I’ve been thinking about a variation on acrostics this week. They’re called phrase acrostics, and I hadn’t really heard of them until an instructor mentioned them in a poetry class I was taking last year at the Loft Literary Center. When she explained that you take a phrase or quotation and write a poem where the first word of each line creates the phrase, I was intrigued. And I wrote this:
Written in the Stars
In the morgue,
The body lies still, cold flesh on colder steel
Stars that burned in her eyes have flared and gone out
Is this what the fragment of poetry that has been
Written on her life has come to?
The brief moment of
Death captured in a haiku
Of broken syllables?
Every poem ends, the only mystery
Man can’t solve
—Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved
First, I found a quotation, I liked: "In the stars is written the death of every man." Then, while I was watching a particularly stark autopsy scene in an episode from the Inspector Lynley Mystery series, that quote came to me again and I decided to mix the quote with some thinking on that scene.
But as I drove home from running an errand last night, I thought it might be good to write a kid-friendly poem as a companion for this post today. But I couldn’t do it. First, I couldn’t come up with phrases or quotations that kids would know. Second, everything I tried in my head was too literal. The phrase and the poem itself were redundant. I think it was partially because I was coming up with quotations/phrases full of very concrete nouns. And then kids’ poems need to be fairly short, and those recognizable nouns at the beginning of every line…well, they just weren’t cutting it. I needed more flexible sayings.
OK, who has a saying for me? A phrase or saying that a kid in, say, 3rd grade would have surely heard before. I think next week in my poetry diary, I’ll try writing a phrase acrostic every day. If I come up with anything halfway successful, I’ll share!
Anyway, there was another variation I read recently that I enjoyed. It’s from the book, More Than Friends: Poems from Him and Her, by Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf. I really like this collection!
The Truth Revealed Between the Lines
I try to make us fit between the lines.
I try to make some sense of what I FEEL.
I’ve tried to write it down a hundred timens.
Our rhym and rhythm’s right, but are WE real?
I try to make us fit between the lines
and still stay true to who I want to be.
Is this verse yours to save or is it mine?
ARE you the one who’s changed, or is it me?
We’re MAKING an illusion that conceals
the easy lunchtime friends we used to be.
This sonnet’s form is perfect yet reveals
A free-verse frenzy DEEP inside of me.
Make no MISTAKE–I think you’re really great.
It isn’t you; it’s us I sometimes hate.
–Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf, all rights reserved
Isn’t that fabulous? (the all caps and boldface are theirs, by the way)
And I think Ellen Hopkins does another variation of this in some of her verse novels. When I read Burned, if I remember right, there were poems that the whole poem made sense straight through, but the first or last word of each line was separated a little, and if you read just that word from each line, it formed a complete thought or poem within a poem. Loved that!
OK, that’s it for my phrase acrostic ponderings. Don’t forget to give me your phrase/quotation ideas–thanks!