Acrostic Poetry: The First-Ever Anthology is out today, published by Dover Publications! The book includes several acrostic sonnets—some by Edgar Allan Poe and other renowned poets—and I considered devoting a chapter to them. Acrostic sonnets drive home the point that a poem can be both an acrostic and another form. The acrostic structure lends itself to hybridity. Here are examples of acrostic hybrids, including the acrostic sonnet, limerick, and haiku. I even created my own hybrid form: the acrostic clerihew! Some of these hybrids are quite difficult to accomplish. One poet called it “the most complex and challenging poetic endeavor I have ever embarked on.”
Sonnet: The acrostic sonnet is the best-known acrostic hybrid. Acrostic Poetry features examples by big-league poets Edgar Allan Poe, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, James Gates Percival, and Nathaniel Parker Willis. Poe’s “An Enigma” spells out a name diagonally. Arranging a name diagonally while adhering to the fixed parameters of a sonnet is far more challenging than composing a standard acrostic! Remarkably, Percival and Willis both penned acrostic sonnets spelling out the name of Emilie Marshall, whom the former identified as “a Boston lady of surpassing beauty.” The anthology’s cover features an excerpt from J. E. O’Connor’s “An Acrostic Sonnet to Yosemite Valley,” which appeared in his Acrostic Sonnets and Other Poems, a book that primarily showcases acrostic sonnets. Given its message, I’m partial to William Edward Armytage Axon’s “Vegetarian Life: Sonnet Acrostic.“
Limerick: Considering that my last anthology was There Once Was a Limerick Anthology, I recently blogged about the perfect transition from one poetic form to another: acrostic limericks! I included eight selections by Madeleine Begun Kane, aka Mad Kane. In the blog post, Kane discussed why it’s significantly more challenging to write acrostic limericks than standard limericks. She explained why she finds the acrostic form unique for its ability to combine with the limerick form without taking anything away from the limerick, concluding, “Fortunately, despite the extra challenges posed by acrostic limericks, they don’t interfere with the form itself. . . . Combining a limerick with other forms would compromise its purity, so I avoid it.”
Rondeau: Lewis Turco is the creator of one of the best-known hybrid forms, the terzanelle, and the author of the go-to guide to poetic forms, The Book of Forms. I was tickled to see that, in The Book of Forms, the acrostic entry doesn’t include an ordinary acrostic but rather an acrostic rondeau. Turco wrote “Virelai Avortée en Forme de Rondeau Acrostiche” under the pseudonym Wesli Court. I am grateful to Turco for his glowing blurb for Acrostic Poetry: “Croland has treated the subject exhaustively in this interesting volume.”
Triolet: In 2015, Grace Moerke-Malone penned an acrostic triolet, “The Teeth.” She explained, “I finally did it! I pulled it off! I managed to write an Acrostic Triolet! It was NOT easy finding a word or words that would fit the repetition within a Triolet but I did it!” Moerke-Malone added, “I can say with all certainty that the prep work for this poem was the most complex and challenging poetic endeavor I have ever embarked on.”
Haiku: Beginning in 2005, Terrance Charles Short wrote a series of 10 acrostic haiku. After composing his debut, “AIR,” he provided the backstory: “I do deep breathing exercises to relax my body and my spirit, and yesterday this little Haiku just jumped out of my head uncalled for. It fits the mood I attain while doing my exercises and falls into Haiku format perfectly, the acrostic is purely a happy accident.”
Tanka: Victor P. Vizzara also had a hybrid form just come to him. He explained, “I had a dream, and in my dream I was writing a new form of poetry based on tanka. When I woke up, I had this poem, TRUST, written in my brain. It was odd for I didn’t know what a tanka was, let alone acrostic.” His acrostic tanka are paired with background images.
Readers can find even more hybrid forms on the internet, including the acrostic Alexandrine, cinquain, ode, pantoum, sestina, and villanelle. As an aficionado of clerihews, I looked for acrostic clerihews but did not find any. When in doubt, DIY! In November 2022, a month after Elon Musk acquired Twitter, I wrote the first-ever acrostic clerihew, “World’s Richest Man”:
Musk bought Twitter, Undid 'er. Social media changed course— Killed off most of its workforce!