Adelaide Crapsey

Adelaide Crapsey is best known as the inventor of the cinquain, a five-line poem inspired by Japanese haiku form and using an increasing syllable count (2 syllables, then 4, 6, 8, and 2 again). Crapsey's poetry has been set to music by John Duke, Lee Hoiby, and Hugo Weisgall.

Photo: Adelaide Crapsey, photographer and date unknown, public domain

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, Adelaide Crapsey studied at Vassar College, where she served as the class poet for three years and was also the basketball team manager, editor-in-chief of the Vassarion, and a member of the debating club.

She graduated in 1901 and began teaching literature in Wisconsin at her high school alma mater Kemper Hall. However, she became ill in 1903 with tuberculosis of the brain lining and was forced to leave her teaching position in 1904. In addition to writing poetry, she conducted research on the formal elements of English poetry, and her writings on the matter were published posthumously in 1918 in A Study of English Metrics.

From 1911 to 1913, Crapsey taught at Smith College, but was forced by her illness to give up ultimately give up teaching due to her health. She died in 1914 at the age of 36.

Much of her poetry addresses the topic of death, but in an eloquent and technically interesting manner. The grace and succinctness of her verse keep it from becoming overly-emotional.

–Christie Finn
Source: Vassar College Encyclopedia

Related Information



Sheet Music

John Duke Song Collections

Composer(s): John Duke

Find at your local library

Night Songs: Four Poems of A. Crapsey

Composer(s): Lee Hoiby

Voice Type: High

Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

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