In its simplest form, a traditional cinquain is a 5 line poem. A cinquain may or may not rhyme.

In the early 20th century, poet Adelaide Crapsey redefined the American cinquain. Crapsey’s cinquain, inspired by Asian poetry forms, consisted of 22 total syllables, distributed as 2-4-6-8-2, usually iambic.

To be even more precise, her ideal cinquain worked up to a climax, typically in the 4th line, and fell back to the two-syllable punch line in the 5th. As an imagist poet, Crapsey infrequently used adjectives.

Eventually, elementary school teachers began using a modified version of the cinquain in lessons. Instead of syllables, cinquains were used to teach grammar forms:

Line 1: Noun
Line 2: Description of Noun
Line 3: Action
Line 4: Feeling or Effect
Line 5: Synonym of the initial noun.

Modern day cinquain tend to be syllable-patterned as developed by Crapsey. However, many poets are adding their own spin and drawing from their own experiences with syllable-driven poetry.

The following links demonstrate some variations of cinquain poetry:

Cinquain Sequence

Reverse Cinquain

Mirror Cinquain

Cinquain Butterfly


Each link below is a separate example of basic modern cinquain:

Toxic by Carrie Page

Hope by Carrie Page


Do you have an example of a cinquain poem you’d like to share? Perhaps you would like to donate another example to this page? You will be credited for your work and a link to your blog will be included with the sample. Leave a note and a link to it in the comments!

OOPS! Did you find an error? Please let me know. Leave a comment.

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