Those Trying Tuesday Tryouts

17 Jul

8:01 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Alright, not winter poems. Acrostics. I was close. Hello, all. How are you. Sweltering? Flooded? Pulling on a coat in July? The weather makes it difficult to put any clothes away, these days. Let’s play instead.

Did someone say ‘Ptah!’ You must be thinking of the acrostics every teacher makes kids do at some point: ‘Write your name vertically. Put an attribute for you beginning with each letter…’. Well, you can start there if you want, to warm up, but we are starting one level up. You know how you love to play.


A long line acrostic is a challenge, much more sophisticated and fun to do. If you create a good one, no one will notice the acrostic. This is the example I received in a class many years ago and which I suspect was created by its teacher, my friend Jack Penha:

Sunday my ancient aunt with knots for brows
Prepares mountains of meatballs
And chicken livers in sautéed
Garlic, olive oil, and onion
Heated ’til wrinkled brown–
Together she
Tosses as life has tossed her
In a pile of pasta every Sunday.

The content of the poem describes the word which runs down the left hand side: spaghetti. Ah! you perked up. This might be fun, yes? So try a few of the long line acrostics looking for thematic/topical connections between vertical and horizontal words. Unless you feel you must, don’t highlight the first letters. It’s more of an ‘aha’ moment if a reader discovers it for themselves, rather than being told.

You have played and you want more? When I first set the acrostics, I called the next versions ‘black belt acrostics’. I highlight in this exercise because, well, it’s an exercise.


Find a line from a poem, a song, an article, anywhere. For your first, you probably want it roughly ten words. Write the line vertically and use each word as the beginning of a line. Below is an example of one I wrote.

No more talk of darkness, forget these wide-eyed fears.(“All I Ask of You” Phantom of the Opera)

No looking into tunnels,
more following the light–
talk only of what’s possible
of the sun’s warm touch, of
darkness‘ healing sleep.

Forget the shadows hiding
these thoughts of endless night.
Wide open doors await,
eyed by hope and held by
fears of all that is unknown.

You will be surprised how well having the first word of each line in place makes things easier, and in no time, you have a poem. And, if you like it, start the revision process. The first words no longer need to stay in that position, or can be changed completely.


And, if you are still looking for a challenge, we have the double letter acrostic. “Acrostics can be more complex than just by making words from initials. A double acrostic, for example, may have words at the beginning and end of its lines, as this example, on the name of Stroud, by Paul Hansford .” “Acrostics” Wikipedia

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.

Now that is complex. The Wikipedia entry on acrostics is excellent and there are several examples of what writers have done with varying the form. The calendar acrostic is particularly worth checking out.

Do one type several times, or all of them once. Go nuts. Play. Let’s see what you can do. I’ll see you Friday for the roundup; and, Tuesday for a prompt on winter. I checked this time.

Happy writing.

Of prompts


Posted by on 17/07/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , ,

73 responses to “Those Trying Tuesday Tryouts

  1. vivinfrance

    17/07/2012 at 12:08 pm

    Stroud is where my grandson went to school, it is well described in the poem. I may or may not come up with an accrostic – at this moment I am feeling punch-drunk from an afternoon with a mixed language/nationality sewing group – with me as piggy in the middle interpreter.

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 12:44 pm

      ViV, I loved finding the Stroud acrostic, because I first formed a bond with Stroud when I was researching the material stroud traded to American Indians.
      I completely understand. I have watched my husband doing this. You must be all doolally, in the nicest sense, of course.

  2. JulesPaige

    17/07/2012 at 12:25 pm

    You Ma’am make me laugh…so I hope to return the favor by starting with these:




    You are still the Most High Promptress to me!

    Do I dare say; more later… 🙂

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 12:45 pm

      Favour returned, Jules. I am laughing. And, you know I love being Most High Promptress!

  3. carolisle

    17/07/2012 at 12:29 pm

    I sure am pulling on my coat over here in the East Bay. Where did the Sun go? I have some sweet Acrostics my daughter did in elementary school.
    Appreciate &
    Language 😉

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 12:50 pm

      I looked at the ten day forecast, Carolisle. Enjoy this while you can.
      I like the short form acrostics that work like this. I don’t think my kids ever did a name acrostic. Their names are long; but I have a feeling that somewhere, there is a word acrostic from one of them. I’ll have to look.

      • Houston Roby

        17/07/2012 at 8:20 pm

        Hi there. I did a name acrostic in 5th grade but the only word I can remember using is ‘urbane.’ Probably best for all that it remains lost to the mists of time.

        • margo roby

          17/07/2012 at 9:11 pm

          Well, hello! I vaguely remember that acrostic. I’m surprised it wasn’t in the box of your stuff, if I saw it.

          • JulesPaige

            18/07/2012 at 1:31 pm

            School daze…I put the date on the back of this one by number one son…early 90’s one of those forced English assignments (must have gotten some latent talent from his mother?):

            North winds blow
            Over fallen leaves
            Visiting houses where
            Enjoyment fills the air to
            Make some of the
            Best times anyone will
            Ever be able to

            It’s been tapped to my closet door since it was brought home…

  4. The Happy Amateur

    17/07/2012 at 12:30 pm

    Love this prompt! I’m quite happy with myself this morning, got a lot of work done, I think I will indulge in acrostic poems now (while my family’s not watching.)

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 12:47 pm

      Sasha, I am imagining you crouched somewhere frantically scribbling/typing throwing hunted looks over you shoulder, yours ears attuned to the slightest sound. Faster. Must write faster.

  5. JulesPaige

    17/07/2012 at 1:03 pm

    Now this is a prompt I can play with… But lunch and chores are also calling. Until I let the muse out again please enjoy:

    (PS – Yes, I really do get along with my hubby. Lucky me.)

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 1:35 pm

      Me too, Jules, me too! [on the hubby front]

      I shall wander over in a moment.

  6. The Happy Amateur

    17/07/2012 at 1:13 pm

    Here’s my attempt at a sentence acrostic. The line is from a song by Lucinda Williams: “All I ask: Don’t tell anybody the secrets. I told you.”

    I ever want is just to be with you
    Ask of nothing more than simple truths
    Don’t go searching far for answers lying near
    Tell me now. Tell. And we will both move on.
    Anybody will do to spend some time with
    The no strings attached, casual romance
    Secrets unshared, painless, light coexistence
    I, with my taste for trouble, do not fit
    Told. The truth is out finally. I thank

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 1:38 pm

      Sasha, that’s a lot of story to squeeze in — that makes the acrostic even more difficult… and you hiding behind a curtain, or under a table! I like that the poem and the line link.

      • The Happy Amateur

        17/07/2012 at 1:47 pm

        Thank you, Margo! I’ll try to make time to try the other acrostic forms, I hope, all of them!

    • markwindham

      19/07/2012 at 3:36 pm

      I like it!

  7. markwindham

    17/07/2012 at 1:21 pm

    My warm up:

    Where’s the Hot Sauce?

    Lunch of a southern style,
    I control the urge for more of this
    veritable mound of fried goodness,
    else I revert to the state of
    roundness I am trying to reverse.

    mmmm, love me some fried chicken livers. I was hiding beside Sasha while I ate. The trainer sometimes stops by the office.

    • The Happy Amateur

      17/07/2012 at 1:24 pm

      Bon appetit! 🙂

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 1:40 pm

      Too funny, Mark. I love this. When I first dated Skip I remember his father cooking scrambled eggs and fried chicken livers.
      Thank you for the image of you and Sasha hiding and typing acrostics as fast as your fingers can type, each elbowing the other when the under the desk gets too crowded.

    • carolisle

      17/07/2012 at 4:04 pm

      Now I am hankerin’ for fried chicken livers and I was going to start my diet today, Dang it! 😉

      • margo roby

        17/07/2012 at 4:39 pm

        Dang, indeed! Sometimes we have to make these sacrifices. Get those fried little darlins’ and enjoy!

  8. The Happy Amateur

    17/07/2012 at 2:22 pm

    Here’s my one line acrostic:

    Slow-motion days,
    Unwinding lazily beneath the
    Milky skies,
    Melt into memories,

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 2:32 pm

      Sasha, I felt myself relaxing while I read. The whole poem melts, everything slows down 🙂

  9. The Happy Amateur

    17/07/2012 at 3:05 pm

    Another take:

    Sun-kissed days stretching
    Underneath the lazy skies, unwinding
    Moments and musings,
    Melting into memories,
    Ethereal and enduring,
    Radiant, red.

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 3:15 pm

      I am fascinated with the way the verbs act in this form. Possibly it’s because it is short, but I find myself mentally moving with whatever verb you use. I do like the short form becoming more than it appears it can be.

  10. purplepeninportland

    17/07/2012 at 6:35 pm

    Loved this prompt! Of course, I had to try all three.

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 7:59 pm

      That’s what I like about you, Sara, that wild and crazy part! Coming over now to read.

  11. wordsandthoughtspjs

    17/07/2012 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Margo, I Like prompt, and especially taking it up another level: Thanks for the prompts. If my typing seems slow and incoherent, this because the doctor gave me medicine for my neck problems and they are starting to kick me in the behind 🙂


    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 9:14 pm

      Pamela, your typing is just fine. From your end it might seem slow. If the medicine is helping, bring it on. You should try writing under it. No telling what you may discover 🙂 If it’s a stiff neck, or a seized up neck, find yourself a glass jar that sits in the curve of your neck and shoulder, fill it with boiling water, wrap a towel around it, apply to neck and relax. I do hope you feel better.


  12. Hannah Gosselin

    17/07/2012 at 11:01 pm

    Try two, I did, yes. Like them, you might!!

    Hehehe….thanks Margo, great fun! A remedy…in fact. Smiles to you!!

    • margo roby

      17/07/2012 at 11:18 pm

      Got yoda-napped did we? I shall come over as soon as I finish with my long distance tutoring!

      • Hannah Gosselin

        17/07/2012 at 11:27 pm

        Wow…long-distance tutoring…tricky that sounds!!

        Yes, Yoda napped I was…the acrostics are to blame…they had me starting off on a word that I’d normally have within the line not at the beginning of a line. Just realized this, I did, yes!!

        Thanks, Margo!! 🙂

        • margo roby

          17/07/2012 at 11:44 pm

          A little nutsy, you are 🙂

          The tutoring has been interesting. I have taken her through her junior and senior year in English, History, and Poli Sci. She has been home-schooled because they were stationed in odd places with no useful schools. We used Google talk and it has been tremendous fun. She graduates soon and I shall miss her and the talks 😦

          Now I’m going to visit you 🙂

          • Hannah Gosselin

            17/07/2012 at 11:48 pm

            Ha ha!!! Yup!!

            Two years is a good while to be teaching someone I can understand the :(…

            Talk to you soon! 🙂

  13. Misky

    18/07/2012 at 6:35 am

    Here’s mine. I think. Maybe.

  14. JulesPaige

    18/07/2012 at 8:10 am

    Yoda-knapped now that’s funny! This is short enough so I’m posting this double acrostic here…

    Picture music brought to life from sleep
    Opinions colorful more than just the black and white of an Oreo
    Emotions, educate, enrich, are effervescent and enhance
    The drafts, challenges, and engage creativity at full tilt
    Roads both high and low brow, a horse for every rider
    Yesterday perhaps a rhyme, tomorrow a rhythm – a double acrostic today


    OK the Oreo line is a bit wonky, but the cookie is perceived as black and not to many words end in ‘O’ that say what I wanted. Pass the milk, would ya…time to dunk.

    • margo roby

      18/07/2012 at 3:00 pm

      Fun, Jules. I am amazed how easily people seem to be whipping off the double acrostic.

  15. Veronica Roth

    18/07/2012 at 12:23 pm

    I’m working on it but…darn it…it’s tougher than I though!

    We seek out the wisest men
    Are we of our own making, we ask
    All your choices should be thought through, they say
    Self conceits are dangerous
    Made to glorify our ego
    Men must take absolute responsibility

    • margo roby

      18/07/2012 at 3:04 pm

      Veronica, That surprises me about a number of the apparently simpler forms. I’m liking the long line and sentence acrostics that have a clear connection between the poem’s content and the word[s]. Yours is particularly clear. No, not easy, at all.

    • Hannah Gosselin

      19/07/2012 at 8:22 am

      Wow…I like what you did here, Veronica…wise thoughts to ponder.

  16. pmwanken

    19/07/2012 at 6:54 am

    Good morning (she says, hopefully). I’ve done another prompt mash-up and included “acrostic” in the mix….

    Catch up with ya later! ❤

    • margo roby

      19/07/2012 at 10:50 am

      Oh goo, Paula. I shall wander over in a minute. I’m shuttling between the tour de france and the british open.

  17. Karin Wiberg

    19/07/2012 at 11:26 am

    A couple days late, but here you go! Had not tried a sentence acrostic before–thanks!

    • margo roby

      19/07/2012 at 12:04 pm

      Not late, different, Karin. I promise the poems straggle in all week, sometimes even after that. I’m glad you enjoyed the new form! I’ll be over shortly.

  18. tmhHoover

    19/07/2012 at 1:00 pm

    And there about comment 54…effectively highlighting you comment to Karin, is my attempt:

    • margo roby

      19/07/2012 at 2:06 pm

      Different, Teri? 😉 Straggling? You knew I’d smack your hand if you said late, didn’t you!? I’m on my way.

  19. markwindham

    19/07/2012 at 3:29 pm

    Tried a sentence-y-poem-y kinda thing-y.

    • margo roby

      19/07/2012 at 3:30 pm

      I like it when you are definite, Mark 🙂

      • markwindham

        19/07/2012 at 3:31 pm

        precise, i believe is the word you are looking for. 😉

        • margo roby

          19/07/2012 at 3:41 pm

          …smart-mouth… I came so close to the more normal response. So close.

          • markwindham

            19/07/2012 at 3:43 pm

            Well! I have never….well, yes, I have been called that before. But just a few times.

            • margo roby

              19/07/2012 at 3:44 pm

              Uh-huh… imagine my surprise 🙂

  20. 98dayjourney

    19/07/2012 at 10:28 pm

    I’m late to the party but will post soon. This looks like fun.

    • margo roby

      19/07/2012 at 11:44 pm

      Never a problem. Post when you can. I’ll look forward to reading.

  21. Annette Mickelson

    19/07/2012 at 10:35 pm

    Lots of people in this weeks party! Fun prompt, mine’s up. Probably VERY obvious. But fun, nevertheless

  22. Tania

    20/07/2012 at 9:06 am

    I totally forgot to comment to show you that I played around with an acrostic this week. Oops!

    • margo roby

      20/07/2012 at 12:00 pm

      Tania, I’m glad you remembered and came back!


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