Poetry Slam: Acrostic Basics and Thoughts

by courtvanhaaren

A poem, usually in verse, in which the first or the last letters of the lines, or certain other letters, taken in order, form a name, word, phrase, or motto.


Here is an example in English, an Edgar Allan Poe poem titled simply An Acrostic:

Elizabeth it is in vain you say
Love not” — thou sayest it in so sweet a way:

In vain those words from thee or L.E.L.
Zantippe’s talents had enforced so well:
Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,
Breath it less gently forth — and veil thine eyes.
Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried
To cure his love — was cured of all beside —
His follie — pride — and passion — for he died.

-from poetrysoup.com

Okay, I chose to do an acrostic poem as my first for my poetry slam. Why? Cause it was honestly the first form that I read on the website. Nothing more, nothing less. I have to admit though, I was NOT thrilled about the idea. My initial thought was “Oh great, I am going to start this project with a form of poetry used in tacky nursery decor.” (Yes, more prejudice but I know some of you saw those awful framed name acrostic pictures in a young child’s room. Caring, Outgoing, Unique… All overused general adjectives that seemed to set some sort of standard and expectation for behavior in a child. Unless that was just me.)


Maybe writing an actual story or expressing myself will make this type of poetry sound much more exciting than a picture in a nursery. You know what, let’s not even compare those god-awful pictures to poetry. Toss them out the window, break the frames, we’re looking at acrostics in a different way.

Is acrostic poetry supposed to be only one word spelled out? Nope, just checked. Good. No names here then. What I think I will do is dedicate my first poem to my deceased grandmother. (This will not be the last I write of her, fair warning.) To give some background, my grandma, Kathy, had a major role in my upbringing and had passed away from cancer about a year and a half ago. That was the hardest time of my life and I miss her terribly.

In fact, that sounds like a decent base for an acrostic. Grandma, I miss you. Fifteen easily divisible letters. (Fifteen easily divisible letters that I had to spend time and figure out. General math, why do you frustrate me so?) Five sets of three, Three sets of five. I don’t know how it’s going to end up, that’s the fun. See, poetry can be fun!

Time limit… Time limit. What should you be? Well, since this seems like a pretty basic place to start, I should hopefully have this composed by the early morn. (I need time to give myself time to dedicate to reading interpretations beginning tomorrow, yay Jane Eyre!)

Yes, an acrostic poem by tomorrow morning. Sounds good. Update when finished!

~C M VanHaaren