The Complete Poems of Hart Crane, Paperback

The Complete Poems of Hart Crane Paperback

Edited by Marc V. Simon

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


This edition features a new introduction by Harold Bloom as a centenary tribute to the visionary of White Buildings (1926) and The Bridge (1930).

Hart Crane, prodigiously gifted and tragically doom-eager, was the American peer of Shelley, Rimbaud, and Lorca.

Born in Garrettsville, Ohio, on July 21, 1899, Crane died at sea on April 27, 1932, an apparent suicide.

A born poet, totally devoted to his art, Crane suffered his warring parents as well as long periods of a hand-to-mouth existence.

He suffered also from his honesty as a homosexual poet and lover during a period in American life unsympathetic to his sexual orientation.

Despite much critical misunderstanding and neglect, in his own time and in ours, Crane achieved a superb poetic style, idiosyncratic yet central to American tradition.

His visionary epic, The Bridge, is the most ambitious and accomplished long poem since Walt Whitman's Song of Myself.

Marc Simon's text is accepted as the most authoritative presentation of Hart Crane's work available to us.

For this centennial edition, Harold Bloom, who was introduced to poetry by falling in love with Crane's work while still a child, has contributed a new introduction.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Poetry by individual poets
  • ISBN: 9780871401786



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Review by
"The Broken Tower"The bell-rope that gathers God at dawnDispatches me as though I dropped down the knellOf a spent day - to wander the cathedral lawnFrom pit to crucifix, feet chill on steps from hell.Have you not heard, have you not seen that corpsOf shadows in the tower, whose shoulders swayAntiphonal carillons launched beforeThe stars are caught and hived in the sun's ray?The bells, I say, the bells break down their tower;And swing I know not where. Their tongues engraveMembrane through marrow, my long-scattered scoreOf broken intervals... And I, their sexton slave!Oval encyclicals in canyons heapingThe impasse high with choir. Banked voices slain!Pagodas, campaniles with reveilles outleaping -O terraced echoes prostrate on the plain!...And so it was I entered the broken worldTo trace the visionary company of love, its voiceAn instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)But not for long to hold each desperate choice.My word I poured. But was it cognate, scoredOf that tribunal monarch of the airWhose thigh embronzes earth, strikes crystal WordIn wounds pledged once to hope, - cleft to despair?The steep encroachments of my blood left meNo answer (could blood hold such a lofty towerAs flings the question true?) - or is it sheWhose sweet mortality stirs latent power? -And through whose pulse I hear, counting the strokesMy veins recall and add, revived and sureThe angelus of wars my chest evokes:What I hold healed, original now, and pure...And builds, within, a tower that is not stone(Not stone can jacket heaven) - but slipOf pebbles, - visible wings of silence sownIn azure circles, widening as they dipThe matrix of the heart, lift down the eyeThat shrines the quiet lake and swells a tower...The commodious , tall decorum of that skyUnseals her earth, and lifts love in its shower.- Hart Crane, 1932I feel daunted in trying to review Hart Crane's entire oeuvre. He is such an allusive/elusive poet, that I often felt helplessly lost in reading his poetry, especially his magnum opus in praise of Brooklyn Bridge, called simply The Bridge. The title is probably the only thing simple about this dense, immense poem, which is probably the long American poem of the 20th century.Because I feel so daunted by Crane's difficulty, I am only going to give a few personal responses to his work, without trying to analyse the poetry in any depth. I will start of by saying that, although I felt desperately in need of guidance while reading Crane, I also felt a wonderful ebullience and joy while reading his poetry. Crane, although deeply influenced by Walt Whitman's poetics of "free" verse, has a much more classical style than Whitman, incorporating classical metres and rhyme to great effect. Just looking at the above poem, one notices the careful use of a varied iamic pentameter and unobtrusive cross-rhyme, which serves to structure a very obscure poem. Crane was extremely widely read, even though he only lived to the age of 32. Homosexual, or at least bisexual, Crane experienced loneliness and became an alcoholic, finally commiting suicide by jumping into the Gulf of Mexico from the steamship Orizaba while en route to America from a trip to Mexico. What he might still have produced in terms of poetry is something sad to reflect upon.Some have described Crane as "word-drunk", an American Dylan Thomas without the rigour of contemporaries like Eliot and Wallace Stevens. This is false. Crane worked and re-worked his poems incessantly, trying to achieve the perfection of form and content that all good poetry strives after. His poems can seem wordy because he is so concerned with finding the correct expression, the one word that will say as much as a score of imperfect lines. Look again at the above poem, especially the lines "(Not stone can jacket heaven) - but slip / Of pebbles". The words "jacket" and "slip" are exquisite, chosen with care and precision. "Jacket" means "to enclose or encase in a jacket or other covering", implying the close, tight enclosure of "heaven" in a tower made not of stone. "Slip" has been interpreted in many ways, but the most likely meaning is "a thin, slippery mix of clay and water", refering to the clay from which humanity is fashioned.As you can see, Crane is so careful in choosing his words that it is easy to miss the meaning of a single phrase, not even to mention the meaning of a whole stanza, or the poem itself. This may lead to a lot of frustration when reading Crane; he certainly does not mind being obscure, and rarely gives the reader signposts to his meaning. That said, I hesitate to ascribe fixed meanings to any poem - there are only better and worse reading of poems, not universal or eternal ones. Therefore, my personal response to Crane is more important to me than the disparaging comments of some of his contemporaries (such as Ezra Pound), who either thought he was too classical, or too obscure. I take their criticisms on board, but I do not swallow them whole.Crane is a figure of sadness to me, but also one of brilliance and hope. He produced wonderful poetry in trying circumstances, and left a legacy of verse that will endure. I hope to encourage more people to read his poetry. Even though he may prove difficult, keep faith and try him. As Whitman wrote at the end of his Song of Myself:Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,Missing me one place search another,I stop somewhere waiting for you.So does Crane.
Review by

I came across the name Hart Crane a while back looking for magazines in which to place my poems. This one lit mag had a typical section on what they were looking for but under what they were not looking for they simply put “Hart Crane. Anything Hart Crane.” Sold me. I decided to look up his wikipedia page and found that he was famous for his long poem, “The Bridge.” I also found out he was inspired by T.S. Eliot and from there I knew I had to give him a try.It’s hard to write intelligently about Hart Crane’s work due to its difficulty. I find myself having a hard time just trying to piece together what he means, so consequently I just pay attention to how the poem hits me, if I like it or not. The introduction by Harold Bloom typifies certain poems as great and other poems as not so great but when I come across those poems I do not find my estimation of them to be the same. Whether his work is dense enough to revisit later and find something new I do not seem to know yet. What I do know is that it doesn’t have the addictive quality of Eliot’s earlier work. With Eliot I found an author who could lay the line down perfectly regardless of whether it was his own or a reference- each line spurred me forward to the next line, and I found myself diving into works that were immersive no matter how short they were.But this is not about T.S. Eliot. This is about Hart Crane, and while I find that much of his poems do have the quality of being “good” I do not find them deeply compelling, interesting, and fun in the same way. Some say that his difficulty shouldn’t detract from a person’s estimation of his work but I believe that if a person is to write poetry that person must connect with the simple as well as the complex. In fact a poet can be simple without being complex, but to be complex without being simple, or at least having that simple core? This is not a thing to be done in my mind. It’s like a trumpet player who completely leaves out the mid range in his solos and melodies. It just presents itself as too off kilter for me to really come away with something after I’ve read.

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