I’m a huge fan of form poetry. Sestinas. Pantoums. Haiku. But lately, it’s been acrostic – all day, all the time.
Acrostics are fascinating. Basically, the first letter of each line spells out a name, a word, a message. We usually encounter acrostics when we’re in elementary school. It’s a fun way for students to do biographical poems. Or a way to show them about poetry can use both the letters and the space of the page to tell stories.
Lewis Carroll wrote an acrostic poem – “Acrostic.” Bonus, it rhymes. The poem spells out the names of the sisters that he visited that some say served as inspiration for Alice in Alice in Wonderland.
“An Acrostic” by Edgar Allan Poe also spells out a woman’s name – Elizabeth.
Often the left margin letters spell something that speaks to the theme or subject of your poem.
But lately I’ve been interested in how acrostics can hold a different story – maybe even an alternative story – to the poem falling traditionally down the page.
What are the messages I can say – that maybe I can’t say just right there, left to right on the page? I find these poems intense to write. Especially when I think about them as saying things I’ve been told I can’t say. There is a tension as we write between those two poles – what we say and what we don’t say. I like to add a layer – are you listening to me? Will you follow me to figure out what I’ve really got to tell you? How deep can I really go?
Added bonus – I also use acrostics as a writing tool when I’m stuck. Drop the letters down the page and my brain will fill in the story – it doesn’t have to be good. I just got to get the words down onto the page.
Here’s one of those – still very drafty. Not sure where I’d go next with it, but it got me going on one cold winter morning writing.
Poured into a glass over ice
Eliciting snaps and pops as it
Percolates its 100
Proof into the waiting 7Up.
Easy drink, you say, like a candy cane.
Refills free, when you’re ready. I
Make a note, free is never free
In this lounge. You’ve really
Never been drunk? You ask,
Teeth glinting, a distance finder, a
Signal of my eta to yes.
Channeling my inner innocent, I choose
High fantasy and lean into your
Neck whispering, never.
And let my lips linger
Past that first whisper. Practically
Panting, you pour the free refills
Straight from your mouth into mine.