When I started this poetry series, my intention was to move from the shortest poetry forms (like haiku) to the longest ones (like ballads). I still plan to do that—mostly. But it’s been a very busy week, and I’m going to skip over a few short forms to one that’s really easy for me to teach, just because it’s been a busy week and I don’t have the energy to write a lesson that takes a lot of research on my part.
I think you’ll like this form; it’s really adaptable to those of you who like writing rhymed and metered poetry and to free verse writers, to both humorous and serious poetry, and for poems for readers of all ages. It’s the acrostic poem: a poem in which the first letters of each line spell out a word or a phrase.
When I was a teacher, I’d have students make an acrostic poem with their own names and attributes of their personality:
Then I’d have them take it to the next level, and write a phrase instead of just one word:
Just became a grandmother
Ate a king-sized chocolate bar
Never watches football on TV
Tickled by Sophie’s antics
But…that’s not really poetry, is it? It’s fine for an intro to poetry for extremely unmotivated students, but we can do so much better here. Here are some ways that I’d like you to consider trying an acrostic poem:
1. Write a rhymed poem (maybe in quatrains), with the first letters of each line spelling out the subject or theme of the poem
Here’s a sample to get you in the mood, by J. A. Lindon
Cats come with mews,
All have sharp claws,
They air their views,
Stray soon from laws,
Climb walls. Each tom
And each mog—grand
Thieves—munch meal from
Scamp’s lunch. Scamp planned…
2. Write a free verse poem with the first letters of each line spelling out the subject or theme of the poem. I had a hard time finding one of these online, except for very simple ones written by schoolchildren. Here’s a poor attempt by me:
I clung to darkness, a creature of
Night. Until I had to
Flee one darker than myself, and ran to
The advantage of doing acrostics in free verse is obvious; you can make each line as long or as short as it needs to be, until you hit the word for the next letter in your acrostic word or phrase.
3. How about a really fancy one, in which the last letters of each line also form a related word or phrase?
4. You can also use the first 2 or 3 letters of each word instead of just the first letter—or you can even “hide” a whole sentence in a poem by having the first word of each line create a sentence that emphasizes the theme of the poem—or if you’re being really playful, the sentence could be the opposite of what you said in the poem.
Incidentally, there are about a dozen acrostic Psalms, with Psalm 119 being the most elaborate. In Hebrew, each stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as does each line of that stanza.
Homework: Write an acrostic poem of at least 8 lines.
If you would, please also give us some insights into your poem. Was it easy or difficult? Did you choose rhyme or free verse, and why? What else do you have to say about this form?
I know there are people who’ve written acrostics for the Challenge, but I had no idea how to go about finding them. But if you’ve done this, please give us a link!
Last edited by glorybee
on Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:20 am, edited 1 time in total.