Poetic Forms: Acrostic

One of the simplest poetry forms to master (Unless you’re adventurous and choose to create a double acrostic)

The rules are easy: Spell a word down the left hand side while also creating a poem.  Or, as I’ve mentioned, if you love a challenge, attempt to pull off a poem and TWO words–one featured on the left-hand side as well as on the right.  The first letter of each line will become your wording.

For example:

Didn’t mean to do it

Intern in stilettos made him stumble

Revved desire, warped reasoning–

“Too busy, too tired” all he heard at home

Yearning for the touch of an attentive equal,

Dove into illicit fruit

Impeteous rendezvous

Skilled seductress slipped out into night

How can he fix what is already broken

Explain to wife, or wish it away

Six-inch stilettos…trumped all common sense



For an even better example (Double Acrostic)

A Fall that Speaks of Rain

Apples strewn in candied panorama,
Frosty Jack longs for autumn‘s better half.
Trees transcend with red and yellow raiment,
each glorious painted leaf a show piece.
Rain clouds fade to scenes of nature’s wonder.

Then we walk along a cobblestone street
holding hands, ecstatic and spent for each
electric intake of sweet scent we breathe.

Remind me how often raindrops occur
as a conveyor of fine ambrosia.
Ice must abide–for now, even Bambi
nuzzles lovingly in fresh sheets of rain.

(After The Rain: A double acrostic.)


While it is not always the case, a daunting poetry form is the one showcased here, namely that of a double acrostic.  Yet due to the restrictions of the form, the results are often innovative and rewarding.  I enjoy the challenge.  In writing poetry overall, however, I am partial to consistent rhythm, meter and flow (such as 8-6), with basic rhyme patterns.  I have had good results with free and open forms as well.  A good example of what I mean by an 8-6 rhythm is the song, “Amazing Grace.”  I like to experiment, and in fact, one of my poems uses a 9-8-10-7 sequence.  Speaking of rhythm, in the showcased poem above, all lines are 10 syllabic rhythms.

The writing process varies, with inspiration coming from many sources and from many angles.  Sometimes it’s a random thought, other times it’s a visual image, like a magazine picture.  And there’s personal experience of course, or the day-to-day.  There have been rare occurrences when a poem will flow out easily, pretty much complete, but for the most part, the key to good writing is editing and rewriting–in short, hard work.  For me it is always best to write then come back, letting something sit for hours or even days; it is invaluable for perspective and objective evaluation.  Some writings need to cook longer than others do, and patience is usually the proper seasoning.

Acrostic poems spell out a word, reading down, with the first letter of each line.  But with a double acrostic, such as “A Fall that Speaks of Rain,” that same thing is also spelled out reading down with the last letter of each line.  I’m sure I didn’t invent the form, and probably saw it long ago.  But what I can say for sure is that I’ve always liked acrostics, and just decided, at one point, to “raise the bar,” to make it more of a challenge.  I am an engineer by training, so problem solving is what I do.  I suppose this is the way my mind works, and so I apply it, often, in creative writing, with a good deal of satisfaction.

I once read that the definition of a poet is, “Someone who is astonished by everything.”  I can think of no better advice, really, along such lines, to those who desire to write, who enjoy creating with words.  This a cosmos we inhabit is rich beyond measure, and we are very privileged to be part of it.  Be alert and vigilant at every step, and continue to observe and attune with all of the senses.  There exists a wealth of beauty and wonder, and there exists the wonder within us all.

Richard L. Williams

*Richard is a poet whom I featured and interviewed on bluegreenlilac last year.  I was impressed with his ability to create such an engaging poem while still remaining natural and true to his voice, all the while pulling off the unthinkable with a double acrostic. (Okay, it isn’t unthinkable, but I was never good at math…or puzzles, so I would have a more difficult time with such a feat)

Needless to say, he nailed it.



3 thoughts on “Poetic Forms: Acrostic

  1. Very informative. I’ve never tried either a single or double acostic poem. Having examples helps us understand the form better. Love the encouragement: I once read that the definition of a poet is, “Someone who is astonished by everything.” Lord, help me be astonished by everything!


    1. I hosted a contest in another writer’s forum once and Mr. Richard won first place. With his okay, I created a feature of his poem along with that interview. That line was one of my favorites. I also interviewed a writer once who said, “When others around me were taking Prozac, I was taking in the world by describing what I saw in it, which happened to be the best tranquilizer I could have chosen.” That statement has stuck with me to this day:-)


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