Cinquain Form: Writing the Cinquain

Cinquain History

Cinquain is an American poetry form. Despite its French-sounding name it was created by an American. The form was started by Adelaide Crapsey. Crapsey was influenced by Japanese haiku. He developed it to express brief thoughts. It also serves to make statements. Carl Sandburg and Louis Utermeyer popularized the form. The form is not as popular as haiku. It is growing though. Teachers use it to introduce students to poetry. Cinquain poems are brief. They are ideal for beginners.

Cinquain Form

Most cinquain poems use a single, 22-syllable stanza. Sometimes stanzas are combined into longer works. A cinquain consists of five lines. The first line has two syllables. The second line has four syllables. The third line has six syllables. The fourth line has eight syllables. The final line ends with two syllables:

2

4

6

8

2

Line length is the only firm rule. There are other guidelines, but no firm rules.

Cinquain Guidelines

Cinquain

  • Write in iambs. Iambs are two syllable groupings. The first syllable is unstressed. The second syllable is stressed. For Example: i DRANK she SMILED we TALKED i THOUGHT. For the last line of the poem both syllables should be stressed, NICE BAR.
  • Write about a noun. Cinquains are too brief to be about complex subjects. Pick something concrete.
  • Don’t try to make each line complete or a single thought. Each line should flow into the next. Otherwise, the poem will sound static.
  • Cinquains work best if you avoid adjectives and adverbs. Focus on nouns and verbs.
  • Build toward a climax. The last line should conclusion earlier thoughts. Often, the conclusion has a surprise or turn.

One possible format:

Line 1: Title Noun.

Line 2: Description.

Line 3: Action.

Line 4: Feeling or Effect.

Line 5: Synonym of the initial noun.

I prefer to use the noun as a separate title. Others make it the first line.

Examples

Tucson Rain

The smell
Everyone moves
To the window to look
Work stops and people start talking
Rain came

Opening Game

Game time
Season looked good
National champions
We told ourselves as we sat down
Not now

New Bar

Across
The street I went
To drink at the new bar
I drank she smiled we talked I thought
Nice bar

More Information

Cinquain Poems: Examples of cinquain poetry

Cinquain in the Wikipedia: Wikipedia’s discussion of the poetry form.

Cinquain in an Instant A tool for writing Cinquain poems

Cinquain.org A scholarly publication about the poetry form.

Article was first published in 1999. Updated December, 2013.

32 thoughts on “Cinquain Form: Writing the Cinquain

  1. Really good. You could make your website more flashy.
    That would be really great as people like going to flashy
    websites and not boring ones.
    May.

    ——-

    I’m not good at flashy. — John

  2. No need for flash. The content is great. Thanks for giving an old writing teacher some new ideas – or at least a new way of explaining the important ideas.

    David.

  3. Thanks to the cinquain.It’s my first time to reda about it. It’ll be useful to teach a beginner of poetic writer.

  4. I agree that you don’t need flash here—your work is good enough to interest me.I love writing cinquains.
    When my daughter was in fourth or fifth grade, her class did poetry
    combined with a science unit on weather and I had a great deal of fun
    with cinquains on weather topics….Thanks for providing an excuse to remember that—and maybe do some more.

  5. In my school 5th grade we are working on cinquains. I think it’s awsome and cool. I’m doing one on Martin Luther Kings jr. Nice cinquains. keep up the good work ;)

  6. YOUR INFORMATION IS GOOD, BUT I THINK IT WILL BE AWESOM IF YOU GUYS EXPLAIN WHAT A SYLLABLE IS.

    ANY WAYS ITS AWESOM, AND PERFECT
    NATI

  7. am not an english teacher but i wanna learn all of wnglish-grammmar,poetry,essay,and all. as a science teacher , i think writing cinquains may make my students more interested in learning science.
    a short poetry ’bout genetics, why not? fantastic!

  8. Thanks for the delightful site. Flash is only Flash. I am working with special children and heard about cinquain, Your site is very informative.

  9. This site is great! I didnt understand what cinquain was until I read more about it on your site so.. thanks again!!

  10. I’m pretty comfortable with my presentation of the rules Emily. If your teacher teaches it differently, they must be getting their information from different sources than the ones I have used for all these years.

  11. I was thrilled to run across this article! Cinquains are one of my favorite forms to write and I
    was discouraged to read on other sites that it should include a specific number of words, certain
    types of words in certain lines, etc. This was not what I have been doing…I have simply been
    using the syllabic form. I hated the idea of incorporating those other rules. They just don’t work
    for me. Needless to say, I was comforted to read that my initial introduction to cinquain was correct.
    Thank you.

    Susan

  12. Hey, thanks for the info! It’s really helpful for my Language Arts poetry project… I’ll never forget how to write a cinquain!

  13. hey, thanks for the info! its really helfpul for my language arts poetry project… i’ll never forget how to write a cinqain

  14. yeah the cinquian poem where tought with Syllybuls instead….
    but im comfusing i have to get it rite or my teacher get mad at me :(

  15. Ok i absolutly loved your site it helped me alot! i dont know if i did mine right though? here it is tell me what you think:
    Jamming
    With my screamo
    I love playing it loud
    It works awsome to drown out the chaos
    I rocks
    -bobbi lee
    an for those of you who are confused screamo is a type of music. :-)
    and i thik i did good for a 8th grader!

  16. SYLLABLES is for exsample c a t when you say he word put your hand under your shin and has many times as it hits your hand is a syllable

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