Thursday, July 21, 2011

Born On This Day- July 21st... American Poet Hart Crane

Hart Crane was born & raised in Ohio. His father was the inventor of Life Savers candy & he had a mother who was an overbearing, flashy hypochondriac. The parents fought bitterly & eventually divorce, providing the young poet a very unhappy childhood.

Crane finally had enough & dropped out of high school to move to NYC in 1916. For 7 years, he split his time between Cleveland & NYC, working at his father's factory, a copy editor, & writing poems that were published in small literary magazines. He often needed to borrow money from his father to survive.

As his work was published, some praised his work, but most critics scoffed at it. Crane has often been criticized as incomprehensible; he was certainly that for me when I attempted to get through his work in a class in American poetry.

Tormented by his attraction to other men, Crane did have a rapturous love affair with a Danish sailor- Emil Opffer who was the inspiration for the epic, erotic poem-Voyages. The poem was the center piece of his first book- White Buildings, in 1926, Crane was indubitably gay, which lead to a lifetime of problems both social & personal. His failed love life was partly due to his obsession with men from the Navy. Ernest Hemingway (they share a birthday) noted: "Poor Hart Crane, always trying to pick up the wrong sailor." Booze contributed to his downfall, under the influence, he would become flirty, frequently in the wrong situations, at the wrong times.

Later in life, Crane made an attempt to play it straight to please the people in his life. Though he tried, he was miserable. Drinking & rough trade bearable, yet made his life worse & worse.

In the early 1930s Hart attempted to marry a girl, Peggy Crowley, the recently divorced wife if his good friend, writer & critic- Malcolm Crowley, but everyone knew it was a sham.

On April 26, 1932, while on board a cruise ship in the Caribbean, Crane was badly beaten after an altercation with a member of the crew that he had made a pass at. The following morning, a female friend found him sitting in his room, remote & ashen. She told him to dress for lunch & left. Shortly before noon on the 27 April, Hart Crane was seen on the deck, looking down at the water. Crane said, "Goodbye, everybody!" & jumped overboard to his death. His body was never recovered.

The most devoted of all the writers & artists who venerated Crane, Tennessee Williams left instructions that his body be buried at sea in the Gulf of Mexico at the spot that Crane drowned. Williams family buried him in St. Louis.

His life is a truly troubled tale of a talented man trying to find where he belongs. His poetry confounds me & his life leaves me circumspect.

We make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered & too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step & know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, & to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
& what surprise!

& yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, & all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
& through all sound of gaiety & quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness

1 comment:

  1. I am a fan as well....I took me awhile to get through his book of complete poems, but there were some amazing revelations.


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