01 April 2012

A is for Acrostic

is for acrostic.

Let me start with a bit of a bellyache: the world of poetry has died, and we have killed it. The poet has lost the trust of readers everywhere - I blame free verse. Wait, I mean free prose...

The acrostic may not be the most popular form of poetry, but it is compelling when done well. And, to be honest, I haven't seen any English acrostics that are worth reading. I'm not counting Psalm 119 because it's not an English poem.

Psalm 119 is striking, and when you consider the form and the theme, it becomes more so: an acrostic made up of 22 stanzas, 8 verses each, with every verse beginning with that stanza's letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the theme is God's Law. Wait, God's Law?

One of the best known things about poetry is that lovers have used it as long as there has been love to express themselves. This Psalm is no exception. David gushes about how much he loves the commands of God. It's amazing how much he could write about something we assume is so, well, confining.

But that's just it - don't we feel that way about poetry too? And that's why free verse (prose) is so dang popular these days. Poets feel confined by the structure of form. Yet I find, when I write a sonnet, that structure gives me more help than anything. And when it's finished, that form is what makes the ideas, the themes, more compelling.

What is true of poetic form is true of God's Law as well - that which would seem most confining is what actually drives us to freedom, love, and beauty.

I tried to write an acrostic poem about my love for God when I was in college, and let me say this: the English language doesn't give you many choices when you get to the end of the alphabet. 26 verses was about all I could muster. The practice, however, was great - and isn't that what this challenge is all about? Using a form you wouldn't normally use to help you practice your skill?

Don't shy away from form, often its structure inspires what would otherwise be hidden.


Read more about my theme this April in my intro to the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Or visit the home page here.


Emily White said...

Very interesting! I have to admit I don't know much about poetry, but now I'm eager to research this! Thank you!

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

I admit writing poetry is not my thing but I do appreciate the structure of it.

Like the way you joined God and poetry.

Anonymous said...

Interesting A

Here is mine

Violet said...

This post
Has been
Amusing to me
Nearly as much as
Knitting has been
Since winter began.

My meagre Jr-high-sque attempt at an acrostic. Cool post... see you around @ the A to Z challenge! Consider me a new reader too.

Violet @ Revolution ~ Evolution

Anonymous said...

Poetry really is healing to the soul and how normal is it that God spoke through it with the Psalms. How wonderfully normal!

DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

I've been over quite a few times waiting for you to post. I'm in Australia and it's already well into the 2nd April here. You are the blogger directly under me who I'm directed to visit.

Poetry isn't dead on the blogs. There's wonderful poetry at D'verse Poets. I follow several amazing poets. I also founded a writing blog called RomanticFridayWriters where 50% of the entries are fantastic poems - not usually free verse either, but there's nothing wrong with this form I don't think.

One of our RFW members is an acrostic lover and she posts a lot in this form. So go hunting!


Man O' Clay said...


I will have to hunt a bit!

I'm glad to hear about your work too. I don't mind free verse in moderation, but I wish it wasn't so popular - I have a hard time distinguishing between prose and poetry when there isn't some kind of form.

Thank all for visiting!! I'll see you around.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Very fitting, especially as April is National Poetry Month. I really love poetry - can't wait to see what else you have in store. New follower :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm not much into poetry, but it's true that God's boundaries are designed to give us freedom and keep us safe.

J.L. Campbell said...

I'm useless at Poetry, but wanted to say hello from one Challenge participant to another.

Sandra Tyler said...

interesting choice for your A word! Enjoyed this! Hoe you'll read my A

Rhia Roberts said...

I don't think poetry is dead; just not popular for a while. But the great thing about trends is that they do just that...trend. Let's hope.
Rhia # 873 on A to Z list

David Wagner said...

Reminds me of that quote from Ghostbusters where Egon matter-of-factly says "Print is dead."

Nice post -- food for thought.

And now, to quote another movie (hit it, Arnold!) "I'll be back..."

Dave the Goof

Anonymous said...

Very cool blog! I love Psalm 119!

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