From the archives—one of our most requested blog posts. Thought you might enjoy a midsummer poetry break!
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Cinquain: an unrhymed poem consisting of five lines arranged in a special way.
Spinning, whirling, twirling
Dances with neighbor Jupiter
A cinquain is an example of shape poetry. Because of the exact number of words required for each line of this poem, a unique, symmetrical shape is created from interesting, descriptive words.
The word cinquain comes from the Latin root for “five.” Notice that the cinquain has five lines that follow this sequence:
Line A: One vague or general one-word subject or topic.
Line B: Two vivid adjectives that describe the topic.
Line C: Three interesting “-ing” action verbs that fit the topic.
Line D: Four-word phrase that captures feeling about the topic.
Line E: A very specific term that explains Line A.
Here’s another example:
Preening, searching, stalking
Waits as if praying
Use the tips below to brainstorm on blank paper for different ideas. Then follow the directions to write your own beautiful cinquain. When possible, try to use poetic devices like alliteration, onomatopoeia, or personification. Because the poem has a limited number of words, choose each word carefully!
Word Pair Ideas (general/specific)
- bird/parrot (crow, canary, dove)
- fruit/apple (pear, banana, watermelon, peach, etc.)
- season/spring (summer/fall/autumn/winter)
- winter/January (spring/April, summer/July, autumn/October)
- candy/jawbreaker (Snickers, jelly beans, licorice)
- storm/tornado (hurricane, blizzard, squall)
- water/river (ocean, lake, stream, creek)
Line A: Name a general topic (see the suggestions above for some ideas).
Line E: Rename your topic, being more specific. (This will be the last line of your cinquain.)
Line B: Brainstorm 5-6 vivid, concrete adjectives to describe Topic E. Do not choose words that end in “-ing.”
Line C: Brainstorm 5-6 highly descriptive participles (verbs ending in “-ing”) that fit Topic E.
Line D: Brainstorm several four-word phrases that capture some feeling about Topic E. Follow these tips to develop an effective phrase:
- Do not use any “to be” verbs or vague words.
- Do not repeat any words used elsewhere in the cinquain.
- If you can’t think of something, try a combination of adjective + noun + verb + adverb to achieve the most concrete phrase possible.
Writing Your Cinquain
- Pick out your most descriptive words from your brainstorming and put your cinquain together.
- When you are satisfied, recopy the poem onto clean notebook paper.
- Center your cinquain on the paper.
- Begin each line with a capital letter, and remember your commas. Do not use ending punctuation.
- When finished, double-check for concreteness!
Line A. _______
Line B. _______ , _______
Line C. _______ , _______, _______
Line D. _______ _______ _______ _______
Line E. _______
Finally, when your children are all done with their cinquains, come back and post their poems in the comment section. We would love to see them!
Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.