Hide and Reveal in the Acrostic Poem
What is that relationship where you both know that something’s there, and it’s not that either of you are afraid to admit it, but it’s more fun to hint, to tease, to keep leaving clues for the other to figure out? I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s quite a rush to get as close as you can to the tantalizingly unsaid.
Never in a million years would I have compared the acrostic poem to this kind of mystery, until I read Tania Runyan’s chapter on the form in How to Write a Form Poem.
I’ve always considered the acrostic the cutie pie of poetry. It’s what you get the construction paper out for. It’s the kind of poem where you use block lettering for each first letter, and even better, include a design inside each letter that symbolizes what it is you’re writing about — you know, to really drive that point home. (As if that is what poetry is concerned about.)
But Runyan encourages us to “choose risk over cuteness,” and suddenly I am in high school again, holding a note from a boy who’s written a message in code in the margins of the paper — just outside that faint pink line where teachers tell us not to take our pens and pencils. It will take me the rest of the day to figure out the message. Forget the Pythagorean theorem! Who cares about conjugating verbs in French? Give Edgar Allan Poe his heart back! WHAT IS THIS GUY TRYING TO TELL ME HERE IN THE MARGINS?!?!
What deliciousness it was to figure out his message, but the delight was even sweeter when I could continue with a secret message of my own. Nothing was stated, except I knew, and he knew that I knew.
This is the attitude Runyan takes with acrostics, and indeed, it is risky. This is not the form for dull No. 2 pencils and Elmer’s glue. We don’t want to be told what “L” stands for. We want to feel it creeping up our back, warming our cheeks, pulling at the sides of our mouths.
underneath the science lab table
nobody can see that
she moves her hand towards his
and ever so slightly brushes his hand.
It is a gesture unreadable.
“Did she twitch?” he might
he knows, or rather he feels that
it is deliberate and he remembers that every
night, the last thing they do before
going to bed is check in with each other, long, lingering texts. He
smiles and shifts silently; intertwines his finger with hers.
This week, write an acrostic poem, but choose risk over cuteness, as Runyan encourages us to do.
Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Jillian Hughes we enjoyed:
Photo by William Warby Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Callie Feyen.
Browse more poetry prompts
If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.
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20 months and a thousand broken
neural pathways are all that separate
me and you. A pair of wringing hands,
a broken heart, a mismatched brain.
We all wanted to solve your puzzle,
put your pieces back together.
Did we do enough, when we were together?
Did you feel lost? Did you feel broken?
Like some sick kind of riddle? An unsolvable puzzle?
Or were you always able to separate
heart from head, soul from brain?
Was our love sturdy? Could you hold it in your hands?
Was it too heavy? Too hot? Make you yank back your hands?
Were you sick of holding our hopes together?
I hope you found solace in the corners of your brain.
Maybe we were always the ones that were broken.
What God has joined together, no man should separate.
Maybe you were always a poem, never a puzzle.
Maybe I ask too many questions, I’m too hung up on puzzles.
I should focus on things I can hold in my hands,
Things I can’t easily break or separate.
Like me and you. Siblings. Forever together.
A bond that can never, ever be broken.
A bond forged by heart, not by brain.
I hope you know I love your brain.
It makes me wonder, gives me pause, makes me puzzle.
Teaches me how to honor the beauty in the broken.
The bruised fruit, the lined hands.
Don’t you love how wisdom and struggle are always together?
A pair of tangled threads that refuse to separate.
I’m still learning how to separate
The truth in my bones from the knowledge in my brain.
All of it blurry, muddled together.
Like some kind of thousand piece puzzle.
Isn’t the answer written all over your hands?
Does it break your heart to know we’re all broken?
I refuse to separate the pieces of your puzzle.
I’ll honor your brain by holding your hand.
If we are together, we will never be broken.