Among the bumble-bees in red-top hay, a freckled field of brown-eyed Susans dripping yellow leaves in July,
And I have seen a woman with her head flung between her naked knees, and her head held there listening to the sea, the great naked sea shouldering a load of salt.
And the blue pansy mouth sang to the sea:
Mother of God, I’m so little a thing,
Let me sing longer,
Only a little longer.
And the sea shouldered its salt in long gray combers hauling new shapes on the beach sand.
Adelaide Crapsey (September 9, 1878–October 8, 1914) was an American poet. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she was raised in Rochester, New York, daughter of Episcopal priest Algernon Sidney Crapsey, who had been transferred from New York City to Rochester, and Adelaide T. Crapsey. She attended public school in Rochester, and then Kemper Hall, an Episcopal girls' preparatory school in Kenosha, Wisconsin, before entering Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she was class poet for three years and editor-in-chief of the Vassarion in 1901, the year she graduated.
That same year, her sister Emily died, and Adelaide delayed starting her teaching career for a year. In 1902 she took a position at Kemper Hall, where she taught until 1904. She then spent a year at the School of Classical Studies at the American Academy in Rome and taught for two years at Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts. Crapsey was in poor health starting in 1908, following her eldest brother's death in May 1907, and her father's trial for heresy in 1906, after which he was dismissed from the ministry. In 1911, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, but she withheld the news from her family and continued to teach at Smith until she collapsed in the summer of 1913. She then moved to a private cure cottage in Saranac Lake, New York, where she stayed for a year. In August, 1914, Crapsey returned to Rochester, where she died on October 8, 1914, at the age of 36.
In the years before her death, she wrote much of the verse on which her reputation rests. Her interest in rhythm and meter led her to create a variation on the cinquain (or quintain), a 5-line form of 22 syllables influenced by the Japanese haiku and tanka. Her cinquain has a generally iambic meter and consists of 2 syllables in the first and last lines and 4, 6 and 8 syllables in the middle three lines.
The year following her death, Claude Bragdon published Verses, a posthumous selection of her cinquains and other verse forms. Revised editions were published in 1922 and 1934 and contain earlier unpublished work. Also published posthumously in 1918 was the unfinished A Study in English Metrics, a work she began during her three-year stay in Europe. She is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, and her papers are at the University of Rochester Library archives. Poet Carl Sandburg was partly responsible for the continued interest in the cinquain and in keeping Crapsey from obscurity through his poem, "Adelaide Crapsey" [see above].
Here are some of Adelaide’s cinquains:
Listen . . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
Look up . . .
From bleakening hills
Blows down the light, first breath
Of wintry wind . . . look up, and scent
If day on day
Follows and weary year
On year . . . and ever days and years . . .
Old winds that blew
When chaos was, what do
They tell the clattered trees that I
Out of the strange
Still dusk . . . as strange, as still . . .
A white moth flew . . . Why am I grown
Got it? Let’s take on the cinquain this week as our Seed of the Week! Here again is the summary of the form, this from Bob’s ByWays (see Snake Faves on rattlesnakepress.com for a link to that invaluable website). Technically, in French it would be san-KEN. “Bob’s” has it sing-KANE; around here, I hear it pronounced sin-KWANE. And by the way, it has nothing to do with the haiku form, which has many more rules and requires an a-HA or reveal (kensho, epiphany) at the end.
CINQUAIN (sing-KANE): A five-line stanza of syllabic verse, the successive lines containing two, four, six, eight and two syllables.
Betcha can’t write just one…
In the mood for a little Bass?
Ellen Bass will appear at two area venues this weekend:
•••Sat/Sun (4/4-5): Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and Arts Festival. Keynote Speaker: Dana Gioia. Workshop presenters: Ellen Bass, Toby Bielawski, Susan Browne, Sandra Kay, Alison Luterman, Elizabeth Rosner, Floyd Salas, Penny Warner, Al Young. Info: 925-417-0262, email Poetgal2@aol.com or visit www.pleasantonarts.org/.
•••Sat. (4/4): Poetry Workshop (1-3 PM) and reading (3:30 PM) by Ellen Bass at the Milpitas Public Library, 160 N. Main St., Milpitas. Info: 408-262-1171 ext. 3621 or email@example.com/.
More ways to celebrate National Poetry Month:
Margaret Bell reminds us to check out Poetry.org for plenty of ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, which starts tomorrow. To celebrate National Poetry month, Citrus Heights Area Poets will have a "pocket full of poems" on the community table at Barnes & Noble (Sunrise Boulevard in Citrus Heights). Drop by and pick up a poem to put in your pocket.
Heck, if you're into the syllabic thing (some people out there are still hooked on etherees), you don't need to stop at five lines, right? Here's a form I ran across a while ago: a septain, which uses the same principle for seven lines instead of the five of Adelaide's cinquain. And, I suppose, eight lines would be... you guessed it—high octain!
TORTURE BY RAIN (A Septain)
Drip drip . . .
leaks out of the gray sky . . .
steady torture. No other sound
breaks the monotony
of this gruesome
tapping . . .
A leaf falls;
Totsu! a leaf falls,
on the wind.
—Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707)
SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:
Rattlesnake Review: The latest Snake (RR21) is now available at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. Next deadline is May 15 for RR22: send 3-5 poems, smallish art pieces and/or photos (no bio, no cover letter, no simultaneous submissions or previously-published poems) to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. E-mail attachments are preferred, but be sure to include all contact info, including snail address. Meanwhile, the snakes of Medusa are always hungry; let us know if your submission is for the Review or for Medusa, or for either one, and please—only one submission per issue.
Also available (free): littlesnake broadside #46: Snake Secrets: Getting Your Poetry Published in Rattlesnake Press (and lots of other places, besides!): A compendium of ideas for brushing up on your submissions process so as to make editors everywhere more happy, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting your poetry published. Pick up a copy at The Book Collector or write to me and I'll send you one. Free!
COMING IN APRIL: Wednesday, April 8 will be our FIFTH ANNUAL BIRTHDAY PARTY/BUFFET at The Book Collector, featuring a SpiralChap of poetry and photos from Laverne Frith (Celebrations: Images and Texts), a littlesnake broadside from Taylor Graham (Edge of Wildwood), and Musings3: An English Affair, a new blank journal of photos and writing prompts from Katy Brown. That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM.
And April 15 is the deadline for the second issue of WTF, the free quarterly journal from Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe that is edited by frank andrick. Submission guidelines are the same as for the Snake, but send your poems, photos, smallish art or prose pieces (500 words or less) to email@example.com (attachments preferred) or, if you’re snailing, to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. And be forewarned: this publication is for adults only, so you must be over 18 years of age to submit. Copies of the first issue are at The Book Collector, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one.
Medusa's Weekly Menu:
(Contributors are welcome to cook up something for any and all of these!)
Monday: Weekly NorCal poetry calendar
Tuesday: Seed of the Week: Tuesday is Medusa's day to post poetry triggers such as quotes, forms, photos, memories, jokes—whatever might tickle somebody's muse. Pick up the gauntlet and send in your poetic results; and don't be shy about sending in your own triggers, too! All poems will be posted and a few of them will go into Medusa's Corner of each Rattlesnake Review. Send your work to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline for SOWs; respond today, tomorrow, or whenever the muse arrives. (Print 'em out, maybe, save 'em for a dry spell?) When you send us work, though, just let us know which "seed" it was that inspired you.
Wednesday (sometimes, or any other day!): HandyStuff Quickies: Resources for the poet, including whatever helps ease the pain of writing and/or publishing: favorite journals to read and/or submit to; books, etc., about writing; organizational tools—you know—HandyStuff! Tell us about your favorite tools.
Thursday: B.L.'s Drive-Bys: Micro-reviews by our irreverent Reviewer-in-Residence, B.L. Kennedy. Send books, CDs, DVDs, etc. to him for possible review (either as a Drive-By or in future issues of Rattlesnake Review) at P.O. Box 160664, Sacramento, CA 95816.
Friday: NorCal weekend poetry calendar
Daily (except Sunday): LittleNips: SnakeFood for the Poetic Soul: Daily munchables for poetic thought, including short paragraphs, quotes, wonky words, silliness, little-known poetry/poet facts, and other inspiration—yet another way to feed our ravenous poetic souls.
And poetry! Every day, poetry from writers near and far and in-between! The Snakes of Medusa are always hungry.......!
Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as announcements of Northern California poetry events, to email@example.com (or snail ‘em to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726) for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.) Medusa cannot vouch for the moral fiber of other publications, contests, etc. that she lists, however, so submit to them at your own risk. For more info about the Snake Empire, including guidelines for submitting to or obtaining our publications, click on the link to the right of this column: Rattlesnake Press (rattlesnakepress.com). And be sure to sign up for Snakebytes, our monthly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all our ophidian chicanery.