These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.
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.
Everyone hushes as baby blinks
Young one reaches for Mama's arms
Blanket snuggled as lullaby sung
Can you tell what's on my mind?
I used free verse with a bit of a meter, and somewhat of a consistency in the noun-verb pattern, because I wanted it to flow well and be read easily. I found it difficult to find words for "Y", though. If you have an unusual letter, it may be difficult to use this form of poetry (unless you're a Scrabble genius like Vonnie).
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Hi Jan - I'm in early this week - and rushed a little as I'm going on holiday tomorrow. Hope it's ok. The meter is 7,7,7,7,8,8,8and 8 (I think) hope that sort of meter is permissible.
Dressed in raggy winter togs;
Useless fire with no logs;
Needful searching for a warm;
Got past caring of the harm.
A pulse now stood at feeble beat;
Reviving hope: a little heat!
Escape from death - to be set free;
Extra clothing and dungarees.
Jesus’ love is constant and never wavers.
Colin, your acrostic poem is charming!
We're presently experiencing unseasonable warm weather for November--but I'm I'm sure we'll all be looking forward to "extra clothing and dungarees" all too soon.
I like the way your poem ended with the acrostic word, sort of a bonus!
Acrostics may seem like poems for children and they do have utility, as Jan notes, for working with uninterested students. But they have also attracted serious poets. John Davies wrote 26 different acrostic poems (published together) in honor of Queen Elisabeth. Each spelled out Elisabetha Regina. You can see the whole set starting here. Poe wrote several (numerous?) acrostics. Lewis Carol did too, including at least one for the real life Alice.
As Jan says, several of the Psalms are considered acrostics. So are are non-Psalm passages. Each of those just run through the Hebrew alphabet in order and that is considered a type of acrostic, even though it doesn't spell anything. Interesting that the God-inspired Scriptures use this technique so often.
Homework to follow later (hopefully).
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien
Beautiful poem, Leah! (That's where I was all day yesterday-snuggling with my grandbaby...BTW, if you saw how many games I lose, you'd see I'm not a Scrabble genius.)
These look fun! I'll have to put on my poetry hat and think of a good one.
I think it would make it easier to memorize. I know that I taught Bible verses to my students--one for each letter of the alphabet--and it helped them to remember all.
There is a place down by the river,
Here lost within my summer dream,
Earth and heaven, as one they stream.
Whispering willows in their wistful ways,
In the mellow of my aging days,
Lingering in the fallow times,
Like echoes of far distant chimes,
Over oaken forests and mountain pines,
Winding waters, nearly still,
Softly sigh God's gracious will.
There is a place down by the river where heaven comes to play with earth. And when the wind blows, the willows speak.
May God's gentle grace be with you.
This was fun. It was a little harder to give it rhythm and rhyme.
(but it's harder for me to do free verse)
I went with a seasonal serious theme, but I may try a silly one later.
To our God of love
Holy of all above
All glory and blessing
Neath wings we’re resting.
Kneeling we thank You;
Singing we praise You.
Grace you have given
In earth and in heaven
Victory o’er sin
Indwell us within;
Nevermore we will fear
Gentle Shepherd is near.
Ooooooh... beautiful, Jim! I could feel and see them!
Oh Jim, that's sooooo beautiful! I love willow trees, and I was so sad when hubby chopped one down at our previous house!
Beautiful, Vonnie! Would you ever do a longer one of these for the challenge?
Visions, haunting visions, audible screams, prayers; curses bleeding from hand muzzled ears.
Endangered eagles expose wounded wings, soaring with a limp, screeching at approaching anvils of storm.
Earth, adorned with plotted rows of rolling white crosses, eerily silent, except for the white noise of ...
... Reason, absent, hiding under the ice of the Potomac.
Aromas of apple pies comfort vacant bedrooms, unruffled sheets, pillows cool on both sides.
Nation, still united.
Savior, proud, familiar with sacrifices of both living and dying.
Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,... Col. 3:23
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