Short Verse Forms 4 – Cinquain

December 2004


 Introduction by Deborah P. Kolodji

What is a cinquain? Five lines. Originally, a cinquain was simply this – a stanza or poem of five lines, similar to the definition of a quatrain as a stanza or poem of four lines. This is still the dictionary definition and by this definition, a tanka is also a cinquain.

However, the cinquain as we’ve come to know it, a five line poem with a syllable pattern of 2-4-6-8-2, was developed by the Imagist poet, Adelaide Crapsey, as a result of her studies of metrics and was influenced by her interest in haiku and tanka. Crapsey’s cinquains were also usually iambic in meter.

The cinquain is continuing to evolve today as more and more poets take up the form. Cinquain writers are currently writing in cinquain sequences, crown cinquains (cinquain sequences with five stanzas), mirror cinquains (two stanza cinquain sequences where the syllable pattern of the second stanza is reversed to a 2-8-6-4-2 pattern), reverse cinquains (2-8-6-4-2 syllables) and cinquain butterflies (a merged mirror cinquain of only one stanza where one of the middle 2 syllable lines is dropped, resulting in a 2-4-6-8-2-8-6-4-2 pattern) in addition to the original five line form.

Denis Garrison, one of the founders of Amaze: The Cinquain Journal, favors a connection between the first line and the last line, in the manner of the Irish bardic device, dunadh, sometimes known as a “circle-back”. I’m partial to the use of a “turn” in a cinquain, occurring at the end of the second or third line, similar to the way juxtaposition is used in haiku.

As more poets write in the cinquain form, each will find their own voice, but in general, cinquains are usually written in natural language and are normally, although not always, titled. Finally, it is good to remember that while all five-line poems are technically cinquains in the dictionary sense, the American cinquain as developed by Crapsey is very simply a five line poem with a syllable pattern of 2-4-6-8-2. Write one!

New Year’s Eve

glass clinks
of champagne toasts,
we bubble with resolve –
in the wait for the ball to drop,
a chance

Advent Wreath

of evergreen
with four candles waiting –
each Sunday a prayer closer to

Un Rosario de Lluvia*

small drops
strike our foreheads
in the cemetery –
as we celebrate her short life
God’s tears

* A Rosary of Rain

The Winds of Winter

wind gusts
blow the photos
behind the pine dresser –
old house stripped of her belongings,
passed on

The Way We Were

we stroll
around campus,
stop a bit by Mudd Hall –
wizened gargoyles grin at lost youths,
old bricks

Deborah P. Kolodji


Frost Warning

brighter than now:
cosmos, dahlias, & snap-
dragons throwing last sparks before

Jazz Sunset

Last wail
against twilight . . .
tenor sax defiance
shines solo from the depths of the
band shell.

Samhain Shadows

tonight the mist
hiding that final road
& travelers whose raven souls

Ann K. Schwader


Echoes Through Time

My world
is 10 years old –
full of rainbow snow cones;
a little blonde girl whispers she
loves me.

Morning Devotions

The fire
burning hot now
she breathes a heavy sigh –
then hums, as she pats tortillas

Key Largo

Your voice
like liquid smoke,
whispers smoldering still
across the years, as you glide through
my dreams.

Those days
we had it all.
Now I watch northern lights,
and you pick desert wildflowers
at dawn.

Michael L. Evans


Love is Patient

for my shadow
at moonrise, I miss you . . .
knowing you’re far beyond the stars

End of Day

over the dunes,
gulls gather for the night
watching for the last reddish glint
of day. . .
stirring gently under the stars
they huddle and murmur
inside the dunes

For Honey

a flowered scarf
you waited for springtime
and the first crocus…then left us
too soon.

Carol Raisfeld


1st Death Anniversary

petals cover
our jacaranda lane,
where, last year, we watched the last gasp
of spring.

18th Birthday
(For Vince)

Too bad
his own father
he’s never seen nor met
could not witness how he grew up
a man,
to face the world
with his single mother
who has raised him strong in mind and

Moving out

House sold
and empty now,
but if you listen hard,
our kid’s laughter still echoes from
its walls.

Victor P. Gendrano



Your words,
cold as snowflakes,
pile up around my heart
until there is no holding back

The Last Rose

Blood red
velvet petals
lie on the garden path.
The last rose of summer fell as
you left.

Andrea Da Costa


Focal Point

reflected whole
into fragmented mirrors
splintered in new directions
for change.



Seldom A Song

sealed in silence–
Only the inner ear
may hear a waspish song of spring

Mirrored Cinquain:

the price of plums
no school has ever taught
how the squirrel should unburden
its soul
the dove’s
grace and power to sing all day
and glide from tree to tree
as sunlight crests

Linked Cinquain:
Demoralizing Days

foil shimmers
in the jeweler’s loupe,
frost facets clinging to diamond

like a shawl on grieving shoulders,
this desolate landscape
even deeper

* Resembling or connected with a root.

Karina Klesko


linked cinquain


Wrought ire
Of grass and turf,
As I stoop low to wince,
Hands me splayed blades like welcome mats
And waves.

Conrad DiDiodato


talons and wings
clawing and beating air
stretched to the edges of itself,

Karina Klesko


Venetian Blind

twenty-three ways,
an Adriatic dawn
too bright and too clear collages
my eye.

Rich Magahiz


Cold rain,
Harvested fields;
North wind speaking loudly
To a shivering grasshopper;
Nap time

Frank Lohmeyer



Too soon
her grandchildren
leave; the sound of laughter
lingers, crinkled among Christmas

Laryalee Fraser


Love Affair

Used books
no longer old,
now that they’re in my arms–
I dance across the pages of
new life.

Spinning Sky

Our school
where fall leaves flew
off fast merry-go-rounds
we’re hanging on and laughing yet
grown up.


Street lights
glowing at dawn–
millions of blades of grass,
each holding a tiny lantern
of dew.

b’oki (Bette wappner)

This entry was posted in Poetry, Vol 4-1 December 2004 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Short Verse Forms 4 – Cinquain

  1. qualandar says:

    Reblogged this on All Poetry Magazine.

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