Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914), inventor of the Cinquain. Courtesy

A Cinquain ("sin-cane") is a type of 5-line poem. Originally used to describe any poem of five lines, it now refers to one of several forms that are defined by specific rules and guidelines.[1] (The word now used to mean a 5-line poem in general is Quintain.

Crapsey cinquainEdit

Cinquain was the name that American poet Adelaide Crapsey gave to the form that she invented,, inspired by Japanese haiku and tanka.[2] In her 1915 collection titled Verse, published one year after her death, Crapsey included 28 cinquains.[3]

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":[4]

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

The Crapsey cinquain has subsequently seen a number of variations by modern poets, including:

Crapsey cinquain variations
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.

Didactic cinquainEdit

The didactic cinquain is also 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
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, no 5.
Lanterne is a five line quintain verse shaped like a Japanese lantern with a syllabic pattern of one, two, three, four, one. Each line is usually able to stand on its own as a line, and the lanterne will not have a title.

See alsoEdit


  1. Hobsbaum, Philip (1996). Metre, rhythm and verse form. The new critical idiom. Routledge. pp. 186-188. ISBN 041508797X. 
  2. Toleos, Aaron. "Cinquains explained". Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  3. Toleos, Aaron. Verse and its legacy. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  4. Crapsey, Adelaide (1922). Verse, p. 31. Quoted in 28 cinquains from Adelaide Crapsey's Verse, at Retrieved 2010-06-09.

External linksEdit

  • - A scholarly exploration of the American cinquain as popularized by Adelaide Crapsey.
  • The Cinquain Page at Amaze: The Cinquain Jurnal]
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