A cinquain is a type of poetry. In many ways it is similar to a Japanese haiku. What makes a cinquain unique?

While a Japanese haiku has a syllable count, consisting of 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables, a cinquain goes by the number of words in each line. It was invented by US poet Adelaide Crapsey, born September 9, 1878 in Brooklyn, New York. She enjoyed the Haiku style and adapted it to her own techniques. She named her new construction cinquain, based on the French word for "five".

The cinquain is always made up of five lines. In Adelaide's original form, those lines would have 2 syllables, 4 syllables, 6 syllables, 8 syllables and then 2 syllables again. Modern forms of the cinquain often use word counts instead. In either case, the content type of the line is the same. The layout for a cinquain is:

one word or two syllables - subject name
two words or four syllables - description
three words or six syllables - action
four words or eight syllables - description
one word or two syllables - summation

So a sample cinquain using the word-count method would be

blue feathers
fweeping all day
fluffing up in contentment

Here is a cinquain from Adelaide, using her syllable method:


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

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