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My Cinquain Thanksgiving


If you happen to live in Canada, you've already celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday on October 12th. In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving separately from Columbus Day (known in some U.S. communities as Indigenous Peoples' Day or el Dia de la Raza). This year it happens to fall on November 26. As Thanksgiving approaches, the form of writing that always springs to my mind is the cinquain.

Cinquains, an Americanized version of the traditional Japanese haiku form, are five-line poems. They consist of one line of 2 syllables, one line of four syllables, one line of six syllables, one line of eight syllables, and a final line of two syllables.

What do cinquains have to do with Thanksgiving? I learned the cinquain form during the 2006 Thanksgiving Day service at St. Paul's, the Episcopal church across the river from my home. Father David Ottsen, St. Paul's pastor at the time, is also a gifted poet, and he used the cinquain as a platform to express gratitude to the Higher Power. One of the fascinating things about the Episcopal church and its sister church overseas, the Anglican church, is its intimate connection with the English language. The great English poet John Milton was also an Anglican clergyman. If there was an official religion of English-language poetry, it would be Anglicanism.

But back to the poetry. Here are four cinquains I wrote to commemorate Thanksgiving 2006:

1. My niece 
Playful, giggling 
Fingers are in olives 
Expecting Santa Claus tonight 

2. Baby 
Crawling, drooling 
Playing with a turkey 
Chews a photo of her grandpa 
My dad

3. The day 
Thankful, grateful 
Too many cranberries 
Crowd out the mashed sweet potatoes 
No more

4. This day 
Thankful, grateful 
People we love gather 
Eating, laughing, talking, drinking 
Then pie

Now it's your turn! Turn the cinquain toward your own Thanksgiving celebration, use it to express your own thankfulness, or any other subject you'd like to take on. The haiku is traditionally about nature, but the possibilities of the cinquain are endless.

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