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Are Cinquains a Cinch?



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Everyone had so much fun with the lunes, I thought I'd try you on another short syllable-counting form.

The cinquain is a five-line poem (from the French word for "five", "cinq") with the following strict pattern:

Two syllables
Four syllables
Six syllables
Eight syllables
Two syllables

(I rather like chanting "Two syllables, four syllables, six syllables, eight", but I haven't been able to come up with a slam-bang finish for the last line. Help me out here?)

The cinquain was developed by a reclusive poet named Adelaide Crapsy in the early 1900's. She was directly inspired by a study of Japanese haiku and tanka. One of Adelaide's most memorable cinquain's is:


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

One of my own:

can make people
build pyramids, prisons
and roads, and can't make anyone

Cinquains do not have to be so somber. From Jeanne Cassler's poems published at the Cinquain Homepage:

Shade Tree

The oak
in my backyard
holds twisted rope and wood
and knows the name of every child
that swings.

My own attempt:

lulls me to sleep,
beats my bones like bongos,
echoes tongues from around the world ...
breathes life.

What can you do with 22 syllables?



Write one or more cinquain.


The basic critique is simply whether the syllable count is correct, per line. Then critique as any other peom -- does it work as a poem, regardless of the form? If you want to go beyond that, you might examine how the form adds to, or perhaps detracts from, the effectiveness of the poem. And anyone want to speculate on what the charm of these strict-syllable forms is?

A good web-reference on cinquain is the AHA! Poetry Cinquain Homepage.

Write On!