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  • Writer's pictureEugenia Sestini

Writing Cinquains

More poetry!

More poetry! If you had a go at writing some haikus a couple of months ago, I thought this week you could try something new.

The cinquain (which sounds like a combination of the words “sin” and “cane”) is a poem or stanza composed of five lines.

Poets have been writing cinquains for centuries – in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, poets like Sir Philip Sidney and John Donne regularly wrote in this form.

Traditionally, a cinquain is a five-line stanza, but in the twentieth century, a new kind of cinquain was created.

Adelaide Crapsey

Early twentieth-century poet Adelaide Crapsey used her own form of cinquain, with 22 syllables spread among the five lines in a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 pattern.

Her cinquain would look like this:

2 syllables

4 syllables

6 syllables

8 syllables

2 syllables

So if I had a go at this I could write something like the following:


This is your home

I open the front door

You’re still asleep, you’re only one

Day old

Modern poets then took her cinquain and developed some variations, for example, the reverse cinquain (reversing the number of syllables per line, so 2, 8, 6, 4 and 2) and the mirror cinquain (a standard cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain). 

Didactic cinquain

This type of cinquain is commonly used in schools, and it focuses on the number of words instead of the number of syllables.

Each one of the 5 lines needs to have a certain number of words, namely 1, 2, 3, 4 and 1.

The first line has one word, the subject or topic of the poem; the second line contains two adjectives describing that topic; the third line has three words describing the subject though verbs (usually ending in -ing); the fourth line is made up of four words describing feelings related to that subject; and the fifth line is one word, it could be a synonym of the subject or another word closely related to the subject in the first line.

To sum up:

1st Line: One word, the subject or topic 2nd Line: Two adjectives that describe the topic 3rd Line: Three verbs ending in -ing related to the subject (or a three-word phrase that describes an action related to the subject) 4th Line: Four words that capture a feeling about your topic 5th Line: One word that refers back to the first line

Maybe it’s because I’ve been living in London for twelve years, but I always seem to be dreaming of… summer. I wrote this didactic cinquain as an example:


Glorious, bright

Splashing, playing, singing

Unwinding in the sun


Didactic cinquains come with clear instructions, so they might be easier to write than the traditional cinquains that were written five centuries ago, but some may find this format a bit constraining, so feel free to try a form that works for you.

You can download this week’s worksheet to write a didactic cinquain.

I can’t wait to read your poems!

Happy writing!

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