CINQUAIN: What Is It? Why Do I Write So Much of It?

My book of cinquain is available on Amazon.

I’ve written poetry since I was a small child. And during all the years I’ve had the privilege of doing so, I have considered that the best poetry is that which adheres to a disciplined meter and rhyme scheme. However, a few years ago, in response to a national poetry writing challenge, I began to explore the form of poetry known as cinquain.

From the first time I made the effort to discipline my thoughts into the five-line, twenty-two syllable form, I fell in love with it. I found it comfortable and relaxing to write in that form, and although many poets feel that the subject should follow a prescribed theme, I found that the originator of the form Adelaide Crapsey, actually wrote cinquain about any number of subjects.

Adelaide was a poet and teacher in New York during her short adult life. She struggled with ill health for several years and passed away in 1914 at the young age of thirty-six. She had a great admiration for Japanese poetic forms, and those eastern forms undoubtedly had an influence on her as she took a basic five-line structure and disciplined it into what became her own original form: cinquain.

The form, as she created it, requires five-lines with the first line having two syllables, the second line having four syllables, the third line six syllables, the fourth line eight syllables, and the last line reverting back to only two. Adelaide tended to use iambic pentameter throughout her cinquain — not exclusively — but the majority of the time. I tend to do the same.

And although many poets believe the first four lines should present only one complete situation, thought, or picture, and the last line should take a turn in a different direction or offer a different perspective to finish the poem, I find that following that specific rule hampers the fun of using the form for a multitude of different subjects. In general the subject matter itself will offer a concluding idea that more or less wraps up the piece. And when I don’t strain to make that line do something different from the first four, it generally does offer something unique for a conclusion.

And there, dear reader, you have my thoughts and experiences with this delightful poetic form. Throughout this website — interspersed with several other forms of poetry (and even a tad bit of prose) — you’ll find my personal interpretation of a multitude of topics — from serious to hilarious, from mundane to inspirational — offered in the one bona-fide American poetic form known as cinquain. If you’d like to find all the cinquain on this site, just scroll to the bottom of the page and, in the “Categories” window, click on “Cinquain.”

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.