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How to Write a Cinquain Poem

Learn the Pattern of a Cinquain Poem and How to Write it Yourself

If you have just learned about the cinquain poem, and want to write one, then this article will tell you everything that you want to know.
Tulika Nair
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
When we are younger, somehow the impression is always that poetry is very simplistic with only one condition; that the lines rhyme. So all our attempts as budding poets have poems that end with rhyming syllables, that are easy to recite. As you grow older and learn about the different types of poems that are there in the world of literature, you realize that even in poems there are many different genres and it is in no way necessary that the lines in a poem need to rhyme. One good example of such a poetry type is the cinquain.

An Overview

Only the most sincere of poetry lovers would be aware of this little known poem. The name of the poem comes from the French word cinq which translates to mean five. The poem, despite its French sounding name, was actually developed in America by Adelaide Crapsey who was inspired by the Haiku style of poetry from Japan, which has seventeen syllables. She altered the form of the poem to differentiate it from Haiku. Adelaide Crapsey wrote as many as 28 of these poems. This form never really took off as a mainstream form, mainly because of its difficulty level. It is, though, one of the most beautiful forms of poetry to read. The poem always has five lines in one stanza. There are three different patterns of the basic form of poem. Let us take a look at these three patterns in detail.

Pattern One
First Line: One Word
Second Line: Two Words
Third Line: Three Words
Fourth Line: Four Words
Fifth Line: One Word

Pattern Two
First Line: One Noun
Second Line: Two Adjectives
Third Line: Three -ing Words
Fourth Line: A Phrase
Fifth Line: Synonym for the Noun

Pattern Three
First Line: Two Syllables
Second Line: Four Syllables
Third Line: Six Syllables
Fourth Line: Eight Syllables
Fifth Line: Two Syllables

These patterns are pretty much self-explanatory. It is also possible to combine the three patterns together to create an example. If it does not follow the syllable pattern but the word pattern, then it is often known as a word cinquain.

How to Write

Writing this type of poem can be a bit of a task as it is a form and style that takes some time to master. Just remember the following things.
  • The most important thing to remember when it comes to writing a cinquain is to ensure that it has five lines and the correct count of syllables (or words).
  • Most poets suggest writing about concrete and real situations rather than writing about abstract ideas and thoughts.
  • If it is possible, then try to use alliteration and assonance throughout your poem, as it will help emphasize the poem better.
  • Choose your topic carefully and try to ascertain every characteristic, for example what does it look like, smell like, taste like, feel like, etc.
  • Read and study a few other examples of this form of poetry. Study the rhythm and syllable patterns in the poem and try to use the most effective word for everything that you want to say.
Even today, it is very rare that you will come across many famous examples of this form of poetry which is what makes learning, understanding, and writing a cinquain all the more difficult. Today this form of poetry is generally used to teach students more about words and grammar, and also explain to them different forms of poetry in which aesthetic appearance and linguistic beauty is given equal importance.