Tag Archives: acrostics

Those Trying Tuesday Tryouts

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


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