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It’s National Poetry Month! Now is the time to celebrate our poet roots and refine those writing skills by creating new work or refreshing/revising some of your previously-composed poems. If you’re a regular reader, you know I love asking if a poem is ever complete… but really, is it ever complete?!

There’s just shy of two weeks left, and I’m going to continue making the most of it by jotting down short poems and attempting to generate fresh lines to work with. Grab your journal, open up Word or your blog, and get some words on the page. Feel free to try the form I’m about to share with you!

I recently discovered Cinquain, which is a form of Japanese poetry. It’s a short poem of 5 lines and 22 syllables. The pattern is like so: two, four, six, eight, two (2-4-6-8-2).

American cinquain, created by Adelaide Crapsey, was influenced by both the popular Japanese poetry forms haiku and tanka. She imposes a stressed iambic pentameter on the lines in the following pattern: one-stress, two-stress, three-stress, four-stress, one-stress.  Here’s an example of her poem, Niagara. Read it aloud to yourself and try to add the stresses to gain the full effect.

Niagara
by Adelaide Crapsey

Seen on a Night in November

How frail
Above the bulk
Of crashing water hangs,
Autumnal, evanescent, wan,
The moon.

 

It’s no secret I enjoy writing haiku and general poetry about nature. This is a form I enjoy using to express my love and deep connection to nature and Mother Earth. Here’s one I jotted down before writing this post, just to get the creative juices flowing.

vernal equinox

the sun
warms the earth’s crust.
her rays—rejoicing, beam
upon my face, reviving mind
and soul.

You aren’t restricted to the classic, traditional form I used above, as there are many variations of this style of poetry. That’s probably why I enjoy it so much – I have the freedom to experiment with modern twists of the classic structure. Here are some of my favorite variations to work with:

Butterfly cinquain: this form is nine lines instead of five, and the pattern is generally two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two (2-4-6-8-2-8-6-4-2).

Mirror cinquain: just like its name, your stanzas will mirror each other. Use two 5-line stanzas that consist of a traditional cinquain, with a reverse cinquain following.

Garland cinquain: write 6 traditional cinquains, but the last stanza is formed of lines from the previous five, in this order: the first line from the first stanza, the second line from the second stanza, and so forth.

The cinquain form is very friendly with all ages and poetry skill levels, which is probably another reason why I like it. People who normally do not write poetry can quickly create a beautiful, skillfully-constructed stanza that makes them feel like a pro at penning modern poetry. Give it a shot and share your cinquains in the comments!