Guest Author - Lisbeth Cheever-Gessaman
Adelaide Crapsey was an imagist poet of the early twentieth century. Aside from possessing one of the most splendid names in poetry, she is best known for her invention of the Cinquain, a five line form of poetic verse.
A Brief Biography of Adelaide Crapsey
Born on September 9th, 1878, Crapsey attained no poetic status in her lifetime, dying young of Tuberculosis. It is only in posthumous retrospect that one can come to an appreciation through her words and works of the obstacles and shadows that beset her. Certainly she was accomplished as a woman of her time attending Vassar College and then spending a year at the School for Classical Studies in Rome. Her interest in meter and rhythm as well as a fascination with shorter metrical forms of poetry such as the tanka and haiku coupled with the influence of the Imagist movement led her to experiment with the five line form of verse we know as the cinquain today.
Adelaide Crapsey's Cinquain
At its most basic level, a cinquain is a five line poem or stanza. The meaning Crapsey imbued within it is largely in part due to its simplicity of structure and the efficacy of the sparse stress count of each line. As well, the title becomes paramount in such a tight space, and lends further meaning to the body of the work itself.
The five line form was certainly not in and of itself her invention - the Japanese tanka and the Spanish quintella both predate her own; rather it was the style and imagist influence typical of a Crapsey quintain that made it so uniquely hers. Because Crapsey herself did not detail the structure nor provide any specific methodology towards its creation, scholars have depended on the content of her own writings to formalize its structure. Things that differentiate and render the Crapsey cinquain unique:
The title of each of Crapsey's cinquains render an importance to the poem framing the work for further definition. Some critics consider her titles evocative of an active sixth line.
Accentual Stress Pattern - 1/2/3/4/1
At its most basic, Crapsey cinquains contain the same stresses in the same pattern.
Syllabic Pattern - 2/4/6/8/2
Juxtaposed against the accentual, the syllabic pattern nearly always follows suit of 2 syllables in the first line, 4 in the second, 6 in the third, 8 in the 4th and 2 in the 5th.
Line 1 - two syllables
Line 2 - four syllables
Line 3 - six syllables
Line 4 - eight syllables
Line 5 - two syllables
Further variations on the form include:
Reverse Cinquain - a five line reverse of the syllabic pattern rendered as 2/4/6/8/2;
Crown Cinquain - A poem consisting of five cinquains.
Feel free to post your own in the BellaOnline poetry forums.