A cinquain is a five-line poem that was invented by Adelaide Crapsey. She was an American poet who took her inspiration from Japanese haiku and tanka. A collection of poems, titled Verse, was published in 1915 and included 28 cinquains. Cinquains are particularly vivid in their imagery and are meant to convey a certain mood or emotion. Explore several examples of cinquain poems and their format.
American Cinquain Poem Form and Structure
Originally, Adelaide Crapsey created the form for the American cinquain with five lines. Each line is stressed in a specific way. Additionally, as the form progressed, a syllable structure was added.
Stresses Per Line
Explore the composition of each line by looking at the specific stressed and unstressed syllables.
- The first line has one stress, which was usually an iambic meter with the first syllable unstressed and the second stressed.
- Line two has two stresses.
- Line three has three stresses.
- Line four has four stresses.
- Line five has one stress.
Syllables Per Line
Following the invention of this form, writers made changes to the form and included a certain number of syllables per line.
- Line one has two syllables.
- Line two has four syllables.
- Line three has six syllables.
- Line four has eight syllables.
- Line five has two syllables.
Even though iambic feet were typically used in these cinquains, it was not a requirement of the structure. See how this cinquain poem form worked through a classic Crapsey example.
American Cinquain Example: Snow by Adelaide Crapsey
Because Adelaide Crapsey created the cinquain as a poetic form, the best example of a cinquain is a poem that she wrote titled "Snow."
"Look up …
From bleakening hills
Blows down the light, first breath
Of wintry wind … look up, and scent
Popular Cinquain Poem Forms
Since its invention, there have been many variations of the cinquain. Explore a few different types of cinquain poem examples. Certain types of cinquains are also called quintains or quintets because they have five lines.
- reverse cinquain - an American cinquain followed by a reverse American cinquain
- butterfly cinquain - a nine-line poem with a specific syllable pattern
- crown cinquain - puts five cinquains together to create a 25-line, five-stanza poem
Didactic Cinquain Poem Form 1
This is a very popular form of cinquain because of its simplicity. Instead of incorporating stress and syllables, it uses word counts.
- The first line is one word which is the title of the poem.
- The second line contains two words which are adjectives that describe the title.
- The third line has three words that tell the reader more about the subject of the poem or show action. Many times these words are gerunds that end with -ing.
- The fourth line has four words that show emotions about the subject of the poem and may be individual words or a phrase.
- The fifth line is one word that is a synonym of the title or is very similar to it.
Explore a few examples of didactic cinquain form.
Watermelon by Anonymous
Watermelon never felt more delicious than in this unique poem.
Dripping, slurping, smacking
So messy to eat
Snow by Anonymous
A fun wintry example of the cinquain form.
Falling, dancing, drifting
Covering everything it touches
Castle By William Swink
William Swink created a powerful castle example that demonstrates the power of this form.
Imposing, protecting, watching
Symbolizes wealth and power
Didactic Cinquain Form 2
This didactic form is just slightly different from the first form in that the fourth line is a complete sentence and may have more than four words.
- The first line is one word.
- The second line contains two adjectives.
- The third line has three words ending in -ing.
- The fourth line has four or more words that make a complete sentence.
- The fifth line is one word.
See this cinquain form in action through these examples.
Acrobats by Anonymous
See the rhyme of this form through a fun acrobat example.
Flipping, twirling, jumping
They make me laugh
Star by Anonymous
The feeling and use of words shine in this star cinquain example.
Shining, burning, exploding
It gives life to everything
Penguins by Anonymous
Get a smile from this cute little penguin example.
Waddling, swimming, eating
They are playing in the water
Other Cinquain Examples
While didactic cinquains are one of the most popular among students, it can be good to see a few longer cinquain poems in action.
My Love by Abigail Gronway
Explore a garland cinquain in action by looking at this poem by Abigail Gronway.
to you I give,
nor could I less bestow
than that which you have given me,
you are my life,
my voice, the air I breathe,
the center of my universe,
fill me with light,
and all my life I’ll give —
to orbit ‘round you will be my
my soul with praise —
your praises I will sing
as if it were enough to show
and so I’ll go,
to leave you for a day,
until the day when I can show
you are my life,
and all my life I’ll give,
as if it were enough to show
Soulful Husbandry by Lancealot
See an example of a reverse cinquain by looking at this unique cinquain poem.
lives in each of
us to make us what we
are, though we train them how to serve
compete to make us what we are.
So train them well and choose
the wolf that you
Write Your Own Cinquain
Now that you have read some examples of cinquain, you see how easy it is to write your own. Keep your love of poetry going strong by checking out haiku poem examples.