She had a deep appreciation for metrics and was an admirer of Japanese Tanka and Haiku. Her Cinquain was developed partly as an American analogue of these forms.
Her poetry was published posthumously in 1915 in a collection titled ,Verse, many poems of which were written in the last year of her life, and in the knowledge that she was dying of tuberculosis. Their publication in the year following her death was met with critical acclaim, particularly for the brevity, poise, and metrical sophistication of those she called Cinquains She is considered one of the first Imagist poets.
Her interest in Japanese poetry has also led some critics to link her to the Imagist movement that became popular shortly after she died and was led by the likes of Ezra Pound, H. D., and Amy Lowell. Louis Untermeyer, editor for many years of Modern American Poetry, for example, called her “an unconscious Imagist.” Although her untimely death precluded any chance for her to collaborate with these poets, Crapsey was undoubtedly influenced by some of the same factors that fomented their movement including a desire to pull back from some of the excesses of the Georgian poets. Like Crapsey’s cinquains, Imagist poetry is characterized by the precise use of imagery and economy of language.
She struggled to assemble the manuscript for Verse (which contains many poems still in draft form) as she neared death and clearly intended the collection to be, as Edward Butscher describes, “a sort of last testament and self-memorial.”4 This perception is underscored to her readers by the decision to offer the following poem at the conclusion of Verse:
Listen . . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
three silent things:
The falling snow . . . the hour
Before the dawn . . . the mouth of one
Out of the strange
Still dusk . . . as strange, as still . . .
A white moth flew . . . Why am I grown