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For December’s Pensieve’s Poetic License, our theme is celebration; poetic form, cinquain.

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Ahhhh, cinquain–I can see the gears s l o w l y revolving as you try to recall exactly what that is.  Why, writing poetry couldn’t be any easier than this–it’s a simple formula.  The only problem is, after a little investigation, I realized there are multiple formulas for writing cinquain.

First, let’s back up a little–the history. 

New York native, Adelaide Crapsey originated the cinquain, influenced by the Japanese haiku and less familiar tanka.  Although not published until after her death at only 36, she is credited with creating the only poetic genre native to America.  Here are two of my favorites of hers:

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

These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow…the hour
Before the dawn…the mouth of one
Just dead.

Chipper, wasn’t she?  Her work MUST have been heavily influenced by her own poor health, the death of her sister following graduation, her minister-father’s trial for heresy and subsequent removal from ministry, and the death of her brother.  Throw in a name like "Crapsey" and she was destined for a hard-knock life.

Interestingly, I didn’t find her poems to be in keeping with my perception of modern-day cinquain.  Hers, to me, were more poetic; today’s are more formulamatic.  Whatever the case, it’s time to stop stalling and for you to go forth and conquer the genre.  I KNOW you can do it! 

Here are three methods for writing a cinquain, you may recall others:

Line 1: a one-word line, a noun, that gives the poem its title
Line 2: two adjectives that describes what the poem is about
Line 3: three action -ing verbs that describe something the subject of the poem does
Line 4: a phrase that indicates a feeling related to the subject of the poem
Line 5: a one-word line, noun, that sums about the poem is about, essentially renaming it

(From Read-Write-Think)

A second method:

First Line:  2 syllables – One word, giving
title for your subject
Second Line: 4 syllables – Two words, describing
Third Line:  6 syllables – Three words,
expressing action
Fourth Line: 8 syllables – Four words, expressing
a feeling
Fifth Line:  2 syllables – Another word for the

(From Learn Poetry)

Wikipedia’s first description is nothing more than a five-line stanza with a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b-b.

So, there ya go…nothin’ to it!

A few of you have told me you’ve already written yours (once again, skunking ME!), so I’ll be curious to see if your selections mirror any of these methods.

You have until next week to write a poem (or two or three…), and I’ll have Mr. Linky posted just after the stroke of midnight on Tuesday the 18th thanks to TypePad’s pre-post feature.

Didn’t participate in last month’s PPL?  No worries–anytime is the perfect time to join us!

Related Links:

Adelaide Crapsey on Wiki
Rochester Library
Cinquain, Wiki

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