I teach creative writing and love helping my students improve their technique.
Writing Poetry Puzzles
If you’ve ever wanted to write a poem, why not have a go at writing acrostic poetry? They're a form of word puzzle and can be made with rhyming lines or free-form. I recommend you start your creative journey by reading Anyone Can Write A Poem. In it the author describes how to write acrostic poetry and gives some great advice to build your confidence.
Writing acrostic poems are a good way to get children and adults to be creative. The rules are simple. Choose a word and then use the letters of that word to start or end each line of a poem. The best written acrostics use that same word as the theme of the poem, but it doesn’t have to be written like that.
All kinds of poems are
Cool, but this type is
Really great because if you look
Over at the letters going
The page, the first
Initials spell out a word or may even
Contain a message.
10 Steps to Writing Acrostic Poetry
How to Write Acrostic Poems
First choose a word; it can be any word at all. The length of the word chosen will determine how easy or hard the poem is to write. I suggest you start with a short word and then increase in complexity as your confidence grows.
For example, a simple three letter word like cat is a good starting point. Here is an acrostic poem I wrote about a cat.
Cute and cuddly
All they want is food and warmth
The cat is an independent creature
As your confidence grows, you can pick a longer word for the acrostic root. Because the poem contains more lines, you can tackle a larger theme within the poem. I wrote the following poem using the word animals. It's about Noah’s Ark in the Bible.
Ask anyone about the Ark and
Noah comes to mind. With great
Made a list of all the kinds of
Animals that could be saved when
Land around the world would flood. He
Saved them all, two by two.
A Reverse Acrostic
An acrostic poem can also be written with the letters at the end of each line forming the desired word. Here's an example, inspired by an empty fruit bowl.
Just woken up and I'm hungry! I fancy a bananA
But nothing in the fruit bowl. Wish I could do magiC
Like Harry Potter. I wouldn't mind a peaR
or an apple, maybe an orange or even a juicy mangO
I'd be happy with a bunch of fragrant grapeS
I've searched the fridge but there's nothing like thaT
I was dreaming of eating a sweet green kiwI
But stop! My problem is solved. I'm invited to a picniC
Other Complex Acrostics and Puzzle Poems
Acrostic poetry is usually written in free-form. The lines don’t have to have a rhythmic pattern like traditional poems. Some writers adjust the length of each line so that an acrostic verse forms a picture of the object described. For example, you could choose the theme (or root word) of soccer and then write the lines so that they make the shape of a soccer ball. The line beginning with S would be very short. The length of the next lines would gradually increase, with those commencing with C being the longest ones.
An experienced poet may choose a complete phrase or a word containing letters like X, Y and Z which are notoriously difficult to use. The English 19th century poet Edgar Allan Poe wrote an acrostic poem to a girl called Elizabeth. In order to use the letter Z he incorporated the unusual name of Zantippe into his poem.
Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland wrote a double acrostic poem for his friend Gertrude Chataway. He used her name to start the lines and wrote about her as the subject of his poem. This type of acrostic is double the puzzle and more than double the trouble to write. In this form of the poem, the first two letters (not just one) of each line are combined to make the root word of the poem.
Abecedarius are Acrostics using the Entire Alphabet
A form of acrostic using every single letter of the alphabet in order, to start each line is called an Abecedarius poem. (It sounds a bit like Abracadabra, so I like to think of it as a kind of magical poem.) Abecedarius poems are sometimes used to help children learn their alphabet.
Most abecedarius poems are nonsense as it’s very difficult to find words that fit the letters of the alphabet in order, and also make sense. Here is one such nonsense ditty by an unknown author.
A Bear Climbed Down East From a Great Height
In Jest Killing Lame Millipedes Never Offending
Pretty Queens Realizing Somewhere That Umbrellas
Visit Well-tuned Xylophones Yearly Zimmerman
Etymology or Origin of Acrostic
The word acrostic derives from the Greek language. It literally means a puzzle. Writing acrostic poetry is a form of mental exercise or puzzle as the writer must ensure every letter of the root word is used to add meaning to the poem. The subject or theme of an acrostic can be an emotion, an object, an event or a person.
For example, a love poem may be written using the letters of the lover’s name to start each line. Or it could be written on the theme of love incorporating allusions to events in their courtship that only the lovers themselves would understand.
Acrostic Poem About Encouragement
Here is an acrostic poem I have written to encourage you to start writing one too.
Easy to write I hope you'll agree
Now it’s your turn to
Reach for your pen
Give it your all. The
Entire world awaits the
Moment when your
Embryo of an idea
Naturally showcases your hidden
Talent for acrostic poetry.
Does an Acrostic Poem Have to Rhyme?
No, the only requirement for an acrostic poem is that the first (or last) letters of each line form a word. An acrostic can be free-form; the lines don't need to rhyme, nor do they need to have a specific rhythm or meter.
But, if you're able to include a rhyme and/or a strict meter in the acrostic, then go ahead. You'll demonstrate your skill with words if you include these extras in your poem
How Many Lines Does an Acrostic Poem Have?
There is no special number of lines for an acrostic poem, it depends on the word you are using. If you are using a short word like dog, then you will have a very short poem.
On the other hand, if you use a word like imagination, the poem you write will be much longer and have many more lines.
In a land far away
Magical things happen.
Animals fly and birds swim
Ghosts meet humans
Ice-creams never melt
Night skies sparkle.
At the end of the day
The whole of the earth
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.