Daily Exercise–Two Cinquains











Great Elm

Hired wolves
sever your limbs
with their ravenous teeth
snarling as they grind your old bones
to dust.



I try
not to giggle
as she wriggles along
finding, step by step, the length of
my arm.


I have a friend who writes a limerick every day. I have other friends who write haiku every day. I like the idea of writing a short form poem every day. It reminds me of doing sit ups or push ups. But I’m not sure limericks and haiku are the best form of poetic exercise. Limericks are silly and fun, but they aren’t a good form for expressing more serious feelings. Haiku are brilliant for communicating through experience and inference, but they are not intended to use metaphor and other literary devices. So what might form might make a better daily work out? I’ve sometimes wondered if it might be the cinquain. The cinquain is short and requires the poet to work within formal constraints, but the cinquain can express a variety of emotions and utilize a variety of poetic devices. This week I gave the cinquain a try. It’s too early for me to report any results, but I can share a couple of my poems. As you cans see, they certainly express different emotions. (In case you were wondering, no, that’s not my tree.)


What poetic exercises do you try to do regularly?

For more Poetry Friday, visit Catherine Johnson.

22 replies
  1. Julie Larios
    Julie Larios says:

    Liz, I love the idea of poetry exercises being like sit-ups. They get the creative heartbeat going, the blood circulating, you’re right! I admit, I think a haiku can be an equally good vessel into which a multitude of emotions can be poured (though it’s definitely harder to come up with a serious limerick…!) For me, writing a double dactyl keeps me on my toes, mentally. I don’t write one daily, but I do it often enough to know it’s my go-to form. It’s a form that doesn’t do too much heavy lifting, though. I think my creative muscles get an interesting work-out when I try to pair up a humorous form with a more serious thought. That can be a challenge. (P.S. That is SOME TREE. Was, I mean.)

  2. maryleehahn
    maryleehahn says:

    Form or no form, I think the important thing is to write every day! I’m getting back into that habit, now that my hands are working better again!

    • lsteinglass
      lsteinglass says:

      Ah, Mary Lee, good point! It’s the every day that’s the important part. I’m so happy your hands are better and you can get back to writing.

  3. Tara Smith
    Tara Smith says:

    Yes, write every day. I think that’s one of the great gifts of the summer – guilt free time to write! The Great Elm made me teary, though – we just had our Great Oak cut down…so sad.

  4. Violet Nesdoly
    Violet Nesdoly says:

    Ooh, I like your “Great Elm.” Those power saws do sound just like ravenous wolves.

    I agree that form poems are wonderful for forcing one to capture something in a few words. If I were to choose one, I would like you, choose cinquains over haiku or limerick. The shadorma form is one I like too (6 liines of 3/5/3/3/7/5 syllables per line respectively).

    • lsteinglass
      lsteinglass says:

      Violet, I don’t know anything about the shadorma. I’ll have to look it up. Thanks for mentioning it.

  5. Bridget Magee
    Bridget Magee says:

    Your Inchworm cinquain is fabulous. I got the willies just reading it, LOL! (can you tell I’m not a creepy crawly person?) Cinquains are a fun to write, but I don’t like to be tied to a particular form everyday. I’m all over the place in my daily poems – keeps life interesting (for me and hopefully my readers). Thanks for sharing, Liz! = )

  6. haitiruth
    haitiruth says:

    Writing every day for me is like exercising every day. That is, I go through periods when I am doing so well, and feeling so virtuous — and then something throws me off, and it takes me forever to get back in the good habit.

  7. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
    Michelle Heidenrich Barnes says:

    The cinquain seems like a perfect daily regimen to me, though I’m not sure I’m as disciplined as you are. I tried my hand at this form for the first time last month and was astonished at just how challenging it actually is! Did you see the fabulous collection of cinquains from last month’s ditty challenge? It’s definitely worth taking a look if you haven’t. http://michellehbarnes.blogspot.ca/2014/05/may-dmc-wrap-up-giveaway.html

    I absolutely love the line, “snarling as they grind your old bones” BTW. And thanks again for visiting the Haiku Garden this week too!

  8. Myra GB
    Myra GB says:

    Oooh! Literary exercise – I must admit that I am not as disciplined as I used to be. My poetry is contingent on the appearance of the ‘muse’ – not an excuse, I know, but quite potent, that. Love the idea of the cinquain as a daily poetic regimen.

  9. Robyn Hood Black
    Robyn Hood Black says:

    Thanks for sharing your sojourn into cinquains! And your thoughts on daily discipline. Which I haven’t had with this move this spring… :0! [Glad that wasn’t your tree, but sorry for whoever’s it was.]

  10. Carol Varsalona (@cvarsalona)
    Carol Varsalona (@cvarsalona) says:

    Elizabeth, I enjoyed reading your cinquains that had different emotions displayed. The latter one was fun and tickled my fancy. While I am disciplined to write every day, advice given to me, I don’t write poetry each day. Writing push-ups sound like something that might work. Thanks for the idea.


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