How To Write An Acrostic Poem In 5 Easy Steps (+ Free Printable)
Acrostic poems are one of the simplest forms of poetry out there. They may seem scary to beginners, but once you know how to write one, you’ll never stop writing! In this post, we’ll teach you how to write an acrostic poem in 5 easy steps, along with a printable PDF to help practice your skills.
- What is an acrostic poem?
- Types of Acrostic Poems
- How to write an acrostic poem in 5 steps
- Free Acrostic Poem Template PDF
- FAQs About Acrostic Poems
You might also be interested in the following guides:
- How to write a haiku for beginners
- How to write a limerick in 5 steps
- Clerihew Poem Guide
- Over 130 Poetry writing prompts
What is an acrostic poem?
An acrostic poem is a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word. This word can be anything from your name to a word you are learning to spell. The first letter of the line is normally in capitals. This makes it simpler to read the word as it is written down the page vertically. Acrostic poems are one of the fastest and simplest poems to create, as each line can be as short as one word, and there’s no need for the lines to rhyme.
Types of Acrostic Poems
Before you start making your own acrostic poems, it is important to know that there are actually many types of acrostic poems out there. Here are the 6 main types of acrostic poems:
- Traditional Acrostic
- Double Acrostic
- Abecedarian or Alphabetical
- Mesostich or Mesostic
- The Golden Shovel
Below we have explained each type of acrostic along with examples.
Pick one word or a phrase and use each letter of the word or phrase as a new line in the poem.
Here is an example of a traditional acrostic by Lewis Carroll using the names, Lorina Alice Edith who inspired the original Alice in Wonderland books:
Little maidens, when you lookBy Lewis Carroll
On this little story-book,
Reading with attentive eye
Its enticing history,
Never think that hours of play
Are your only HOLIDAY,
And that in a HOUSE of joy
Lessons serve but to annoy:
If in any HOUSE you find
Children of a gentle mind,
Each the others pleasing ever—
Each the others vexing never—
Daily work and pastime daily
In their order taking gaily—
Then be very sure that they
Have a life of HOLIDAY.
The first letter of each line in the acrostic poem is the same as the last letter in that line.
Take a look at this example of Paul Hansford’s Stroud poem – Pay special attention to the first and last letter of each line:
Set among hills in the midst of five valleys,Stroud by Paul Hansford
This peaceful little market town we inhabit
Refuses (vociferously!) to be a conformer.
Once home of the cloth it gave its name to,
Uphill and down again its streets lead you.
Despite its faults it leaves us all charmed.
Abecedarian or Alphabetical
The first letter of each line in the poem is in alphabetical order. In other words, it’s an A-Z acrostic poem.
Here is a great example of an abecedarian poem by Catherine Pierce:
All frantic and drunk with new warmth, the beesAbecedarian for the Dangerous Animals by Catherine Pierce
buzz and blur the holly bush.
Don’t be afraid. Or do, but
everything worth admiring can sting or somber.
Fix your gaze upward and
give bats their due,
holy with quickness and echolocation:
in summer’s bleakest hum, the air
judders and mosquitoes blink out,
knifed into small quick mouths. Yes,
lurking in some unlucky bloodstreams
might be rabies or histoplasmosis, but almost
no one dies and you
owe the bats for your backyard serenity.
Praise the cassowary, its ultraviolet head, its
quills and purposeful claws. Only one
recorded human death, and if a boy
swung at you, wouldn’t you rage back? Or P.
terribilis, golden dart frog maligned by Latin,
underlauded and unsung, enough poison to
vex two elephants into death but ardent
with eggs and froglets, their protection a neon
xyston. And of course,
yes, humans. Remarkable how our
zeal for safety manifests: poison, rifle, vanishment
Mesostich or Mesostic
A secret message or word is hidden in the middle of the lines of the poem. The letters that make this secret message are in capitals to make the message clear to the reader. The position of these letters can vary within the lines.
Overpopulation and Art by John Cage is a great example of a Mesostich powm:
we live in glass hOusesOverpopulation And Art by John Cage
our Vitric surroundings
in sPace of what’s inside
everything’s as muLtiplied
As we are
we have nO idea
what’s beiNg seen
is beyonD count
the quAlity is
Here the last letter of each line in the poem forms a word or a phrase.
The Shire Horse by Michael Lockwood is a great example of a telestich poem:
Stands so higHShire Horse by Michael Lockwood
Huge hooves toO
Impatiently waits foR
Reins and harnesS
Eager to LeavE
The Golden Shovel
Here you start by picking a short poem that you enjoy. Then you include the words of this poem as the last word in each line of your poem. Of course, you’ll need to give credit to the original poem that you used to write this poem.
A popular example is ‘The Golden Shovel’ by Terrance Hayes, who based their Golden Shovel poem on Gwendolyn Brooks, We Real Cool poem:
When I am so small Da’s sock covers my arm, weThe Golden Shovel By Terrance Hayes, after Gwendolyn Brooks
cruise at twilight until we find the place the real
men lean, bloodshot and translucent with cool.
His smile is a gold-plated incantation as we
drift by women on bar stools, with nothing left
in them but approachlessness. This is a school
I do not know yet. But the cue sticks mean we
are rubbed by light, smooth as wood, the lurk
of smoke thinned to song. We won’t be out late.
Standing in the middle of the street last night we
watched the moonlit lawns and a neighbor strike
his son in the face. A shadow knocked straight
Da promised to leave me everything: the shovel we
used to bury the dog, the words he loved to sing
his rusted pistol, his squeaky Bible, his sin.
The boy’s sneakers were light on the road. We
watched him run to us looking wounded and thin.
He’d been caught lying or drinking his father’s gin.
He’d been defending his ma, trying to be a man. We
stood in the road, and my father talked about jazz,
how sometimes a tune is born of outrage. By June
the boy would be locked upstate. That night we
got down on our knees in my room. If I should die
before I wake. Da said to me, it will be too soon.
How to write an acrostic poem in 5 steps
Step 1: Come up with an idea
What will your acrostic poem be about? Do you want to start with a simple idea, such as your own name or write a poem dedicated to your best friend? Make a list of some potential ideas for your acrostic poem. Here are some ideas for acrostic poems that you can use:
- Your own name
- Your best friend’s name
- Use the word: Winter
- Use the phrase: Try Again
- Use the word: Patience
- Use the phrase: Anything is possible
- Secret Message: Meet at the boat
- Secret Message: This is a test
- A – Z poem
Step 2: Choose a type of acrostic poem
Now you want to pick a type of acrostic poem to write. We recommend starting with a traditional acrostic poem for beginners. Once you have mastered this traditional form, you can try more advanced level techniques, such as a double acrostic or a Mesostich acrostic poem.
You can learn more about each type in our section above on the types of acrostic poems.
Step 3: Brainstorm some related words or phrases
For beginners, we recommend brainstorming some relating words and phrases on a scrap piece of paper before actually writing the acrostic poem. Brainstorming helps you gather your ideas and come up with meaningful words to use in your poem. If for example, you are writing an acrostic poem using your friend’s name, then think of words and phrases that best describe them, such as:
- The smartest person I know
When brainstorming, keep your main idea or word in mind so you can try finding words or phrases related to this idea.
Step 4: Structure your acrostic poem
Start structuring your acrostic poem. In other words, write down the main word or phrase you plan on using vertically down on a piece of paper. When writing down this word or phrase it is best to write it down in capitals.
If you are writing a Mesostich poem, then it is best to write the word in the middle of your paper. So you have plenty of room on both sides of the word or phrase to fill in the lines.
Step 5: Fill in each of the lines
Using your brainstormed ideas from step 3, complete each line of the acrostic poem. You may choose to complete each line with full sentences or even just a single word. Once you’re done, you will have a complete acrostic poem to share with your friends and family.
Free Acrostic Poem Template PDF
Now that you know how to write an acrostic poem from scratch, practice your skills with this free acrostic poem template printable:
You can also practice your skills by taking part in our daily poetry challenge.
FAQs About Acrostic Poems
What is an example of an acrostic poem?
One of the most famous examples of an acrostic poem is ‘An Acrostic’ by Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar wrote an acrostic poem using the name Elizabeth:
Elizabeth it is in vain you sayAn Acrostic by Edgar Allan Poe
“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.
Another classic name-inspired acrostic poem is ‘A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky’ by Lewis Carroll. Here Lewis was inspired by Alice Pleasance Liddell, who was also the young girl who inspired his Alice in Wonderland books:
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 has 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 —A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky by Lewis Carroll
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?
How do you write an acrostic name poem?
Start by thinking of a name you want to use. You can use your own name or another person’s name who inspires you. Next, write down that name vertically downwards on a paper. Then you can brainstorm some words or phrases that are related to this name. Finally complete in the lines of your acrostic poem using the brainstormed ideas.
How does an acrostic poem begin?
Most traditional acrostic poems begin by using each letter of the chosen word or phrase. The Abecedarian acrostic poem type begins with the first letter of the alphabet which is ‘A’ and ends with the last letter of the alphabet which is ‘Z’. Alternatively, the Mesostich acrostic type can begin with any letter, as long as the chosen word or phrase is contained in the middle of the lines somewhere.
What is a good sentence for acrostic?
Acrostic poems don’t have many rules, so there is no wrong or right way of developing a good sentence. However, based on some of the most famous acrostic poems written, it is a good idea to be descriptive and visual in each line or sentence of your acrostic poem. For example, Edgar Allan Poe’s acrostic poem starts with the following line:
Elizabeth it is in vain you say
Just by this one line, you can already tell that poet had great feelings for Elizabeth. And this makes you want to continue reading this poem, to learn more about Elizabeth.
How many lines does an acrostic poem have?
An acrostic poem can how an infinite amount of lines, as it all depends on the word or phrase you choose to base your poem around. For example, an acrostic poem using the word cat would have 3 lines. While an acrostic based on the phase, ‘Life goes on and on’ would have 15 lines.