Spring has sprung, the cherry blossoms are cherry blossoming, and it’s time again for our twice-monthly edition of Village Voice with Richard Blanco. We fell so madly in love with your responses to our call for ‘zip-odes’ that we thought we’d open things up again: this time with an acrostic poetry competition. Yes, you were a poet and you didn’t even know it — so here’s another challenge:

WHO: You

WHAT: Write an acrostic poem about your hometown: the word that is spelled out should be the name of your town, and the poem’s subject should be about your town.

WHEN & WHERE: Submit it to BPR@WGBH.ORG by Monday, April 29, and put ACROSTIC in the subject line. We’ll read the top submissions on Monday, May 13.

WHY: Why not?

Before we begin, you may have some questions… namely, what is an acrostic poem?

DEFINITION/HISTORY OF AN ACROSTIC / ANNOUNCE “CONTEST”

  • Acrostic: A poem in which first letters of each line spell out a word down left side of the poem; the word is the overall subject of the acrostic poem.
  • The word “acrostic" comes from the Greek words “akros" (outermost) and “stichos" (line of verse).
  • Acrostic poems have been around for thousands of years. In fact, acrostic poems can be found among the works of ancient Greek and Latin writers, medieval monks and Renaissance poets.
  • It is believed that, unlike other poetic forms, acrostic poetry was first written rather than passed down orally.
  • Acrostics were common in medieval literature, where they usually serve to highlight the name of the poet or his patron, or to make a prayer to a saint.
  • Acrostic poems can be found in many different types of literature. There are at least 12 clear examples of acrostics in the Old Testament (mostly in the Psalms).

SOME TIPS:

  • Write down the letters of your town name in a vertical line.
  • Work on a sentence or phrase for each letter of the subject's name. Each line does NOT have to be a complete sentence…the poem can flow from line to line. A line could even be just one word
  • If it helps, you could first think about the first and last lines of the poem, then fill out the lines in the middle.
  • For each line, think about which quality of the town that you would like to describe.
  • Go through each line again and revise the acrostic poem to your satisfaction.

An Acrostic

By Edgar Allen Poe

Elizabeth it is in vain you say

"Love not"—thou sayest it in so sweet a way:

In vain those words from thee or L.E.L.

Zantippe's talents had enforced so well:

Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,

Breath it less gently forth—and veil thine eyes.

Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried

To cure his love—was cured of all beside—

His follie—pride—and passion—for he died.

STROUDBy Paul Hansford

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.

A boat, beneath a sunny sky

Lingering onward dreamily

In an evening of July -

Children three that nestle near,

Eager eye and willing ear,

Pleased a simple tale to hear -

Long has paled that sunny sky:

Echoes fade and memories die:

Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,

Alice moving under skies

Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,

Eager eye and willing ear,

Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,

Dreaming as the days go by,

Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream -

Lingering in the golden gleam -

Life, what is it but a dream?


Ephemeral Bloom (Acrostic Sonnet)by Diane Hine

SOME INTERESTING EXAMPLES OF ACROSTICS IN PROSE IN POLITICS RECENTLY:

In Late August, Former Science Envoy Daniel Kammen tweeted out a resignation letter, addressed to Trump, that featured the acrostic I-M-P-E-A-C-H. The members of Trump’s Arts Council left an intentional hidden message in their resignation letter: the first letter of each paragraph spells out R-E-S-I-S-T, a reference to a popular anti-Trump rallying cry. Members of the president’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities have had enough after Trump’s controversial response to the violence in Charlottesville last weekend.

EXAMPLES of ABECEDARIAN [ey-bee-see-dair-ee-uh n] POEMS: Related to acrostic, a poem in which the first letter of each line or stanza follows sequentially through the alphabet:

A Poem for S.ByJessica Greenbaum

Richard Blanco is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history. His latest book of poetry is "How to Love a Country,” which deals with various socio-political issues that shadow America.

To hear the full segment, click on the audio player above.