"Tanka and Haiku Come to America
Before the combined efforts of women, centered around Amy Lowell, to bring haiku to North America, another woman, Adelaide Crapsey, was, through her independent study, already ahead of them.
In 1908, while in Europe with her father, she decided to return to Rome, where she had lived in 1904 - 1905, staying in Rome, London and Paris until 1911. While in London she studied English prosody at the British Museum in 1910. Perhaps as early as in 1909, the shy and sensitive Adelaide had read A Hundred Verses from Old Japan, William N. Porter's translation of the Hyakunin Isshu anthology and From the Eastern Sea by Yone Noguchis. In her notebooks she lists eleven tanka and eight haiku she had translated from Anthologie de la litt`erature japonaise des origines au XXe si`ecle from Marcel Revon. So influenced, Adelaide developed her own poetic system which she called cinquain.
These short, unrhymed poems consisting of twenty-two syllables distributed as 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2, in five lines were related to, but not copied from Japanese literary styles. Though she devised this form around 1909-1910, most of the 28 of which we have record that she accomplished were written between 1911 and 1914. An early death, on October 8, 1914, from tuberculosis prevented her from exploring the genre.
Published posthumously, in 1915, (by Claude Bragdon, Manas Press) with her other works as, Verse, 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. However, the interest in her poetry became so great that in 1922, Alfred A. Knopf published a second edition which was reprinted in 1926 and 1929 and a third edition was published in 1934 and reprinted in 1938.
Adelaide Crapsey is credited, not only with these first experiments with Japanese literature, but she is recognized as one of the earliest Imagists. Through the cinquain never became as popular as either tanka or haiku later became, it has outlived the Imagist Movement and continues to be used by tanka and haiku poets, notably Ruby Schackleford of Wilson, North Carolina ~~~"
Definitions of Cinquain on the Web:
A cinquain is a 5-line poem with this structure:
1st line - 1 word - noun
AMAZE: The Cinquain Journal is dedicated to developing, promoting, and publishing cinquains in the traditional form established by Adelaide Crapsey. We are also very interested in the development and publication of innovative forms of the cinquain, such as mirror cinquains and cinquain cycles or sequences.
Please click here to see how this magazine came to be named AMAZE.
To read the current issue, please go to the Winter 2006 issue. Previous issues are archived here.
For biographical sketches about the writers in the current issue, please go to our Poets & Authors page.
For information on the cinquain form and its history, please go to The Cinquain Page. The Cinquain Page is designed to be the most comprehensive internet resource for the cinquain poet, the Web's prime resource page on cinquains
Cinquain, despite its French name, is an American poetry form that can be traced back to Adelaide Crapsey. Crapsey, influenced by Japanese haiku, developed this poetic system and used it to express brief thoughts and statements. Other poets who popularized the form were Carl Sandburg and Louis Utermeyer. While the form does not have the extensive popularity of haiku, it is often taught in public schools to children because of the forms brief nature.
Most cinquain poems consist of a single, 22 syllable stanza, but they can be combined into longer works. A cinquain consists of five lines. The first line has two syllables, the second line has four syllables, the third line has six syllables and the fourth line has eight syllables, the final line has two syllables:
The line length is the only firm rule, but there are other guidelines that people have tried to impose from time to time.
One possible, but not required, format is as follows:
Line 1: Title Noun
Line 2: Description
Line 3: Action
Line 4: Feeling or Effect
Line 5: Synonym of the initial noun.
If you look at my examples, I prefer to use the noun as a separate title, not as part of the cinquain. Also, only one of the three poems is written in iambs.
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