How to Write an Acrostic Poem: Word Puzzle Poetry

Updated on July 15, 2019
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I teach creative writing to adults and love helping my students improve their writing skills.

Creativity can happen anytime, anywhere.
Creativity can happen anytime, anywhere. | Source

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 Bow-Tie Pasta: Acrostic Poems (Poetry Adventures). In it the author describes how to write acrostic poetry and then gives some funny examples to prove his point. He explains acrostic poems as follows.

All kinds of poems are

Cool, but this type is

Really interesting because if you look

Over at the letters going

Straight down

The page, the first

Initials spell out a word or may even

Contain a message.

Encourage your kids to write acrostic poems. They are a great way to get children and adults to be creative. They will love the puzzle aspect of them. 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.

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

Imagination he

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.

Any story or picture can inspire an acrostic poem.
Any story or picture can inspire an acrostic poem. | Source

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

From empty bowl to picnic, the acrostic above has a happy ending.
From empty bowl to picnic, the acrostic above has a happy ending. | Source

Examples of More Complex Acrostics

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.

Lewis Carroll wrote this double acrostic for Gertrude Chataway. The verses embody her name in two ways; by letters, and through syllables.
Lewis Carroll wrote this double acrostic for Gertrude Chataway. The verses embody her name in two ways; by letters, and through syllables. | Source

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.

Writing poetry encourages creativity.
Writing poetry encourages creativity. | Source

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

Create a

One-off

Unique poem.

Reach for your pen

And

Give it your all. The

Entire world awaits the

Moment when your

Embryo of an idea

Naturally showcases your hidden

Talent for acrostic poetry.

Brainstorm an Acrostic Poem

Comments

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  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    2 months ago from SW England

    This is a good explanation with interesting examples. I like to write acrostics from time to time. It's a good way of making yourself choose the best words and then have the discipline to make both the words and the rhythm work.

    The different forms of poetry give us a wealth of styles to choose from and I think each one fits certain themes better than others.

    Any form which challenges the writer has to be a good thing; it stretches our boundaries and our comfort zone!

    Ann

  • Eric John Large profile image

    Eric John Large 

    2 months ago from Saddle Lake

    Interesting. I thought it was complicated but I made a short poem with one word.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    2 months ago from UK

    This is an interesting creative exercise.

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