What is an Acrostic Poem?
An acrostic poem is a type of poetry in which certain letters of each line form a word or phrase to convey a certain message. Usually, the poem's subject is spelled out with the acrostic, and each line of the poem describes or relates to the subject.
- What is an Acrostic Poem?
- Types of Acrostic Poems
- Ideas for Writing an Acrostic
- Start the Writing Process
- 🪶 Type Your Word Vertically First
- 🪶 The Main Focus
- 🪶 Use Sensory Language
- Revise and Edit Your Poem
- The Bottom Line
- ✒️ What Is Acrostic Poetry
- ✒️ How Many Lines Does an Acrostic Poem Have?
- ✒️ What Is the Purpose of an Acrostic Poem?
- ✒️Do Acrostic Poems Have Syllables?
- ✒️ Do Acrostic Poems Have Stanzas?
- ✒️Do Acrostic Poems Need Punctuation?
- ✒️How Is Psalm 119 an Acrostic Poem?
- ✒️ Can Acrostic Poems Be Long?
- ✒️ What Should Be Included in an Acrostic Poem
Writing an acronym poem is a great way to demonstrate the poet's appreciation of a person or thing or express emotions creatively. Additionally, acrostics are not complex because the lines don’t need to rhyme. The rhythm and the length of the lines also don’t matter.
Types of Acrostic Poems
Now that we know how to define an acrostic poem, let’s look at the various types available.
📜 The Conventional Acrostic Poem
A conventional acrostic poem is one in which the first letters of each line form a word or phrase. It allows for a wide range of creativity as the author can choose to spell out anything from a single word to a full sentence. It is a great way to explore themes and express oneself. The length and complexity of a poem can be adjusted to suit the author’s creative needs, allowing the composition to be as short or as long as the author desires.
📜 The Double Acrostic Poem
Also known as shadow poetry, a double acrostic poem embeds two sets of words or phrases on the left and the right side. The first letters of each line read vertically spell a word. Similarly, the last letters of each line spell a word vertically.
The double acrostic could be challenging to write, but it is an exciting way for you to express creativity through words and language. Depending on your preferences, you can spell a word or phrase on either side of the verse, from top to bottom or bottom to up. You can also spell the same word vertically or different words on either side.
A common example of a double acrostic is the Stroud by Paul Hansford, where he uses the first and the last letters of each line to spell the word “Stroud” vertically:
Set among hills in the midst of five valleys,
This peaceful little market town we inhabit
Refuses (vociferously!) to be a conformer.
Once home of the cloth it gave its name to,
Uphill and down again its streets lead you.
Despite its faults it leaves us all charmed.
📜 The Abecedarian Poem
An abecedarian poem is an acrostic where the first letter of each line runs in alphabetical order. Each letter of the alphabet becomes the starting letter for each sentence in the verse, and, naturally, most abecedarian poems are 26 lines long.
Each line of the poem begins with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. This means that the first line starts with "A," the second line with "B," and so on. As a result, most abecedarian poems consist of 26 lines, one for each letter of the alphabet.
Crafting an abecedarian poem can be quite challenging, as the writer must develop a line that starts with the designated letter of the alphabet. However, it is also a lot of fun, as it gives you a unique framework to express your ideas and thoughts. Of course, you never know where the next line takes you, and that’s the beauty of it.
Abecedarian poetry examples include “A Boy Can Wear a Dress” by John Bosworth and “A Poem for S.” by Jessica Greenbaum. Steven Schnur wrote a book called Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic, which has twenty-six acrostic poems.
📜 The Mesostich Poem
This intriguing form of poetry is also known as a mesostic and will surely get your creative juices flowing. Instead of forming a word or phrase at the beginning or end of the poems, the mesostich spells it down the middle in a central spine.
The hidden message, often italicized or capitalized, intersects with the horizontal lines of the poems to create a complete work of art. The mesostich challenges poets to think outside the box and is a fun way to write poems that's both engaging and thought-provoking. An example of a mesostic poem is John Cage’s long-form poem “Overpopulation and Art.”
📜 The Telestich
The telestich poem is an uncommon type of acrostic that uses the last letters of each line to form a word or phrase. However, telestiches are relatively rare in modern poetry, especially in English.
Nevertheless, writing a telestich poses a significant challenge for you to enhance your creativity in crafting captivating pieces of art. It remains a useful tool for those seeking to explore new methods of poetic expression and challenge themselves to improve their writing skills.
An example of a telestich is The Metamorphoses, a poem by Ovid, an Ancient Roman poet.
📜 The Golden Shovel
The Golden Shovel is a modified version of the telestich. It is a poetic form that takes a word from each line of an existing poem and uses it as the last word of each line in a new poem. By reading these last words vertically, readers can transcribe the original poem to which the new one pays homage.
Also, the new poem can have a completely different theme and meaning from the old one. And while the golden shovel might not necessarily infringe the original author's copyrights, it is essential to credit them.
When writing a golden shovel poem, you can pick one or more lines from a poem that interests you. The number of lines you want to use in your piece depends on how long you want your acronym poem to be. For example, if you pick two lines from the original poetry that total 20 words, your verse will be 20 words long.
This innovative golden shovel poetic form was first introduced by the poet Terrance Hayes in his 2010 poem “The Golden Shovel,” which was inspired by the Gwendolyn Brooks poem “We Real Cool.”
Ideas for Writing an Acrostic
Acrostic poetry is a popular form of writing requiring creativity and an understanding of the fundamentals of poetry. It is a great way to express yourself while still following the rules of poetic devices. If you are wondering how to write an acrostic poem, the following tips will guide you.
👉 Choose a Word or Phrase to Use for Your Poem
The first step to writing an acrostic is to choose a word to use for your composition. Consider the type of composition you want to make and the emotion or message you want to convey. Remember, the focus word will dictate the poem’s subject and be the basis for all the lines.
You may choose a single word with a special meaning or phrase expressing your thoughts. The word or phrase can be anything from the color of your favorite flower to the kind of person you are. Also, choose something easy to remember, and that relates to your topic.
When deciding on the word or phrase for your poems, consider things like
- Your name
- Your favorite things
- Your best friend or a celebrity
👉 Think of the Things to Associate with the Subject
The next idea on how to make an acrostic poem is to brainstorm the things that relate to it. Consider what words come to mind when you think of the topic and write them down. You could think of descriptive and emotive words that can be used to bring the poem to life.
Additionally, exploring synonyms and related words of the subject can be useful for finding various associated topics. You might also want to consider the subject from several angles, such as physical attributes, emotions, memories, and related topics. Most acrostic poems use adjectives that describe the subject because they are much easier to fit into the context.
When brainstorming, it is important to jot down each idea as it comes and to take the time to consider how each concept relates to the subject.
👉 Practice and Innovate Forms
Practicing and innovating forms is important to ensure the best possible experience and product.
Begin by familiarizing yourself with the basics of constructing an acrostic, including the concept of horizontal and vertical lines. Consider using a conventional format, or explore non-traditional forms such as a double acrostic, abecedarian poem, mesostich, or the golden shovel poem. It is easier to start by practicing the conventional acrostic poem format and then advance to the other forms.
However, there are no strict acrostic poem rules – you use the form that works for your topic. Plus, you can use a mix of styles to make your piece of art unique and appealing to readers.
For example, you might find out that the subject does work well with the conventional acrostic, but it is perfect for a telestich. Also, you might discover that the subject works best for a conventional acrostic spelled from the bottom to top rather than top to bottom. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to write a thrilling piece of art.
Start the Writing Process
Before you start writing, watch out! You should be clear about whether your acrostic is an abecedarian or not. It means if you want to follow the order of letters in the alphabet or not. Avoid unnecessary word puzzles. Decide on a rhyme scheme. You can use mnemonic devices to make it easy for the audience to remember your poems, even in bits and pieces. Memory plays a huge role in keeping great authors and their work at the top of our list!
🪶 Decide a Type
There are three types of poems that you can write.
— The first letter of each line:
It is the most common type of acrostic. You can use the first letter of each sentence and spell the word.
— Setting letters in the middle of the phrases:
A great way to hide letters in phrases is to use any word in the middle of the sentence. It is a more challenging task as compared to the rest of the types. So, if you want to challenge your boundaries as a writer, go on with this type.
— Last letter of each phrase:
Finally, you don't have to neglect the final words! You can hide your letters vertically in the final words of every phrase.
🪶 Type Your Word Vertically First
Once you have the word to focus on and the things associated with the topic, it is now the time to create an acrostic poem. Start by spelling the word or phrase vertically since each letter of the word will be starting point of each line.
Next, proceed to write the lines – ensuring each line begins with the consecutive letter of the focus word. Refer to your acrostic poem ideas to write unique lines that relate to the subject.
🪶 The Main Focus
Along with the poem's content, your main focus should be on each line's first letter. Each phrase should end up adding a letter to the name of your acrostic, otherwise working so hard will all go to waste. You might end up with a great haiku, but we are working on acrostic poems here, so even if a haiku is excellent, you should work on your type of poem first. A dictionary and website like a rhymezome might provide rhymes inspiration.
🪶 Use Sensory Language
Try to make your writing interesting by using inventive language and making your work more creative. Be descriptive and try to show an image to your reader. Poems are beautiful writings the help the audience visualize and enjoy the abstract. You should try to use sensory language to evoke the reader's five senses to develop their interest in the poem better.
Wondering how to write an acrostic poem for kids? Use natural language. This means using words and phrases in their normal context. It is the easiest way to express yourself, making your piece fun for your audience to read. Try not to use jargon or technical terms that might confuse readers.
Revise and Edit Your Poem
After you've written your poem, it’s time to have a glance at it. You need to refine your draft to become the best version possible. Read it aloud so you can hear how it sounds. This is a good time to identify and correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.
Pay attention to the meaning of the words as well as the overall message presented, ensuring that each word in the poetry complements the others.
Revise and edit your work to ensure it has the best possible flow and rhythm that hooks your readers to read it to the end. Moreover, ensure the poem is clear and conveys the intended message to the reader without confusion.
Below is an example of acrostic poem for the word “Friendship”:
- False friends are all around, it's true
- Rare to find one like I have in you
- Inspiring me to be my best each day
- Enduring all life's ups and downs come what may
- Never leaving my side, come rain or shine
- Deserving of a love that's pure and divine
- Such a gift, a true friend like you
- Happiness and laughter always come through
- In this world of shifting sands, so true
- Perhaps the greatest gift of all, it's you.
The Bottom Line
Writing this kind of poetry is a fun and creative way to express yourself. Hopefully, these tips on how to write acrostic poems will inspire you to make your own poems. All you need is determination and practice to create unique pieces of art.
✒️ What Is Acrostic Poetry
Acrostic poetry is a type of poetry where certain letters of each line form a word or phrase. The word forms the poem's subject and conveys a certain message to the readers.
✒️ How Many Lines Does an Acrostic Poem Have?
An acrostic typically has as many lines as there are letters in the chosen word or phrase. The composition has no definite number of lines since words and phrases differ in length.
✒️ What Is the Purpose of an Acrostic Poem?
The purpose of an acrostic is to illustrate a concept, idea, or emotion by using the chosen words or phrases. Poets use cross stick poems to convey a deeper message or thoughts creatively.
✒️Do Acrostic Poems Have Syllables?
Syllables are not crucial in these poems because the rhythm of the lines doesn’t matter. Also, the length of the lines is not significant in this type of poetry.
✒️ Do Acrostic Poems Have Stanzas?
Acrostic poems, like traditional poetry, are divided into lines and stanzas. The stanzas improve the structural framework of the poetry by breaking down large quantities of text into manageable portions.
✒️Do Acrostic Poems Need Punctuation?
Like other forms of writing, these poems need punctuation. Thus, revising and editing your verse after writing it is critical. Proper punctuation ensures a good flow of words and ideas for easier reading.
✒️How Is Psalm 119 an Acrostic Poem?
Psalm 119 is an abecedarian acrostic since it spells the entire Hebrew alphabet. The poem studies God’s word in the entire Hebrew alphabet – from Aleph to Taw. However, its form is lost in translation.
✒️ Can Acrostic Poems Be Long?
Yes, they can be long. They can have as many lines as needed to express the poem's message. For instance, most abecedarian poems are 26 lines long to include all the letters of the alphabet.
✒️ What Should Be Included in an Acrostic Poem?
The word or phrase that is embedded in the composition should be clearly shown in italics or capitalization. It helps readers understand the subject of the verse.