Time’s rendings, time’s blendings they construe
As final reckonings of fire and snow…
(from “The River” in The Bridge)
Hart Crane (1899-1932) was born on Cleveland, Ohio, the son of a well-to-do chocolate manufacturer who expected his son to follow his footsteps into the family business. That didn’t happen; Crane had no intention of that happening. Instead, he turned his attention to what he was most interested in – writing, and especially poetry.
His most well-known work is The Bridge, a series of poems on the American experience. In a sense, he was trying to write the Great American Poem, much like his novelist peers were trying to write the Great American Novel, which might have already been written (Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1885) (I realize that a parenthetical statement like that may cause controversy). Critics immediately found fault with The Bridge, for all kinds of reasons. They still do.
I had never read the entire work until recently. In high school, our junior English class read a few excerpts from the volume, which includes short poems on Rip Van Winkle, the Brooklyn Bridge (a kind of homage to Walt Whitman), Powhatan’s daughter, the Mississippi River, Cape Hatteras and a number of other subjects. As The Poetry Foundation’s entry on Crane points out, it was perhaps inevitable that the Great American Poem would fall short of its goals.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Photograph: Hart Crane, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.