How To Write Cinquain
As the name suggests, the Cinquain is a poem of five lines. The most common variation of this form is the American Cinquain. It is heavily inspired by haiku and tanka in Japanese poetry. This form is a poem of five lines that have specific syllable counts. (2,4,6,8,2)
Rules of the Cinquain
- It is a poem of five lines
- It is a poem of twenty-two syllables
- The syllable count of each line is (2,4,6,8,2)
- It is typically unrhymed
- As always, bend the rules if you want to
Advantages of the Form
This form is a great tool for short poems. It’s essentially a cousin to the haiku and tanka. It is a great medium to express imagery and beauty, but unlike haiku, is not typically hindered by any subject matter requirements. The format of the poem lends to great or twist endings. The impact of the two syllables after the eight-syllable line can create fun and unique images in your poems. Additionally, this version is not the only form of cinquain. There are plenty of variations on the form if you find yourself stuck, or just want to keep exploring five-line poetry!
Variations of the Form
Reverse Cinquain – The syllable count of each line is (2,8,6,4,2)
Example of the Form
eyelids of gossamer–
soft cobwebs woven in secret
Prompt 1 – If You Could Be Any Animal
You can be any animal you want. Now you can be the birds that fly or the house cat that lounges all day. You can even be a worm if you want. What does your new life look like?
A polar bear
So I could enjoy cold
weather, and swim with the icebergs
Prompt 2 – Decorating on a Syllable Budget
You can decorate your room with only the items that you can fit in this poem. It’s just like decorating your house on a budget. What makes the cut? And what could you live without?
Wait no, a door
Oh, I guess I get both
So a bed a door and I’m out
Prompt 3 – Google Earth
Use Google Earth to go somewhere you’ve never been before. Use your 22 syllables to describe this brand-new experience.
mean to just drop in here
Google Earth has set me in your
Prompt 4 – Objects
If you could bring one object to life, what would you pick? I wonder what a chainsaw has to say…
was here before
I moved in. I bet he
has a bunch of stories to tell–
Prompt 5 – Food Truck
New food truck just rolled into town–what’re they making?
I hope they serve
Some french fries with french toast
This town needs some rebels in it–
Prompt 6 – Changing of the Seasons
It’s finally spring. Are you sad to see winter go? Sad that fall is still so far? Excited for the next few months?
bloom in the back
Green canopies above
No snow so I am no longer
Prompt 7 – Generational Lessons
What did your parents teach you that is invaluable, or what do you wish they had?
taught me how to
cook grilled chicken and beans
I wish he hadn’t–my girlfriend