Cinquain History & a #Cinquain, “Heed the Call”

It’s always fun to learn a bit about the person behind the syllabic form. So, meet the creator of the Crapsey Cinquain:

Adelaide Crapsey

American Poet, Adelaide Crapsey, was born on September 9, 1878 in Brooklyn Heights, New York. She was “raised in a liberal environment that encouraged great expectations for women.” (

Adelaide Crapsey did not invent the five line poem. As an early twentieth-century poet, she used a form of 22 syllables distributed among the five lines in a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 pattern, respectively. Her poems share a similarity with the Japanese tanka, another five-line form, in their focus on imagery and the natural world. (

The cinquain, from the French, literally means a group of five. It is also called a quintain or quintet. It is a poem or stanza composed of five lines know as a:


  1. a short poem consisting of five, usually unrhymed lines containing, respectively, two, four, six, eight, and two syllables. ( shares the ingredients which make up the Crapsey cinquain and how has it’s evolved since her volume of poetry was first published in 1915. Please click the links to learn more…

To Center… or Not?

There is a debate as to whether or not Cinquain poetry should be centered on the page. Cinquains are a form of shape poetry. I prefer them centered because I believe the shape adds to the drama of the written poem. I’ve researched this question. There is NO hard and fast rule on this matter. So, do what makes you happy.

Cinquain Rules

Additionally, gives us more direction to the more modern versions of cinquain:

“The American cinquain is an unrhymed, five-line poetic form defined by the number of syllables in each line—the first line has two syllables, the second has four, the third six, the fourth eight, and the fifth two (2-4-6-8-2). They are typically written using iambs. Adelaide Crapsey’s “November Night” is a good example:

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

“Some scholars define the line length of American cinquains by counting iambs or stressed syllables, rather than by counting total syllables. By this sort of counting, the proper line length of an American cinquain would be 1-2-3-4-1, since it would contain one iamb in the first line, two in the second line, and so on. The right way to count the line length is ultimately a matter of interpretation, though, since Crapsey never specified the rules of the form she invented.”


Don’t be. Write your Cinquain following the directions. If you prefer to use the iambs, do that… just remember, different dialects pronounce things differently and will add the stresses in the way they speak.

Heed the Call, #Cinquain

Our world
must unite with
one mind – one consciousness
as light workers allied to save

©2020 Colleen M. Chesebro

Heed the call…

Author: Colleen M. Chesebro

Colleen M. Chesebro is an American Poet who loves crafting paranormal fantasy and magical realism, cross-genre flash fiction, syllabic poetry, and creative nonfiction. Colleen sponsors a weekly syllabic poetry challenge, called Tanka Tuesday, on where participants learn how to write traditional and current forms of haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, tanka prose, renga, solo-renga, haibun, cinquain, Etheree, nonet, and shadorma poetry. Colleen's syllabic poetry has appeared in the Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, and in “Hedgerow, a journal of small poems.” She’s won numerous awards from participating in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo, a yearly flash fiction contest sponsored by In 2020, she won first place in the Carrot Ranch Folk Tale or Fable category, with her story called “Why Wolf Howls at the Moon.” Colleen is a Sister of the Fey, where she pursues a pagan path through her writing. When she is not writing, she is reading. She also loves gardening and crocheting old-fashioned doilies into works of art.

25 thoughts on “Cinquain History & a #Cinquain, “Heed the Call””

  1. I truly hope our world will heed the call of your cinquain. I enjoyed learning more about the cinquain. You note that different dialects pronounce words differently. I ran into that last night when I checked the syllable count of a new tanka on Syllable Counter. I pronounce “cruel” as one syllable, like “spool,” although when I checked the dictionary, it is indeed two syllables. I went thesaurus-hunting, couldn’t find a good synonym, and finally let “cruel” stand the way I pronounce it.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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