Day 18: My Writing Acrostic

I learned some things from this prompt, from POETRYisEVERYTHING — so I thought I’d share it on my blog. (I didn’t know that acrostics occur in Proverbs, Psalms, and Lamentations.) You’ll find my acrostic at the end.

PROMPT 18 – Acrostic Poem

Relatively simple acrostics may merely spell out the letters of the alphabet in order; such an acrostic may be called an ‘alphabetical acrostic’ or Abecedarius. These acrostics occur in the first four of the five songs that make up the Book of Lamentations, in the praise of the good wife in Proverbs 31, 10-31, and in Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145 of the Hebrew Bible.[3] Notable among the acrostic Psalms are the long Psalm 119, which typically is printed in subsections named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each of which is featured in that section; and Psalm 145, which is recited three times a day in the Jewish services. Acrostics prove that the texts in question were originally composed in writing, rather than having existed in oral tradition before being put into writing.

Acrostic poetry was very common in medieval literature and often served to highlight the name of the poet or the patron who paid him. They were also used to make a prayer to a saint. You’ll find alphabet acrostic poems which are called Abecedarius poems in the first four of the five songs that make up the the Book of Lamentations. They praise the good wife in Proverbs. There are many Acrostic Psalms, the most notable is the very long Psalm 119 where each section is named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, the final chapter “A Boat, Beneath A Sunny Sky” is an acrostic of the real Alice’s name: Alice Pleasance Liddell. (Good trivia question to ask: What’s Alice’s full name….).

The Poem begins….

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July –

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,

. . . and the poem continues from there…

When the muse moves you,
Runs her hands through your hair, pours
Ice down your spine,
Tickles you until you cry —
It isn’t her call what happens next. It’s yours.
Now is the moment in which to
Gallop in the direction of your dreams.


Princess Angeline

See for more information, including her Lushootseed names.

The prompt at  POETRY IS EVERYTHING for April 2 is “write about an event that is newsworthy or historical.” Lesser known — recommended, and within 100 miles of where you reside, at least 100 years ago. I think my attempt stayed in the parameters.

I’ve been reading Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan, and so it seemed natural to borrow from the riveting first chapter, and Edward Curtis’s amazing picture of Princess Angeline (1820-1886), daughter of Chief Seattle.  I had this very strong sense of Curtis and Angeline as partners, securing each other’s place in history. Perhaps not so far as Western History would have it (and of course Curtis took many great pictures), but Princess Angeline’s position strikes me as the more fascinating one.  So, my one-bad-poem:

Here’s Edward Curtis hunting Princess Angeline
across the Seattle waterfront, one of those sun shot days
when the sun’s yellow is hammered flat
across the anvil of Puget Sound,
a clank of boat rigging, rumble of tugs.

Here’s Princess Angeline slipping through Curtis’s studio door,
uphill, suspicious, though not wary enough
to keep from pressing her face like paper
onto his lens, calligraphy of lines,
no smile, eyes squinting narrow pits.

A puff of smoke, a change of glass plates.
That flash–Edward Curtis inserting himself into the history books.

Any Excuse to Write

It’s Poetry Month! I am accepting the challenge to write one-bad-poem a day for 30 days.  Well, the challenge is to write a poem, but calling it “one bad poem” makes me feel better about offering whatever I happen to come up with. If you’d like to play along, you can find prompts all over the Internet. I picked up mine from POETRY IS EVERYTHING. The prompt for today was harlequin. 

You thought the fool a fine tarot for marriage
framed the print to hang in our first kitchen
by then too late for me to read the signs
queen of cups capable of anything as I well knew
hidden the next 30 years. A friend dared me
to have my cards read and I never told you
knowing you would disapprove, would frown and
gyrate, put the red hat on and dance
not like finding the money spent, like even less
my fondness for what you call rubbish
and there’s that fool still presiding in our kitchen
the harlequin nose turned up, jangle
of spangled arms at everything I’m cooking up.