Poetic Form: Cinquain
Three Stanzas of Five Lines of Love
Foolishly I write poetry for you
Careless lover, whose attention ever
Drifts to others’ charms and ignores those few
I offer, always in search of ‘different’ and ‘new.’
Someday never seemed so much like never.
In my anger I write you angry verse
Yet as I do I know I am cloying
My desire for you has become perverse
My poems I hoped you would be enjoying
It seems you only find annoying
For you the princess of my dreams
Happily I write affectionate rhymes
Though certainly I am no sort of prince
And I abandoned any hope for us long since
The moments you spare me are my favorite times
A.K.A. quintain or quintet, the cinquain is composed of five lines, and can stand alone as a poem or act as a stanza or stanzas within a larger work. This form originated, as far as experts can tell, in French medieval poetry.
Cinquains in English often follow a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab or abccb. Since it is a rhyming form, we don’t want any lines that end in ‘orange’, and it will go easier for us if we choose words that are easy to rhyme. You can use a rhyming dictionary if you like. Anything you use to help you write poetry I think is a good thing. I like to use a regular dictionary and perhaps a thesaurus.
To write in a strict rhyming form, sometimes it’s helpful to lay the form out in advance like this:
Then you won’t forget what rhyme you’re on. It works like this:
A Waiting for you is such torture, dear,
B Alone in the bed, laying in the dark.
A Where have you gone? I wish you were here.
A I am so much happier when you are near.
B Hark! Outside! I think I heard you bark.
There we have it: a lovely poem of pathetic loneliness for a canine companion in five lines. Like any poem it is nice when the last line turns the rest of the poem. People like surprises.
Don’t forget to delete the rhyme scheme letters before you submit the poem for publication. Oh, how embarrassing that would be.
Since this is an old form, it might be nice when you use it to consider factors like meter, number of syllables per line and the syllable stresses – not necessarily that you will use them in the strict way they were originally used, but that you will be aware of them and use them to enhance the rhythm and ‘music’ of your poetry.
The cinquain at the beginning of this article is a multi-stanza version of the form. In it I change up the rhyme scheme in every stanza, but for a little extra exercise, one could stick with the same rhyme scheme throughout. I think I have the hang of it now. Now maybe I’ll try a few more. They’re kind of addicting. :)
Cinquain for HP
I wrote a lovely cinquain for HP
As alone in my room I sat
Composing verses happily
Until I suddenly realized that
The only one who’ll read it is the cat
Well, it’s not exactly true
That my audience is just the cat
I mean, you read it, didn’t you?
And the cat is very discerning, too.
At least I can be thankful for that
Happy writing. :)