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Cinquain Poetry Short and Simple

by Monica E. Smith

Simply put, a cinquain is a poem of five lines. The word comes from the French word, cinq, which means five. Possibly the best-known form of cinquain poetry was created by Adelaide Crapsey in the early 1900s. She did not invent the cinquain form itself, but a distinct American version which she believed was "the shortest and simplest possible in English verse."

Cinquains are very similar to haiku (haiku was elevated to a highly refined art in the 17th century by Matsuo Basho, who is considered the "father of haiku"), in that the guidelines for writing them are based on syllables. Whereas the understood and original line form of haiku is based syllabically on 5 - 7 - 5, cinquains are structured as 2 - 4 - 6 - 8 - 2. An alternate form of the cinquain, called a "word cinquain", is based on the number of words per line rather than syllables: 1 word - 2 words - 3 words - 4 words - 1 word.

When writing a cinquain, it seems best to write about something real/concrete rather than abstract; for instance, an animal rather than sadness. Emotions certainly can be used in the creation of a cinquain, but as modifiers that serve to embellish and enhance, rather than as the topic of your creation as a whole. In haiku, one must include a season word; the use of articles-a, an, the-is discouraged, and there should be what is called an "AHA! Moment"-that is the element of surprise at the end. A haiku in its strictest sense is basically a snapshot of life; it captures the moment, simply stating what is, without embellishment or editorializing.

But in cinquain, just about anything goes. As in other poetry, alliteration, assonance, rhyming or other poetic elements, as well as the "surprise ending" certainly can make a cinquain stand out. Feel free to use them to your heart's content. So, too, can following a descriptive pattern such as:

Line 1 Can serve as the title (if you choose not to title your cinquain)

Line 2 Describes the title

Line 3 An action about the title

Line 4 Emotion about the title

Line 5 A synonym for the title

I believe poetry allows for the freedom of expression, and in that, there is freedom in expression. It does not need to be written in a complicated language only the select few can comprehend. I have always loved poetry for its brevity and enjoy writing "accessible" poems about everyday things. The cinquain, then, certainly bills the bill.

If you have not ventured into the realm of poetry yet, try starting with the short verse, such as haiku and cinquain. They offer an immediate impact, and I think you will find that satisfied something deep within your creative soul. Yes, you can enjoy reading and even writing cinquain. And it can become addicting. So go on, cross the line. I dare you!


By Monica E. Smith  


Its limbs 
Had been weakened 
Withered, bowed and broken 
From life's untold oppressive storms- 
Like hers


Memento Mori  

Gold cross 
Around her neck, 
A daughter's loving gift 
Now adorns but the memory 
Of life



A tree 
Appears from out 
Of the blue, turns and runs 
To the woods; 
Oh, the sheer delight 
Of deer!



Salty, flowing 
From sad eyes 
Lead me to my 



Generous gift 
Given by a daughter 
That a mother might cherish her 

Article Source:

Book: Shattered Sighs