Poetry Wednesday: Crapsey Cinquain Contest

I’m currently on the road—or possibly circling downtown St. Louis looking for my hotel—so I’m not prepared to offer the usual Poetry Wednesday.

This time, I want you to do it for me.

Janie’s homework assignment this week was to write a cinquain poem about her neighborhood or town.

A cinquain is a five-line poem. The term used to mean all five-line poems, but there are always those who aren’t comfortable without rules and guidelines, so now there are tanka* and tetractys** and cinqku*** and lanternes,^  and all sorts of other forms that drive my spell-check nuts.

And then there’s the Crapsey cinquain, the name of which is not a description or statement of value—necessarily—but only indicates that Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914) is considered by many to be the inventor of the modern form, which is based on syllables per line—two, four, six, eight, two—with a fixed number of stressed syllables as well.^^

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


As it
Were tissue of silver
I’ll wear, O fate, thy grey
And go mistily radiant, clad
Like the moon.

 As with all things literary, a vareity of poets messed with the basic form and came up with reverse cinquains^^^ and butterfly cinquains,^^^^ mirrored,+ garland,++ crown,+++ etc., all with different rules and further opportunities to be snobby about one’s preferred métier.

Most schools use the didactic form, which is all about word count and parts of speech.  Janie’s assignment asked for a one, two, three, four, one, noun-adjective form:

Quiet, cool
Clean, big, pretty
Fresh, friendly, nice, bright

Simple,¹ right?  So let’s try it here.

Leave a cinquain of any form except didactic—because I can be snobby, too—in the comments.  The subject is up to you.

Anyone who gives it a try will be entered into a drawing for something appropriately poetic, which I realize is vague, but what do you have to lose? 

Anyone who attempts the garland or crown form will be entered twice in the drawing, because whew.

You have until next Wednesday.


* a five-line form of unrhymed Japanese poetry, totalling 31 precisely stressed stanzas structured in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern.

** a 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.

*** five lines with a total of 17 syllables.

^ an untitled five line verse with a syllabic pattern of one, two, three, four, one.

^^She also seems to have suffered from either depression or deep-seated anger—many of her cinquains appear to be about crying or death.  I’m just sayin’.

^^^ one 5-line stanza in a syllabic pattern of two, eight, six, four, two.

^^^^ two 5-line stanzas consisting of a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain.

 +a nine-line syllabic form with the pattern two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two.

++a series of five cinquains functioning to construct one larger poem.

+++ 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.

¹ While showing signs of great poetic genius, of course.


9 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: Crapsey Cinquain Contest

  1. Waterville
    Suburbia Amplified
    Moms in minvans
    Still sporting McCain/Palin decals

    Slashed words count only as one word, right? Otherwise, there are many more where this came from. All similar though. Sadly.

  2. My attempt is so not as good/cool as John’s (which really was really awesome), and I kinda cheated by picking a five line poem I already had apart to this…but here it is!


    I rest
    on every breath
    you take; a leaf a’float
    on waves as distinctly graceful
    as you.

    rise is a swell:
    gentle, carrying me
    out to a calm, deep sweep. The fall
    drugs me.

    Not drugs,
    but drags me in:
    deep into sweet, quiet
    hollows. And I rest In the center–

    at last with you,
    entwined in an ocean
    of so soft, breathless, murmuring
    in time.

    and brine friction:
    hazardous mania,
    not as clear as your seaside eyes
    but bright.

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