By Stefan Cozza
As creative writers and poets, our craft is constantly evolving and adapting to our development as scholars. Part of this is consistent practice and experimentation with new forms to challenge ourselves. With poetry, it can be all too easy to fall back on whatever mode the poet is most comfortable with, and while having a cushion to fall back on is convenient, it is not always effective. For my advanced poetry course, the class was assigned to read Natalie Diaz’s poetry book When my Brother was an Aztec, a beautifully intricate collection that really pushes the boundaries of narrative and lyrical poetry. Diaz experiments with a multitude of poetic modes, but one that really ignited a passion within me was “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation.” Don’t be dissuaded by the long title, the poem is utterly provocative and engaging. For those uninitiated, an abecedarian is a poetic form that utilizes every letter of the alphabet; the first letter of each line is to correspond with a respective letter. Additionally, the poem should incorporate an element that could be considered “otherworldly,” while still adhering to a casual diction. Diaz’s abecedarian uses the imagery of angels as her supernatural element, but her language is quite straightforward and the scenes she portrays are still easily identifiable and grounded in reality. Diaz perfectly balances the obscure and familiar and coats her language in a way that is still creatively stylized. The beauty of Diaz’s writing is aso effectively juxtaposed by the brutally honest subject material, much of which speaks on societal injustice. Any poet looking for an evocative writer who will bring out the best in their own efforts, look no further than Diaz and her collection, and consider creating your own version of an abecedarian. The end result of writing with constrained parameter may pleasantly surprise you!
Link to Diaz’s Collection: https://www.coppercanyonpress.org/books/when-my-brother-was-an-aztec-by-natalie-diaz/