There are two formulas for writing cinquain poems. One formula is for the number of syllables per line, and the other formula is for the types of words, actions, and feelings to incorporate into the poems.
Line 1 – two syllables
Line 2 – four syllables
Line 3 – six syllables
Line 4 – eight syllables
Line 5 – two syllables
Though I did not strictly adhere to this second formula, I kept it top of mind when writing my cinquain poems.
Line 1 – one word for topic
Line 2 – two words to describe the topic
Line 3 – three words to describe actions relating to the topic
Line 4 – words that describe feelings relating to the topic
Line 5 – one word that is another word for the topic [source]
Here are two cinquain poems I have authored:
scratch the blackboard.
Our skin crawls and inverts.
So shrill! The noise cracks window glass.
* * * * *
Were he to know my heart,
would he reciprocate or not?
Older than Haiku, Tanka is another form of ancient Japanese poetry. Traditional Japanese Tanka is written in one straight line, but in English the line is divided into five syllabic units: 5-7-5-7-7. In the best Tanka poem, the five lines flow seamlessly into one thought. Tanka poems were traditionally written to evoke a moment or mark an occasion with concision and musicality. Even today, Tanka is used to express a real or imagined moment in an author’s time and culture. [source]
I’ve broken the rules a bit, but I’ve kept to the 5-7-5-7-7 format. Below are two pseudo-Tanka poems that I have authored:
Her ivory neck,
graceful curve on which he lays
impatient kisses –
* * * * *
The Dramatist Beguiled by Satan’s work
and spoiled by philosophy,
he loves tragedy –
jealousy and suspicion,
downfall and destruction.
A Cento poem is easy to create. A Cento is created by stitching the lines of other poems together to form a brand new poem. Each line must come from a different poetic source.
Below you’ll find a short Cento I’ve created and the source for each line of poem.
* * * *
Down at the water’s edge, at the place, (Bishop)
I dream no more but stare at a hole. (Garrigue)
I’ve spent the last days, furthermore, (Merrill)
surprised at the earth. (Merwin)
I am alive – I guess. (Dickinson)
* * * * *
Line 1 – Elizabeth Bishop » At the Fishhouses
Line 2 – Jean Garrigue » Dialog
Line 3 – James Merrill » Lost in Translation
Line 4 – W.S. Merwin » For the Anniversary of My Death
Line 5 – Emily Dickinson » I am alive – I guess