A cinquain is a five-line poem that was invented by Adelaide Crapsey. She was an American poet who took her inspiration from Japanese haiku and tanka. A collection of poems, titled Verse, was published in 1915 and included 28 cinquains.
Cinquains are particularly vivid in their imagery and are meant to convey a certain mood or emotion.
A Classic Cinquain Example
Because Adelaide Crapsey created the cinquain as a poetic form, the best example of a cinquain is a poem that she wrote titled “Snow” (source: http://www.cinquain.org)
From bleakening hills
Blows down the light, first breath
Of wintry wind…look up, and scent
American Cinquain Form
Originally, Crapsey created the form for the American cinquain with five lines.
Stresses Per Line
- The first line has one stress, which was usually iambic meter with the first syllable unstressed and the second stressed.
- Line two has two stresses.
- Line three has three stresses.
- Line four has four stresses.
- Line five has one stress.
Syllables Per Line
Following the invention of this form, Crapsey made changes to the form and included a certain number of syllables per line.
- Line one had two syllables.
- Line two had four syllables.
- Line three had six syllables.
- Line four had eight syllables.
- Line five had two syllables.
Even though iambic feet were typically used in these cinquains, it was not a requirement of the structure.
Popular Cinquain Forms
There have been many variations of the cinquain since its invention. To fully understand Cinquains, here are descriptions of two of the more popular forms along with examples.
Cinquain Form #1 – Didactic Cinquain
This is a very popular form of the cinquain because of its simplicity. Instead of incorporating stress and syllables, it uses words.
- The first line is one word which is the title of the poem.
- The second line contains two words which are adjectives that describe the title.
- The third line has three words that tell the reader more about the subject of the poem or shows action. Many times these words are gerunds that end with “ing.”
- The fourth line has four words that show emotions about the subject of the poem and may be individual words or a phrase.
- The fifth line is one word that is a synonym of the title or is very similar to it.
Here are some examples of this form of cinquain:
Dripping, slurping, smacking
So messy to eat
Falling, dancing, drifting
Covering everything it touches
Imposing, protecting, watching
Symbolizes wealth and power
Cinquain Form #2
This form is just slightly different from the first form in that the fourth line is a complete sentence and may have more than four words.
- The first line is one word.
- The second line contains two adjectives.
- The third line has three words ending in “ing.”
- The fourth line has four or more words that make a complete sentence.
- The fifth line is one word.
Here are a few examples of this form of cinquain:
Flipping, twirling, jumping
They make me laugh
Shining, burning, exploding
It gives life to everything
Waddling, swimming, eating
They are playing in the water
Write Your Own
Now that you have read some examples of cinquain, you see how easy it is to write your own.