Writing a Cinquain Poem

“I am what I choose to become.”
– Carl Jung

Cinquains are one of the easiest forms of poetry to write. This style of poetry has only been around for about 100 years, first invented by American poet Adelaide Crapsey.

A cinquain is a five-line poem is often in the shape of a lantern if it’s centered. If it’s left-alined (or right-aligned), it has the tendency to resemble a diamond. The gist of a cinquain is to tell a small story. This poem is much more than just descriptive words. It also includes actions to show something happening and an emotion connected to what is happening.

There are very few rules to this style of poetry. The poet can write on any topic they choose. Cinquains, for the most part, are always unrhyming. It should be noted that the Tanka (a five-lined poem from Japanese culture) is also a form of a cinquain.

So let’s get started.

The structure of the poem is this:

Line 1: 2 Syllables
This line is often the title. Most often it’s a one-word, two-syllable noun.

Line 2:
4 Syllables
This line is two adjectives.

Line 3:
6 Syllables
Choose three verbs that end in -ing.

Line 4:
8 Syllables
What’s a phrase that relates to your topic?

Line 5:
2 Syllables
A synonym for your title; it’s another noun.

Let’s look at an example. 

Desserts
Cheesecake, cookies
Eating, Slicing, Serving
Always so fast to disappear
Cupcakes.

But we are not done yet! Cinquains are a unique type of poem. Similar to sonnets and ballads, cinquains has a wide variety of poetic forms of which the poet can choose. Try some of these variations.

Reverse Cinquain

The only difference is that the syllables are reversed in lines 2 & 4:

Line 1: 2 Syllables
Line 2:
8 Syllables
Line 3: 6 Syllables
Line 4:
4 Syllables
Line 5:
2 Syllables

Mirror Cinquain

Note here that you’re combining a regular cinquain and a reverse cinquain:

Line 1: 2 Syllables
Line 2:
4 Syllables
Line 3: 6 Syllables
Line 4:
8 Syllables
Line 5:
2 Syllables
Line 6: 2 Syllables
Line 7:
8 Syllables
Line 8: 6 Syllables
Line 9:
4 Syllables
Line 10:
2 Syllables

Butterfly Cinquain

In this type of cinquain, you are writing a regular cinquain. Then, the first line of the second cinquain is cut off:

Line 1: 2 Syllables
Line 2:
4 Syllables
Line 3: 6 Syllables
Line 4:
8 Syllables
Line 5:
2 Syllables
Line 6: 8 Syllables
Line 7:
6 Syllables
Line 8: 4 Syllables
Line 9:
2 Syllables

Crown Cinquain

You may have noticed the crown cinquain looks different than all the others. In this style of poetry, each cinquain consists of the same syllables in each stanza. Except, this poem is now 25 lines long. Each cinquain is its own stanza:

Line 1: 2 Syllables
Line 2:
4 Syllables
Line 3: 6 Syllables
Line 4:
8 Syllables
Line 5:
2 Syllables

Line 6: 2 Syllables
Line 7:
4 Syllables
Line 8: 6 Syllables
Line 9:
8 Syllables
Line 10:
2 Syllables

Line 11: 2 Syllables
Line 12:
4 Syllables
Line 13: 6 Syllables
Line 14:
8 Syllables
Line 15:
2 Syllables

Line 16: 2 Syllables
Line 17:
4 Syllables
Line 18: 6 Syllables
Line 19:
8 Syllables
Line 20:
2 Syllables

Line 21: 2 Syllables
Line 22:
4 Syllables
Line 23: 6 Syllables
Line 24:
8 Syllables
Line 25:
2 Syllables

Garland Cinquain

Finally, we reach the garland cinquain. This cinquain poem is 6 stanzas long.

There are 5 stanzas of poetry in this structure:

Line 1: 2 Syllables
Line 2:
4 Syllables
Line 3: 6 Syllables
Line 4:
8 Syllables
Line 5:
2 Syllables

Stanza 6 (the final stanza) looks like this:

Line 1: Line 1 from Stanza 1
Line 2:
Line 2 from Stanza 2
Line 3: Line 3 from Stanza 3
Line 4:
Line 4 from Stanza 4
Line 5:
Line 5 from Stanza 5

Don’t forget to have fun with this poem. With so many varieties, this poem is a great way to get out of a creative slump.

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