An acrostic poem is where the first letter of each line spells out a word, phrase, or name. They don’t need to rhyme and there isn’t any specific rhythm to follow. Usually, the word, phrase, or name chosen will involve the theme of the poem.
This poem by Lewis Carroll, Acrostic, spells out Lorina Alice Edith—the daughters of Henry George Liddell, a friend of Lewis Carroll.
Little maidens, when you look
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 poem above is a conventional acrostic poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word.
The telestich poem involves using the last letter of the last word in each line to spell out something.
You can combine the conventional and telestich acrostic poems and write what is called a double acrostic poem—where the first letter of each word at the beginning of the line and the last letter of each word at the end of the line spell out something.
The abecedarian poem is a type of acrostic poem where the first letter of each word at the beginning of a line starts with a letter of the alphabet in order. Therefore, they are generally 26 lines long.
Mesostic poems are a type of acrostic poem where the word or phrase is hidden down the middle of the poem.
Finally, the behemoth of acrostic poems is the Golden Shovel. This type of acrostic involves using the last word of each line to transcribe the text of another poem.
In Michael Kleber-Diggs’ poem, America is Loving Me to Death, the first letter of the first word in each line spells out the title and then the last word in each line transcribes the Pledge of Allegiance.
Who knew acrostic poems could have so many variations?
Try it yourself
For this first one let’s write a poem using a part of a quote from the Buddha:
Peace comes from within
 Acrostic by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898). This poem is in the public domain
[…] Acrostic […]