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How to Set Up an African Acrostic Poem


Acrostic poems give fledgling poets as well as experienced ones a framework in which to offer their interpretation of a thing or idea. The first letters of each line in an acrostic poem work together to spell a word. To set up an African acrostic poem, use this basic structure to communicate a message about something related to Africa.

Pick a Word

The first step in writing any acrostic poem is to pick a focal word. Each line of your poem will begin with a letter of this word. Think about what aspect of African culture, history, geography, flora or fauna you’d like to explore in your poem, and consider words related to it. You can use this word as the title of your poem, or the word can act as a sort of hidden message for observant readers.

Brainstorm a Message

Once you select a word to be the backbone of your African acrostic poem, let your imagination work as you think and read about ideas, images, events, qualities and people related to that word. Ask yourself what you want to say about the word you’ve chosen, and write down the ideas that you have as you think so that you can set them aside for at least a few hours before reviewing and evaluating them. Some of the best acrostic poems are those that offer a new perspective on something familiar.

Tell the Story

The final step in setting up an African acrostic poem is to communicate your message in a series of lines, each of which begin with a letter of your acrostic word. You can choose to let each line stand alone, uttering a word or thought that works with the lines around it to create a complete image related to your acrostic word. Alternatively, you can write one or more sentences that include, in order, words that begin with the letters in your acrostic word. The lines don’t have to be the same length, and punctuation can fall anywhere within the lines.

Example

Examples of acrostics that center on words related to Africa abound both online and in books of poetry. Avis Harley’s critically acclaimed “African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways” offers examples not only of traditional acrostics but also of poems with multiple acrostic words. Her poems tend to use acrostic words that characterize the subject of a poem, as in this piece titled “Wild Whispers,” which is built on the acrostic words “big ears” and describes a bat-eared fox: “Bat-eared fox and wind / In the stalks are / Given to conversation. / Ears such / As these can / Read any breeze, even / Sound out punctuation!”

About the Author

Elissa Hansen has more than nine years of editorial experience, and she specializes in academic editing across disciplines. She teaches university English and professional writing courses, holding a Bachelor of Arts in English and a certificate in technical communication from Cal Poly, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Wyoming, and a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota.

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