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5-line form: How to write a cinquain poem

 What is a cinquain poem?

 A cinquain poem is a simple, but strictly structured form of creative verse. Cinquain poetry is marked by an economy of language, as few words are used to create the lines within this poetic form. Cinquain poems represent a popular form of verse, particularly for beginning students in creative writing.


How do you write a cinquain poem?

 Basically, a cinquain poem includes five lines, each containing a prescribed number of syllables. The most common forms of cinquain poetry are structured as follows:


Line 1 contains two syllables (usually the one-word title of the cinquain poem).

Line 2 contains four syllables (usually two words, describing the title of the cinquain poem).

Line 3 contains six syllables (usually three words, citing an action or plot of the cinquain poem).

Line 4 contains eight syllables (usually four words, portraying the emotion or feeling of the cinquain poem).

Line 5 contains two syllables (usually one word, recalling the title of the cinquain poem – either as a synonym or repetition).

 This structure of a basic cinquain poem is often noted this way: 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2. Of course, the numbers represent the syllables contained in each line of the poem.

 Here’s an example of a basic cinquain:




Fatigue –

Dragging downwards,

Calling wakeful away

Beyond being, making mortals


c2010 by Linda Ann Nickerson


The lines of a cinquain may form actual sentences, but this is not a firm rule.


Who invented the cinquain poetry form?

 American poetess Adelaide Crapsey created the five-line cinquain form that is likely most familiar to today’s readers. A fan of Japanese poetic forms, such as haikus and tankas, Adelaide Crapsey devised the tightly structured cinquain poetic form in the 19th Century.

 Five-line poetry predated Adelaide Crapsey’s American cinquains. The English quintain, the French cinquain, the Italian quintain, the Japanese tanka, the Spanish quintella all existed before Adelaide Crapsey first penned her American cinquins.

 Here’s an example of a cinquain poem, penned by Adelaide Crapsey:




These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow…the hour
Before the dawn…the mouth of one
Just dead.

By Adelaide Crapsey (c1915, public domain)


How to write a cinquain poem:

 To write a cinquain poem, the writer must begin with a simple concept. Often, a cinquain will express an emotion, an epiphany, or a seemingly universal truth. Some cinquains are practically proverbial, offering worldly wisdom. Others observe life, nature, people, or other subjects.

 After choosing a cinquain concept, the poet selects a two-syllable word as the title. The cinquain builds from there, using the basic syllable structure: 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2.

 Beginning poets may find a thesaurus helpful, as they construct their first cinquain poems.


What variations of the cinquain poem exist?

 Cinquain poetry may contain several variations of form. Five cinquain poem variations are often found. For a poem crafted for fit any of these assorted forms, the content of each line (and the title) may be more flexible than in the classic cinquain form.


A backwards (or reverse) cinquain contains five lines, with this syllable structure: 2 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2.


Back or Forth



Sometimes feels like giving up ground.

But ev’ry now and then,

We find we are


c2020 by Linda Ann Nickerson


A butterfly cinquain contains nine syllables, with this syllable structure: 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2.


Flutter By


Flit, float –

Whisper around,

Looking for a landing.

Pretty may be as pretty does.


A butterfly is just a moth,

Dressed up for the sunshine.

Don’t even blink.

It’s gone.

c2019 by Linda Ann Nickerson


A mirror cinquain contains two stanzas of five lines, with this syllable structure: 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2 and 2 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2.





What’s your message?

Who’s the fairest? Not me.

Which lies will I buy into next?

Who cares?


Not me.

Say it again, so I can hear.

Crack me up; make me laugh.

It matters not.

Does it?

c2017 by Linda Ann Nickerson


In addition, cinquain poetry may appear in clusters or patterns. For example:

 A crown cinquain contains five stanzas of cinquains, each using the traditional cinquain syllable structure: 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2.

 A garland cinquain contains six stanzas. The first five stanzas use the traditional cinquain syllable structure: 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2. The sixth (and final) stanza in a garland cinquain takes one line from each of the preceding ones. The last stanza of the garland cinquain takes the first line from the first stanza, the second line from the second stanza, and so on.

 Readers: If you experiment with any or all of these cinquain forms, publishing them on your own blog or website, please comment here with links. My readers and I would love to read them.


Image/s: Adapted by this user from public domain image


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 NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.