Read a handful of Crapsey's elegantly distilled cinquins that felt lost among the endless pages of a large anthology and was immediately impressed and enamored—here was a poet who seemed to embody all of the qualities of Imagism without having any known knowledge or contact with H.D., Pound, Lowell, Aldington and others would make it one of the most recognizable poetic advances in 20th century poetry.
Turns out there are just over a two dozen cinquains in existence, for unfortunately Crapsey died of tuberculosis 1914 at the horrifyingly young age of 36.Her reputation rests solely on the clipped 5 line cinquain that she developed, which many have mistakenly assumed are based on the haiku, tanka and other forms found in traditional Japanese poetry, but are actually rooted in Crapsey's extensive work on English language prosody, particularly Keats.But the best of the cinquains still feel radically, innovatively modernist, which is why Crapsey has been characterized as an "unintentional Imagist," which might or might not do her unique poetic innovations justice.
My two personal favorites:
Seen on a night in November"
Above the bulk
Of crashing water hangs,
Autumnal, evanescent, wan,
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
Susan Sutton Smith has brought together all of the available material related to Crapsey, and tellingly, it all fits into a modest-sized volume.I only lightly perused the rest of the poetry, which is of the traditional late-Romantic sort that still lingered around after the turn of the century, but several excerpts I've read are lovely, so I do plan to return someday to give it a more thorough read.Smith's well-researched biography and critical assessments are also insightful and accessible.
A wonderful find, I just wish there was more.