The Beat: Adelaide Crapsey

Adelaide Crapsey is best known as the inventor of the American cinquain. She was born in 1878 in Brooklyn, NY, and she grew up in Rochester. In 1903, she began to show symptoms of tuberculosis which would eventually take her life in 1914. In spite of her illness, Crapsey attended the American Academy’s School of Classical Study in Rome, and then eventually returned to the U.S. to teach at Smith College. Shortly after her death, her first book of poems was published. It was called simply Verse.


Read "Amaze" and "Niagra" by Adelaide Crapsey

Bio and poems at the Poetry Foundation's website

Adelaide Crapsey at Poets.org


Alan May:

Welcome to The Beat, a poetry podcast produced by Knox County Public Library. Today, you’ll hear two poems written by the poet Adelaide Crapsey, who lived from 1878 to 1914, and is best known as the inventor of the cinquain, a brief metrical form that resembles the Japanese haiku. Cinquains are just five lines long and each consecutive line has a fixed number of syllables. Here are two of Adelaide Crapsey’s cinquains, “Amaze” and “Niagra.”


I know

Not these my hands

And yet I think there was

A woman like me once had hands

Like these.


Seen on a Night in November

How frail

Above the bulk

Of crashing water hangs,

Autumnal, evanescent, wan,

The moon.

Various voices:

Thank you for listening to and sharing this podcast from Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. Music for this podcast is by Chad Crouch. Find all our podcasts at pods.knoxlib.org, and explore life-changing resources at www.knoxlib.org. That's "knox l-i-b." Go to our "keep in touch" page to sign up for newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Make us your essential connection for life-long learning and information.

About the Podcast

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Podcasts of Knox County Public Library

About your hosts

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Melissa Brenneman

Melissa listens to hours of podcasts on most days. She started the habit with the intention of taking long walks, but podcasts proved to be more addicting than exercise. She records, edits and mixes podcasts for the library.
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Alan May

Alan May works as a librarian at Lawson McGhee Library. In his spare time, he reads and writes poetry. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, The Idaho Review, DIAGRAM, Plume, Willow Springs, and others. He has published three books of poetry.