Cinquain (pronounced /ˈsɪŋkeɪn/) is a class of poetic forms that employ a 5-line pattern. Earlier used to describe any five-line form, it now refers to one of several forms that are defined by specific rules and guidelines.
American poet Adelaide Crapsey invented the modern form, inspired by Japanese haiku and tanka. In her 1915 collection titled Verse, published one year after her death, Crapsey included 28 cinquains.
Crapsey's cinquains utilized an increasing syllable count in the first four lines, namely two in the first, four in the second, six in the third, and eight in the fourth, before returning to two syllables on the last line. In addition, though little emphasized by critics, each line in the majority of Crapsey cinquains has a fixed number of stressed syllables, as well, following the pattern one, two, three, four, one. The most common metrical foot in her twenty-eight published examples is the iamb, though this is not exclusive. Lines generally do not rhyme. In contrast to the Eastern forms upon which she based them, Crapsey always titled her cinquains, effectively utilizing the title as a sixth line.
The form is illustrated by Crapsey's "November Night":
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
The Crapsey cinquain has subsequently seen a number of variations by modern poets, including:
Variation Description Reverse cinquain a form with one 5-line stanza in a syllabic pattern of two, eight, six, four, two. Mirror cinquain a form with two 5-line stanzas consisting of a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain. Butterfly cinquain a nine-line syllabic form with the pattern two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two. Crown cinquain a sequence of five cinquain stanzas functioning to construct one larger poem. Garland cinquain a series of six cinquains in which the last is formed of lines from the preceding five, typically line one from stanza one, line two from stanza two, and so on.
The didactic cinquain is closely related to the Crapsey cinquain. It is an informal cinquain widely taught in elementary schools and has been featured in, and popularized by, children's media resources, including Junie B. Jones and PBS Kids. This form is also embraced by young adults and older poets for its expressive simplicity. The prescriptions of this type of cinquain refer to word count, not syllables and stresses. Ordinarily, the first line is a one-word title, the subject of the poem; the second line is a pair of adjectives describing that title; the third line is a three word phrase that gives more information about the subject; the fourth line consists of four words describing feelings related to that subject; and the fifth line is a single word synonym or other reference for the subject from line one.
Form Description Tanka is a five-line form of unrhymed Japanese poetry, totalling 31 moras structured in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern. Tetractys is five-line poem of 20 syllables with a title, arranged in the following order: 1,2,3,4,10, with each line standing as a phrase on its own. It can be inverted, doubled, etc. and was created by the late English poet Ray Stebbings. Cinqku is a five line blending of the Cinquain and Tanka forms, created by American poet Denis Garrison. It consists of five lines with a total of 17 syllables. Lanterne is an untitled five line quintain verse with a syllabic pattern of one, two, three, four, one. Each line is usually able to stand on its own.
- Quintain (poetry)
- ^ Hobsbaum, Philip (1996). Metre, rhythm and verse form. The new critical idiom. Routledge. pp. 186–188. ISBN 041508797X.
- ^ Alakalay-Gut, Karen (May 1985). "Death, Order, and Poetry". American Literature 57 (2): 263–289. JSTOR 2926066.
- ^ Drury, John (2006). The poetry dictionary. Writer's Digest Books. p. 61. ISBN 1582973296.
- ^ Toleos, Aaron. Cinquains explained Retrieved 2010-06-11.
- ^ Toleos, Aaron. Verse and its legacy Retrieved 2010-06-11.
- ^ Crapsey, Adelaide (1922). Verse, p. 31. Quoted in 28 cinquains from Adelaide Crapsey's Verse, at Cinquain.org. Retrieved 2010-06-09.
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