Feb 15, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Acrostic Poems

Today I am launching my “Poetry Friday” series with a look at a poetic format that is always popular with kids—the ACROSTIC POEM.

When I was teaching and assigned my students a “free choice” poem to write, many of my kids would choose the acrostic format. It was so popular because it is simple, fun, and has several different variations.
The acrostic format has been around a long time; acrostic poetry was discovered during the archeological digs at Pompeii, and there are several acrostics in the Hebrew version of the Bible. Many well-known writers throughout history have employed the acrostic format (including Geoffrey Chaucer, John Keats, and Edgar Allan Poe, among others), and during the Renaissance Sir John Davies wrote Hymns of Astraea, a book of 26 acrostics in which each poem spelled out the name of Queen “Elizabetha Regina.”     
The most common variation of the acrostic poem we see today has a subject spelled out vertically (down the left side of the page). Each letter in the subject word serves as the beginning of a word or phrase relating to or describing the subject.

Here is an acrostic poem my boys wrote for me for Mother’s Day a few years ago:
Makes us happy                                                                                                                                        Organized                                                                                                                                Magnificent                                                                                                                                   Musical                                                                                                                                                   Yellow

Simple and sweet, but so special!
Another option is to have a line of text beginning with each letter of the subject line:

Smiley face                                                                                                                                               Nose made of carrot                                                                                                                       Outside my front door                                                                                                                       White and cold                                                                                                                               Mittens for hands                                                                                                                                     A scarf to keep you warm                                                                                                                   Next winter I will see you again
Here is a much more elaborate version of an acrostic poem, written by Lewis Carroll. This poem has a deliberate rhyme and meter, and the subject is family friend Alice Pleasance Liddell.

A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky                                                                                                              By Lewis Carroll (from Through the Looking Glass, 1872)
A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —
Long had paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?

Yet another variation is the double acrostic, which spells out the subject at both the beginning and the end of each line. For an even more complicated twist, the word on the right side can also be spelled out from bottom to top. In addition to all of the above-mentioned examples, acrostics can also include palindromes and be incorporated into puzzles. Like every great art form, its only limitation is the artist’s imagination.
So take some time to explore this wonderful poetic format, and have fun! 


  1. The Acrostics are now part of first grade curriculum where we are- the very first poetic creations most kids will conjure. You really began at the beginning!

    1. That's great, Mirka! One of the reasons why I like this format so much is that even the youngest writers can use it to create meaningful poetry. I am glad that it is getting some space within the curriculum!

  2. Dear Becky,
    I enjoyed your acrostic poems. Your boys did a fine job honoring you with a poem.

    Celebrate you.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Acrostic poetry is so much fun! I love history about QEI, so I'll have to look up Sir John Davies acrostic about this monarch. Thanks for the informative and poetic post.

    1. Thank you so much, Alison! I am so glad you liked the history information--I was not sure if anyone else would be interested in it, but I am, so I decided to include it. That is part of the fun of having a blog!


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