The cinquain in its simplest form, is merely a poem with a five-line stanza. Although Adelaide Crapsey created the modern form, English poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth century set the stage and became the inspiration for Miss Crapsey’s poetic design. The early cinquain was most frequently written with a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab, or abccb. The poems were generally longer than a single stanza.
For example, take a look at George Herbert’s…
Love built a stately house, where Fortune came,
And spinning fancies, she was heard to say
That her fine cobwebs did support the frame,
Whereas they were supported by the same;
But Wisdom quickly swept them all away.
The Pleasure came, who, liking not the fashion,
Began to make balconies, terraces,
Till she had weakened all by alteration;
But reverend laws, and many a proclomation
Reforméd all at length with menaces.
Then entered Sin, and with that sycamore
Whose leaves first sheltered man from drought and dew,
Working and winding slily evermore,
The inward walls and summers cleft and tore;
But Grace shored these, and cut that as it grew.
Then Sin combined with death in a firm band,
To raze the building to the very floor;
Which they effected,–none could them withstand;
But Love and Grace took Glory by the hand,
And built a braver palace than before.
—by George Herbert
Try It: Early Cinquain Style
Following the ababb, abaab, or abccb rhyme scheme, create a cinquain poem similar to the early styles of the sixteenth and seventeenth century poets. Think of what inspires you, maybe a greater purpose, or something that will exist long after us. Let your poem speak to the heart, bring joy, or give hope. A timeless combination.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a cinquain from Maureen we enjoyed:
‘Goodnight Moon’ once
You urged fingers to lips
And whispered two words in my ear:
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland