History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Poetry Forms: The Crown Cinquain

Since I’ve been writing so much poetry lately, I’ve decided to start talking about some of the different forms of poetry I’ve attempted, and how I’ve approached them. One thing I know is that I don’t always approach poetry in the same way that someone who considers themselves a poet might. I consider myself an author first, and a poet second. And sometimes, I throw logic at poetry to see what happens. So you can explore some of these poetry forms along with me and see if maybe my techniques give you some ideas of your own.

The first formed poem I wrote was a double crown Crapsey cinquain with two reversed Crapsey cinquain stanzas.

What the hell was I thinking?

Let’s break this down.

  1. A cinquain (sometimes called a quintain or quintet) is a five line poem or stanza that usually follows a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab, orĀ abccb. There’s often meter here, too, but that is not prescribed by the form.
  2. A Crapsey cinquain is a meter format developed by Adelaide Crapsey (sometimes also called an American cinquain, but there’s a difference between the two), in which the first line of the stanza has 2 syllables, the second has 4 syllables, then 6, 8, and 2 syllables to round out the cinquain. The reverse Crapsey cinquain, then, uses a 2-8-6-4-2 structure. Crapsey cinquains also don’t usually follow a rhyme structure.
  3. A crown cinquain is five cinquains put together as a poem.
  4. And a double crown Crapsey cinquain with two reverse Crapsey cinquain stanzas is a fifty-line poem, in ten stanzas of five lines each, using the 2-4-6-8-2 meter of the Crapsey cinquain for the first four stanzas, then a reverse Crapsey cinquain stanza, four more regular Crapsey cinquain stanzas, and a final reverse Crapsey cinquain stanza. Whew!

So yes, there was a lot going on with that form. Technically speaking, I’m not sure that doubling a crown cinquain is a thing normal people do. But for the purposes of what I wanted to write, I needed a longer poem. My poem didn’t rhyme, because I’m not fond of rhyming poetry. I have no real sense of why I decided to use the reverse Crapsey cinquain stanzas. The poem would have worked the same either way, as those stanzas still have the same number of syllables, and it wasn’t like any of the words would have needed to be broken across lines to make it work. So this was probably me saying “I will break this style and make it mine.” I called the overall structure “two stilted crowns” for a while, but I can’t find any evidence that this is a real thing.

What did I learn from writing a double crown Crapsey cinquain with two reversed Crapsey cinquain stanzas? Probably only that I don’t want to attempt something of that length again. Maybe a normal crown cinquain or a normal Crapsey cinquain would be better options for me. There are also other Crapsey cinquain variations I’m interested in playing with, some of which use the standard and reverse stanzas to better effect than whatever I thought I was doing. At any rate, it was a weird place to start, and I’m a little surprised it didn’t put me off form poetry entirely!


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