Acrostic Poems

Acrostic poems are fun to write. You can
Create your own poem by using the simple
Rules found below.
Others and many will enjoy reading your poem and
Seeing your illustration on the bulletin board.
These type of poems are different because rhyming
Is not important.
Choose your words wisely.

Did you know that The Dutch national anthem (The William) is an acrostic! The first letters of its fifteen stanzas spell WILLEM VAN NASSOV, (one of the hereditary titles of William of Orange), defining the main structural characteristic of the acrostic poetic form.

The term Acrostic is derived from the Greek words akros, “at the end,” and stichos, “line.” , and it was first applied to the prophecies of the Erythraean Sibyl, which were written on leaves and arranged so that the initial letters of the leaves always formed a word.

Probably the most famous acrostic was made on the Greek for Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior:

Iesous
Christos,
Theou
Uios,
Soter

ch and th being each one letter in Greek
The initials spell ichthus, Greek for fish; hence the frequent use of the fish by early Christians as a symbol for Jesus.

This type of poems were common among the Greeks of the Alexandrine period as well as with the Latin playwrights Ennuis and Plautus, and we may find some reflections of this ancient heretage in work of famous modern authors like Vladimir Nabokov (in its story “The Vane Sisters“), Lewis Carrol (the final chapter if its “Through the Looking-Glass“) or Edgar Allan Poe in the poem entitled simply “An Acrostic”:

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An ACROSTIC by Edgar Allan Poe

Elizabeth it is in vain you say
Love not” — thou sayest it in so sweet a way:
In vain those words from thee or L. E. L.
Zantippe’s talents had enforced so well:
Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,
Breathe it less gently forth — and veil thine eyes.
Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried
To cure his love — was cured of all beside —
His folly — pride — and passion — for he died.

In this poem (just one of several acrostics Poe wrote for the amusement of female admirers), Zantippe is actually Xanthippe, the wife of the famous Greek philosopher Socrates, that was known for her quick and violent temper.

Double Acrostic

There can be much more complex acrostics involving for example double and triple acrostics, that occupy an important niche in the history of word puzzles, for it is generally recognized that they were the predecessors to the crossword puzzle.

Probably invented in the 1850’s, the double acrostic was a fad in the latter part of the 19th century. Queen Victoria was believed to be very fond of the double acrostic which, by this time, had evolved from a verse-form into a type of puzzle. This acrostic was supposedly written by her royal hand:

A city in Italy NapleS
A river in Germany
A town in the United States WashingtoN
A town in North America
A town in Holland
The Turkish name of Constantinople
A town in Bothnia
A city in Greece
A circle on the globe

ElbE
WashingtoN
CincinnatI
AmsterdaM
StambouL
TorneA
LepantO
EcliptiC

Triple Acrostic

Type of poems in which the first, middle, and last letters of each line spell out the same word or a phrase (in our next example, the name Chantell) in one or a both (vertical) directions. A bit of a challenge to write, but of course it is lots of fun and worth the effort.

CHANTELL by Dave D.

Chantell is full of graCe, a rainbow arC
Her heart radiates tHe essence of birtH
Always looking to cAre, gorgeous ariA
Never has one beeN so helpful and fuN
Tellingly soulful, witTy, and our delighT
Eternally eloquent, Evanescent dovE
Loving, lovely, intelLigent, and surreaL
Listen to her bell toLl, a distant peaL

How to recognize a good acrostic poem? Apart of an imperative of being the great reading experience, good acrostic poems succeed in telling a story that is intriguing and usually a bit humorous at the same time, within the confines of the form.

Weather you are writer or just a fan of poetry, you may find acrostic a great fun to write. It is simple and can be practiced on that train or bus ride to work when we don’t have anything better to do than look out the window. It also reeves up your mind for the day ahead.

You may find more interesting details about this form of poetry here: Acrostic Poems

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