Anagrammatic Poem Type

Here’s what the anagrammatic poem type is:

An anagrammatic poem is a poem in which every line or section of the poem is an anagram of all lines or sections of the same length.

Anagrammatic poems are extremely uncommon due to their difficulty. They represent an interesting mixture of puzzles and poems.

If you want to learn all about the anagrammatic poem type, then you’ve come to the right place.

Keep reading!

Table of Contents

featured_anagrammatic_poem_type

What Is Anagrammatic Poetry?

Black pencil and scattered wooden letter tiles.

Anagrammatic poetry is a very rare form of poetry in which every line of every stanza is an anagram of all other lines or stanzas in the poem.

Anagrams, for their part, are made by rearranging the letters of a word, phrase, or entire section of a written work to create new content using only the original combination of letters.

An example of an anagram would be “seal” and “sale.” These two words are anagrams of each other because they contain the same four letters.

What Are the Basic Properties of Anagrammatic Poetry?

The word Poetry on jigsaw puzzle.
Rhyme StructureRare
MeterRare
OriginAncient Greece
PopularityRare as poetry but anagrams remain culturally significant in games and puzzles
ThemeVaries

What Are the Features of Anagrammatic Poetry?

The word ANAGRAM on wooden platform

Writing an entire poem in anagrams is entirely difficult to achieve.

As a result, anagrammatic poetry may contain exceptions to rules of grammar or spelling for the sole purpose of making an anagram possible for the poet.

These can include replacing letters in words with more common letters that sound similar.

Though it’s expected, try to avoid this concession or unusual, awkward syntax that may or may not form up grammatically correct sentences.

These exceptions can be forgiven when made, but a perfect anagrammatic poem would be one in which the poem sounds and reads as if it were completely natural at first glance.

Very few poets are capable of pulling this off consistently and the difficulty level increases depending on how long the anagrams are.

Rearranging a word to form a new word is relatively easy, but rearranging all of the letters in an entire stanza is a feat unto itself.

The difficulty enforces strict limits on creativity. As a result of these factors, anagrammatic poems are not very popular among professional writers.

Anagrammatic poems should not be confused with vocabularyclept poems. This similar approach, coined by Howard Berger in 1969, rearranges the words of a poem but does not rearrange the letters in the words.

What Is an Example of Anagrammatic Poetry?

Dam and train bridge over the Delaware River in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
“How cold!” Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!
The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general’s action wish’d “Go!”
He saw his ragged continentals row.
Ah, he stands – sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens – winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.
George can’t lose war with’s hands in;
He’s astern – so go alight, crew, and win!

David Shulman

The above sonnet, by Israeli poet David Shulman, is nothing short of miraculous.

Even writing an anagrammatic poem is an exercise in humility for most poets, but Shulman manages to pull it off while adhering to a strict rhyme scheme as an added bonus.

Every line is an anagram of the title, “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Take note that some of the concessions mentioned previously are on full display in this poem.

Female hands with pen writing on notebook.

There are places where the punctuation and syntax are not grammatically incorrect, but the entirety of the poem is comprehensible enough to look almost natural at first glance.

Importantly, Shulman did not make extensive compromises with the spelling.

While the omission of the ‘e’ in “wish’d” is a bit of a stretch, it’s an incredibly small concession when considering the difficulty of the form and the length of the poem.

For an ordinary poem, fourteen lines may seem not long enough. But when writing anagram it represents extensive labor of love.

What Is the History of Anagrammatic Poetry?

Old inkstand with feather near scroll against black background.

While the history of anagrammatic poetry is not well documented, the history of the technique it is based on goes back to at least the ancient Greeks.

The earliest known uses of anagram, both in general and in poetry, supposedly date back to the Greek poet Lycophron in the 3rd century BC.

This does rely on a single scholar’s account (John Tzetzes) in the 12th century, but Tzetzes devoted much of his life to preserving information about ancient Greece, especially in regard to literature.

While the lack of corroborating accounts is problematic, Tzetzes is generally a fairly well-trusted source.

Anagrams were surrounded by an air of mysticism in their earliest interpretations, often being used to find supposed hidden meanings in names or even in biblical passages.

However, anagrammatic interpretations have rarely been taken seriously by the general public.

Anagrams mostly have a history of simply being a witty form of wordplay. They were popular in Greek, Latin, German, and eventually in English.

Letter cubes of made of wood around vintage typewriter

Anagrams were especially well-loved in the early modern period and still remain prevalent in some shape or form today. One obvious example is the ubiquitous practice of puzzles based on them called “word scrambles.”

There have been some attempts to lay down the ‘rules’ of an anagram, such as in William Drummond’s essay On the Character of a Perfect Anagram, in which he asserted that certain substitutions and omissions should be seen as permissible.

Naturally, these are subjective, with most people having their own “cut-off point” as far as which letters should and should not be counted as “similar enough” to other letters.

One popular use of anagrams is in creating pseudonyms, whether for personal reasons (such as in the case of a pen name) or for dramatic reveals in literature.

One famous example is Tom Marvolo Riddle in the Harry Potter franchise, whose name is an anagram for, “I am Lord Voldemort.”

What Are Tips for Writing Anagrammatic Poems?

Attractive redhead woman writing at a cafe.

While anagrammatic poetry is challenging and restrictive, that doesn’t mean there’s no value in at least trying it as an exercise.

Even if you fail, the attempt will stimulate your brain and test you on how flexible your vocabulary is.

The most commonly given advice for writing anagrammatic poetry is to first come up with a base that gives you a solid combination of vowels and consonants.

This might be a few words or an entire first line for the poem. Try to avoid words that have rare letters in them, if possible. Examples of letters to avoid would be “x” and “z.”

From there, try coming up with a list of words that utilize the letters you have to work with. This should give you some ideas for what tools you have to work with and will give you resources to draw from when you hit a stumbling point.

As you shuffle the letters and words around, you may find yourself consistently wishing you had just one more copy of a specific letter or two to work with.

Heap of assorted uppercase scrabble letter tiles.

If so, reexamine that first line. Is there a way to rewrite it that gives you that letter?

It’s advisable to keep your first attempts at an anagrammatic poem short. Anagrams are ultimately a form of a puzzle.

Trying to master the most complex levels of any puzzle right away will only lead to frustration. Start with very simple lines that only contain two to four words or limit yourself to just a poem of two or three lines.

Do not be discouraged if you find yourself having trouble.

Remember that there’s no time limit and no pressure to finish an attempt that isn’t working out. You can always try again later.

Poet’s Note

Poet's_Note

If you value your sanity, do not make this your specialty.

The time investment needed for each individual anagrammatic poem matches a textbook definition of torture.

What Are the Most Important Types of Poems?

Vintage poetry book on wooden platform

Poems have been around for ages. They are creative expressions of human thoughts and emotions.

From acrostics to odes and sonnets, there are poetry types that have endured lifetimes. Below are some of the most enduring and timeless ones.

Here’s the complete overview and simple explanations of the most important poem types.