Friday, October 5, 2012


By Zeus!
Shout word of this
To the eldest dead! Titans,
Gods, Heroes, come who have once more
A home! 


“The American poet Adelaide Crapsey invented the modern form, known as American Cinquain inspired by Japanese haiku and tanka akin in spirit to that of the Imagists.  In her 1915 collection titled Verse, published one year after her death, Crapsey included 28 cinquains. Crapsey's American Cinquain form developed in two stages. The first, fundamental form is a stanza of five lines of accentual verse, in which the lines comprise, in order, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 1 stresses. Then Crapsey decided to make the criterion a stanza of five lines of accentual-syllabic verse, in which the lines comprise, in order, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 1 stresses and 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 syllables. Iambic feet were meant to be the standard for the cinquain, which made the dual criteria match perfectly. Some resource materials define classic cinquains as solely iambic, but that is not necessarily so. In contrast to the Eastern forms upon which she based them, Crapsey always titled her cinquains, effectively utilizing the title as a sixth line. Crapsey's cinquain depends on strict structure and intense physical imagery to communicate a mood or feeling.”

   I’ve been off-and-on reading about Adelaide Cropsey and cinquains for the last several days after discovering her while looking for lines of verse about November for my County Lines Food News column.  Miss Crapsey’s November Night fit the bill perfectly land it was nice being able to quote a poem in its entirety within the stringent, straitened confines of my prosaic prose stall. (It's only a 500-word column.)

   I was previously unaware of Adelaide Crapsey’s life and career and I’m glad I discovered her, although I haven’t quite made up my mind about her.  Having spent so much time reading Masaoka Shiki (and about Shiki and haiku and tanka) last summer, the discovery was propitious.  Apparently the critics and I differ on what constitutes Crapsey’s best cinquain work and they of course may know better.  I like this one quite a bit, though, and thank heavens the poem isn’t directly concerned with death, as a lot of her work is.  For various reasons, I’m not in the mood. Readers might also wish to note the poem's departure from strict cinquain form; the third line contains seven syllables.

   I’m always in the mood for flying over the Grand Canyon, though, even though I hate flying and am generally speechless and scared in airplanes if I should happen to try to remember where I am, which I try not to do, ever.

Illustration:  Nicholas Roerich, Head of Zeus, 1893 (Link)


  1. Thank you for reading this. Have been busy trying to recover my sense of humor and then I come across a kind of interesting poetic figure, who does have a difficult to locate, kind of grim sense of humor, but who mostly seems to write about death. There's a chill in the air here. I'm trying to create a good week this week. Curtis