Monday, July 06, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Cinquain

My apologies to my fellow writers who have come around looking for stretches. I just spent two amazing weeks with a group of teachers and thought of little beyond math, math, and more math.

Poetry relies on a great deal of math, from rhyme scheme (patterns) to counting syllables to forms that are based on mathematical sequences (Fibonacci numbers). Today I've selected a form that generally relies on syllable counting.

***** defines the cinquain in this fashion.
The cinquain, also known as a quintain or quintet, is a poem or stanza composed of five lines. Examples of cinquains can be found in many European languages, and the origin of the form dates back to medieval French poetry. 
The most common cinquains in English follow a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab or abccb. 
I'll admit that the first part of this definition was unfamiliar to me. It was only this second part that I recognized.
Adelaide Crapsey, an early twentieth-century poet, used a form of 22 syllables distributed among the five lines in a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 pattern, respectively. Her poems share a similarity with the Japanese tanka, another five-line form, in their focus on imagery and the natural world.
This is the form that is taught in schools alongside haiku and diamante, though I'm not fond of the didactic approach generally taken, which consists of listing words related to a topic (adjectives, action verbs, etc.) .

If you are looking for some guidance, Kenn Nesbitt has a nice page on how to write a cinquain.

For a bit of inspiration, here's one of my favorite poems by Adelaide Crapsey.

Niagara, Seen on a Night in November

How frail
Above the bulk
Of crashing water hangs
Autumnal, evanescent, wan,
The moon.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a cinquain (or two). Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Thank you, Tricia, for another terrific post. I've been stuck on a poem, and a cinquain might be way out. I wrote about it on my blog today:

  2. Thinking of summer, also horror movies and puns. I used Ken's format.

    cranks up loudly,
    tosses grass like green rain,
    makes air smell of summer, cuts lawn

    drips as the sun
    makes my grape popsicle
    do anything but freeze—I scream
    and run.

    —Kate Coombs, 2015
    all rights reserved

  3. One more, this time unrhymed:

    Hot dogs,
    edges blackened,
    smell calling for catsup,
    taste best beside weathered tents at
    the beach.

    —Kate Coombs, 2015,
    all rights reserved

    I crush
    My teeth against
    An apple, then smile as
    its juicy taste explodes inside
    my mouth.

    (c) Charles Waters 2015 all rights reserved.