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Hello poets and welcome to this week’s Meeting the Bar challenge at dVerse. My name is Tony Maude and today I am bringing something that I think is totally new, although I stand to be corrected.

One of my favourite forms … and one I often turn to when I’m stuck … is the (American) Cinquain, invented by Adelaide Crapsey. Way back when I began hosting, this was the first form challenge that I chose to bring to the Pub.

Adelaide Crapsey

Adelaide Crapsey

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Cinquain is a five-line poem. The first and last lines each have 2 syllables, with the intervening lines having 4, 6 and 8 syllables respectively. (I say syllables, but it would be more technically correct to say that the first and final lines have 1 stress, with the second, third and fourth lines having 2, 3 and 4 stresses.)

Here’s an example by Adelaide herself:


Still as
On windless nights
The moon-cast shadows are,
So still will be my heart when I
am dead.

This form first came to public notice with the posthumous publication of Adelaide Crapsey’s only poetry collection, entitled Verse, in 1915. This collection contained 28 examples of her new cinquains … and since then poets worldwide have produced thousands more.

Last week Brian challenged us to take a poetry form … and then to deliberately break it. After overcoming my initial reluctance to ‘break the rules’ I chose to work with the cinquain, breaking it by adding an extra syllable to each line, giving a five-line poem with lines of 3, 5, 7, 9 and 3 syllables in that order… and, of course, giving myself some nice, new rules to work with … smiles. Having been in the doldrums for a while, I chose to write about not being able to write … another favourite tactic of mine when I’m stuck. This is the poem I came up with:

No Words

His pen lies
coated in neglect,
cold and lifeless on the desk
beside an empty page as barren
as his mind.

In the comments I received, several members of the Pub community said that this looked like a ‘new form’ they would like to try their hands at, so here’s your chance. But before you reach for your pen/pencil/keyboard/tablet etc,

Let’s take a quick look at what this new form offers

Firstly, whereas Adelaide Crapsey’s cinquain is a metric form (hardly surprising since she made a detailed study of metrics in English language poetry), each line in this form has an odd number of syllables. This means that, unlike the American cinquain, you cannot write an iambic poem in this form (you could try writing in dactyls, amphibrachs and/or anapaests if you want). Put more positively, you are freed from the tyranny of the iamb!

Secondly, you have a little more space to express yourself in. Five extra syllables may not seem like much, but it’s an addition of almost a quarter to the 22 syllables of the traditional cinquain. That said, you still need precision in your use of language.

Thirdly, just as with the cinquain proper, there are a number of obvious variations on this theme. You could reverse the order of the lines, write a two stanza poem where the form of the stanzas mirror each other, or you could write a garland or even a coronet of these ‘cinquains’.

Lastly, if this form has as much potential as I hope it does … and if it is genuinely new … then it needs a name. Suggestions are welcome in the comments below.

Here’s what to do now:

• Write your poem and post it to your blog.
• Add a link to your poem via the ‘Mr Linky’ below.
• This opens a new screen where you’ll enter your information. This is also where you choose links to read. Once you have pasted your poem’s blog URL and entered your name, click Submit. Don’t worry if you don’t see your name right away; try refreshing the page and your link should appear in the list.
• Please do take time to read and comment on other people’s work to let them know it’s being read. It is this aspect of what we do here that builds our community and helps each of us to develop as poets.
• Share your work and that of your fellow poets via your favourite social media platforms.
• Above all – have fun!