an abecedary of poetry

In college I saw a performance by Garrison Keillor and Roland Flint entitled “An Abecedary of Poetry”, in which the two performers went back and forth reciting poems across the alphabet. If you ever saw or even listened to Keillor perform you know how dynamic and delightful he was. At the time it seemed to me that having this kind of command of poetry was beyond reach, but, older now, I see it’s largely just a matter of interest, time, and application. Memorizing poetry and prose is a good thing and the alphabet is a great organizational tool. Here is my own abecedary, some of which is aspirational. My favorite poems are unquestionably those of Gerard Manley Hopkins, in part because achieving a good understanding of them requires you to read them almost enough to memorize anyway. (I welcome suggestions for Y and Z!)

  • A - As Kingfishers Catch Fire; Anunciation; Andrea del Sarto
  • B - Binsey Poplars
  • C - Child Logic; Church Monuments
  • D - Dulce et Decorum Est; The Darkling Thrush
  • E - The Ecstasy; Ecclesiastes 3:1–8
  • F - Funeral Blues; Foolish Questions; For the Time Being
  • G - God’s Grandeur
  • H - High Windows; Harlem
  • I - It is the Duty of the Student; Inviting a Friend to Supper; Invictus; Is there a baby in the house?; Innocence Abroad
  • J - Jabberwocky (I needed a J!)
  • K - Kubla Khan; The Kraken
  • L - Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony; Litany
  • M - Musée des Beaux Arts; Mandalay
  • N - No man is an island; The New Colossus
  • O - On English; Ozymandias; On his seventy-fifth birthday
  • P - On Pooping; Psalm 23; Portions of Paradise Lost
  • Q - Foolish Questions
  • R - Romans 12; A Red, Red Rose
  • S - Sick; The Second Coming; Sonnet 116; Sonnet 23 (Milton)
  • T - To What Serves Mortal Beauty?; To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing
  • U - Ulysses
  • V - This Be the Verse
  • W - When I Consider How My Light is Spent; When Great Trees Fall; The World
  • X - I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark Not Day
  • Y -
  • Z -

I intend to add links to each of these as I find time and interest to write about them.


©2020 Matt Post