What is an Eintou?

An examination of the history, form and use of the Eintou; a form of African-American poetry.

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The Eintou is a form which relies on syllable counts, much like the Haiku, but with more room for ideas.


The Eintou is a distinctively African-American form of poetry. The name itself is West African for ‘pearl,’ suggesting the phrase ‘pearl of wisdom’ as well as the circular shape to the poems. As a form, the Eintou was developed to establish African American poets in the wider context of American poetry.

Much African poetry uses free verse or forms unfamiliar to Euro-American audiences, which historically upset Euro-American audiences. For a poet of African descent to be seen as accomplished, many had to adapt to the forms used by their white counterparts, suppressing their heritage and culture. Common critiques of African poetry were that it was “formless” or “mimicking,” thus this new form was created by and for African-American poets.

The Eintou can be considered a form of protest; creating a form for African American poets to use, without forcing them into a white cultural tradition. The purpose of African poetry is often to pass wisdom to others, rather than observations or narratives, and the Eintou has retained this tradition.


The basis of the Eintou is an undulating syllable count. Each stanza (of which there need only be one) begins with two syllables, rising to four, six, and eight in subsequent lines before returning back down to six, four, then two. Some opt to count words rather than syllables, and these are considered just as valid as an Eintou built on syllable count.

Line 1: 2 syllables
Line 2: 4 syllables
Line 3: 6 syllables
Line 4: 8 syllables
Line 5: 6 syllables
Line 6: 4 syllables
Line 7: 2 syllables


Unlike the Haiku, which focuses on observations of nature or the moment, the Eintou is concerned with sharing knowledge. It should be used to offer insight and challenge the way we see the world.

It is worth remembering that this form was created within a political context and as such, poets from non-African backgrounds should be respectful when using the form. It is not a form to offer thoughts that dismiss race, even if those comments come from a place good intention.

Connor Sansby is a Margate-based writer, editor, poet and publisher through his super-indie Whisky & Beards publishing label.

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