Haiti. The banking information is shown below:

First Caribbean Bank Account--2645374-- Cheques can be written to: HELP #2645374

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