Posts Tagged ‘Cinquain’

In my previous blog post, I wrote a book review of Wolverton Road, a collection of cinquains by Ryan Christiansen.

Cinquian (pronounced sing-cane) originates from the French word cinque and the Latin word quinque, both of which mean five. Cinquains have five lines, but several pattern options.

In the first pattern—sometimes referred to as the Didactic Cinquain—the writer builds the poem by counting words for each line:

Line 1: One word
Line 2: Two words
Line 3: Three words
Line 4: Four words
Line 5: One word

In the second pattern, the writer selects specific types of words for each line:

Line 1: A noun
Line 2: Two adjectives
Line 3: Three ing words
Line 4: A phrase
Line 5: Another word for the noun

In the third pattern—sometimes referred to as the American cinquain—the writer counts syllables for each line:

Line 1: Two syllables
Line 2: Four syllables
Line 3: Six syllables
Line 4: Eight syllables
Line 5: Two syllables

Ryan Christiansen used this third form to write 54 cinquain for his book Wolverton Road.

There are additional more complex variations of the cinquain as well:

  • Reverse Cinquain reverses the order of the lines:  two, eight, six, four, two.
  • Mirror Cinquain has two stanzas, the second is a reverse cinquain of the first stanza.
  • Butterfly Cinquain is a nine-line poem: two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two; centered it should look like a butterfly.
  • Crown Cinquain has five stanzas to construct one long poem.
  • Garland Cinquain is a series of six cinquains, the last stanza formed of lines by preceding five— typically Line 1 from the first stanza, Line 2 from the second stanza, Line 3 from the third, and so on.

If you’d like to read more about cinquains or about the poet who is well known for the American cinquain, check out the work of Adelaide Crapsey. Her biography is available at Poetry Foundation: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/adelaide-crapsey#poet. And here’s an example of one of her American Cinquain:


Keep thou
Thy tearless watch
All night but when blue-dawn
Breaths on the silver moon, then weep!
Then weep!

Now select a topic and try writing one of these short, fun poems.

Work Cited

Adventure with Cinquain. Google Docs. n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2013.


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