Jeanne Cassler

Thomas D. Greer

Alan Reynolds


Perhaps as early as in 1909, the shy and sensitive Adelaide Crapsy had read A Hundred Verses from Old Japan, William N. Porter's translations of the Hyakunin Isshu anthology and From the Eastern Sea by Yone Nogushis. In Adelaide's notebook she lists eleven tanka and eight haiku she had translated from Antholgie de la littérature japonaise des origines au XX siécle from Marcel Revon. So influenced, she developed her own poetic system which she then called cinquain.

These short, unrhymed poems consisting of twenty-two syllables distributed as 2, 4, 6, 8, 2, in five lines were related to but not copied from Japanese literary styles. Though she devised this form in 1909 - 1910, most of the fifteen poems she saved were written between 1911 and 1914. An early death at 37 from tuberculosis prevented her from exploring the genre further.

Published posthumously, in 1915, with her other works as The Complete Poems, cinquains came to be well-known only through the efforts of Carl Sandburg in his anthology, Cornhuskers, 1918 and Louis Utermeyer's Modern American Poetry, 1919. The most famous of the few Crapsy cinquains from her The Complete Poems is:


These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow... the hour
Before the dawn... the mouth of one
Just dead.

Cinquains, though they have never become very popular, have always attracted a number of poets who are still developing the form.

(notes taken from Those Women Writing Haiku by Jane Reichhold)


Copyright @ Jane Reichhold 1996.