Table of Forms—The Acrostic

An acrostic is a class of poems in which certain letters and their positions are stipulated, usually such that the first letters of every line, when read down, spell a hidden message. Typically this message was the name of the person the poem was addressed to. Lewis Carroll was particularly fond of this form, particularly its puzzle-like aspect, and he invented many variations in which more than one secret message was encoded into the poem, in which the hidden messages are hard to find.

A telestich is an acrostic in the last letter of lines, and a mesostich an acrostic in the middle of words or lines. John Cage wrote lots of mesostics, though these poems are not as constrained as true acrostics, since Cage did not stipulate a letter position.The diastic is a form used by Jackson Mac Low in which a word is encoded in a line of poetry with its first letter as the first letter of the first word, its second letter as the second letter of the second word, etc. A subliminal sentence, a form proposed here, is a prose acrostic in which a message is encoded, letter-by-letter, into the first letter of every word, generally with each encoded word corresponding to a sentence of the poem. You could also write a subliminal sentence as a telestich (which is more difficult), or make it undecodable by not fixing the letter position, such that the letters forming the hidden text could appear in any position in their respective words. A subliminaletter poem, proposed by Rishi Zutshi, is a technique in which a message is encoded into a poem at the rate of one letter per line or sentence by making each line or sentence of the poem a transgram on the hidden letter. One could also encode a message into a poem at the rate of one letter per word by making each word of the poem have only one (repeatable) consonant or one vowel (univocalic).

The illogical extension of the acrostic form is perhaps the crossword puzzle, the purest form perhaps the word square.

Howard Bergerson proposed the automynorcagram, a recursive subliminal sentence that encodes itself, but I find this form frustrating, because it is a lost opportunity to encode a secret message, and because closure is impossible, as you will see if you try it.

[subliminal sentence]: a meta-subliminal sentence

Class Debate: subliminal sentences

Left: a recursive subliminal sentence

Vanilla Vagina Utopia: a transgram and pangrammatic abecederian telestich, in which the words are in alphabetic order and are all nouns ending with A

Seriously Kissing: a subliminaletter poem

NRA Used 'Every Weapon' To Kill Gun Bill-Clinton (Newspoem 21 June 1999) is a subliminal sentence

Variations on the New York Times: Civilians are Slain in Military Attack on a Kosovo Road (Newspoem 8 June 1999) is a diastic derived by reading through a newstory using its headline

Missed: an acrostic

Separation of Degrees: a triple word acrostic

Stockpile Stewardship (Newspoem 24 March 1999): a subliminaletter poem in which the twenty letters in the title are used to make each stanza a transgram, also a number poem in that each of the twenty stanzas has twenty words

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Dominique Fitzpatrick-O'Dinn
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