In my work with Dr. McCoy in English 203 last fall, we studied Percival Everett. Interestingly, the chapter headings for Zulus that we have been discussing in class come from a collection of poetry he wrote, titled re:f (gesture), published in 2006. They function in different ways in these pieces, and it has been interesting discussing them in a new context.
The poetry within itself was incredibly interesting to study. As a Creative Writing major, I was intrigued by the idea of structuring a poem (or collection of poems, depending on how you decide to see it) this way. It seemed to me like a lofty challenge, but it was one Everett pulled off. One of my favorite parts about the way he approached it was how eventually he would reference things that didn’t match the letter at all — for example, A being for something that doesn’t even start with A. We were prompted in this class to begin to attempt a poem of the same structure for ourselves. I ended up finishing mine. Although I don’t feel it is one of my strongest pieces, the challenge was incredibly fun to attempt and try my hand at, and I felt that I got a look into the process Everett went through while crafting this piece.
As we discussed in class, the alphabet is something that is very accessible to us. This can be seen in the fact that everyone in the room knew the ABC song by heart. Although it was lighthearted and humorous for us, college students, to be singing the alphabet in class, there was also certainly meaning in the fact that this many years after learning it, all of us still knew it. Of course we know the alphabet — it’s necessary for us to navigate the world in many ways. But we still know the song, too. And the song functioned for us as a vehicle to gain and retain that knowledge.
So utilizing the alphabet as a way to structure or organize something is a very accessible and tangible method. It is interesting to discuss the ways in which this piece informs the rest of the text, and to notice that it can function differently in different scenarios.