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This is poetry and the American produced and recorded by station KPFA in Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This program is a profile of the poet Hart Crane as seen primarily through a reading of a few of his poems. The program as presented by Robert Bellew from the University of California at Berkeley. On the 21st of July 1899 in Cleveland Ohio was born to Clarence a crane and the former Grace hocked their only child my son christened Harold Hart Crane just 33 years later. This boy grown a man committed suicide by leaping off the stern of the vessel that was bringing him back to New York from an extended stay in Mexico. From the literary world there has come an outpouring of analogies and remembrances
unparalleled in the history of this country and comparable sense only to the impact of the recent death of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Yet even this testimonial was inadequate to express the sense of loss experienced by the younger poets and writers particularly for in the few short years he allowed himself Harold Hart Crane had become a poet who represented in the quintessence their hopes their aspirations and their four doomed defeats. John Donne once wrote No man is an island of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent a part of the main. Now it is one thing to understand this philosophic way it is another thing to feel oneself comfortably and securely a part of the main feeling that for most people is the principal legacy from their parents.
Crane's father was a wealthy son of a wealthy family. He was a successful businessman in his own right. He was impetuous self-centered and in most things determined to have his own way in his own way. Official History does not record so faithfully the mother's failings but it is clear that she was a neurotic woman whose nervous health was fragile and who could not keep from unloading a good deal of her grief onto the head of her remit your son in this tug of war. This electric atmosphere air what he called quote an avalanche of bitterness and wailing unquote Crane's personality probably started its premature dissolution. Hart Crane's father saw him as a child who grew violently ill with nausea and high fever over such ridiculous causes as a minor
social phobia or slight and as a young man who defiantly stated he would devote his life to poetry. Now this as a summary of the character of his only son was something to fill the elder crane with outrage and his only reaction for many years was to try to break the boy's will. Conversely crane was outraged by his father's treatment of his mother and felt no understanding love or sympathy coming from his father. Hence it was almost impossible to return any. At the height of the trouble in 1999 Harold crane had signalled his total sympathy with his mother by becoming Hart Crane. It's significant that at the age of 20 the time of his parents break up he wrote and otherwise rather juvenile poem called forgetfulness which contains these lines.
Forget fullness. Why. Why does a blasted treed. And it may stunned the civil into prophecy. Bury the gods. I can't remember much forgetful mass. Already the note of Oblivion is struck and already the almost mystical insights are there. There is the blasted tree symbol of his forever ruined emotional center. There is the symbol stunned into prophecy as he was to seek after and be stunned by the mystical vision. And there is the God of Barry. And so it was in a time when intellectually men were feeling themselves isolated. When Hemingway pronounced his last generation when Dada ism and other literary movements were invented to express this feeling all no doubt with
some reason but one feels with a good deal of self pity and glory in the painting. Hart Crane reached his majority and truly an island began a decade of heroic effort not to express his isolation but to fuse himself with the continent of man. Could he overleaped his immediate parents and find a sense of belonging through his maternal grandmother who still lived. And toward him he felt a great deal of affection. Something of that nature seems involved in the poem entitled My grandmother's love letters. There are no stasis tonight but those of memory. Yet how much room for memory there is in the loose girdle of soft rain.
There is even room enough for the letters of my mother's mother Elizabeth that have been pressed into a corner of the room that they have brown and soft and liable to Mallard as snow over the greatness of such space steps must be gentle. It is all by an invisible white hair. It trembles as Burchill limbs webbing the air and I ask myself Are your fingers long enough to play old keys that I would echo is the silence strong enough to carry back the music to its source and back to you again as though to our.
Yet I wouldn't need my grandmother by the hand through much of what she would not understand. And so I stumble and the rain continues on the roof with such a sob gently pitying laugh. Between early stays in New York where he established some of those literary acquaintances that were to serve so ambiguously throughout his life. He returned for over a year to Cleveland during which time he made some of his most meaningful friendships with obscure artists William Summers the painter whose work Crane brought to a larger attention was won and through Somers. Ernest Nelson both Somers and Nelson were older man
summers and kept painting despite poverty the long work day family responsibilities. But Ernest Nelson had been driven by these forces to quit a very promising beginning both as poet and painter. The isolation and loneliness and the obscure heroism of Nelson touched crane. And when the older man died crane wrote praise for an urn. One of the most beautiful allergies in American literature in Nelson he saw combined the eternal sadness of Pyrrho and the enormous sensual gayety of Robert Lay's Gargantua with a living wisdom which could survive the storm. His remembrance of their talks on the meaning of life and death is ironically commented on in the poem by the clock in the crime of Tory where Nelson's body is reduced to ashes as a language might
be reduced to its component idioms. Phrase for an urn in memoriam Ernest Nelson. It was a kind and northern face that mingled in such exile guys the everlasting eyes of peril and of Gargantua the laughter. His thoughts delivered to me from the white coverlet and Pellow. I see now where inheritances delicate Riders of the star the slant the moon on the slanting hill once moved toward present to months of what the dead keep living still. And such assessments of the soul as perched in the crematory
lobby the insistent clock commented on touching as well upon our praise of glory as proper to the tie. Still having in my gold hair I cannot see that broken brow and miss the dry sound of the Strachey cross-eyed usage. It's a gathering of the is well-meant Didion's into the Smokies spring that fills the suburbs where they will be lost. They are no trophies of the sign. Toward the end of this period. In the summer of 19 22 the
first of his larger concepts became in actuality a poem called for the marriage of Faust us and Helen. The poem was in three sections. In his own words quote I was really building a bridge between the so-called classic experience of beauty and many divergent realities of our seeding confused chaos of today unquote. So that we see once more the effort to connect himself with some larger human scheme. It was shortly after this that I began to think of and write some fragments of what seems in retrospect the inevitable major effort with the inevitable title the bridge in which Brooklyn Bridge was to serve as the central symbol of a long poem that was to be as he put it quote a synthesis of America and its structural identity unquote. Meanwhile he had returned to New York and in
1924 and 25 wrote the second of his major compositions the series of six poems called voyages some years earlier at the age of 16. A few days after his first acceptance by a New York little magazine he accompanied his mother to the hart plantation on the Isle of Pines south of Cuba. Dating from this voyage to the tropics islands the whole paraphernalia of the sea and heard his poetry forever. The sea fascinated him. That great land lessness that great waste of contained in the form and formlessness of promise and struck and continued to vibrate throughout his life the deepest chords of his being. This series of six poems is without doubt the noblest evocation of the sea in
American poetry. I shall read the first three sections. Voyages above the fresh ruffles of the surf bright stripe and urchins fly each other with signs they have contrived a conquest for shall shocks and their fingers crumble fragments of baked weed gaily digging and scattering. And in answer to their trouble interjections the sun beats lightning on the waves the waves fold funder on the sand. And could they hear me I would tell them oh brilliant kids frisk with your dog fondle your shells and sticks bleached by time and the elements. But there is a line you must not cross nor ever trust beyond it
spry cordage of your bodies to caresses to like and faithful from none too wide a brass the bottom of the sea is cruel. And yet there is a grey wing of eternity of the rimless floods unfettered leeward ings Samite sheet head and procession where no vast valet would ban. Laughing the rap inflections of our law. Hey there see those die a Paisan now on scrolls of silver snowiest sentences the sceptered terror of whose sessions Rennes as her demeanors
motion while all about the piety is of lovers and views. A non-word eyes bellows off scions Salva dogs tied to the Crocus last of the stock is in these poinsettia meadows of higher tides GEOS of islands all my prodigal complete the dark confessions have a spanish. Monarch cowhide turning the shoulders why in the hours and hasten while have Penelas rich man's past superscription of bent foam and wave hastened while they are true. Sleep. Death. Desire. Close round one instant in one floating flower. Bind us in time of seasons clear and all.
Oh men strode galleons of carob fire bequeath us to know our foolish one tale is answered in the vortex of our grave. See why I spend drift the die. Infinit Khan sanguine idiot. Bad as this tender theme of the view of the light retrieves from sea planes where the sky resigns of brass that every wave and thrones Wyo ribboned water lanes I wind our live then scattered with no stroke wide from your side to this hour the sea also had and so admitted through
black swollen gates that must arrest all distance otherwise. Past where Ling pillars and live had eminence the light wrestling their incessant play with light. Stop kissing Stata through wave on wave on to your body rocking and where death. If she had presumes no carnage bought this single change upon the stage. Follow the line from dawn to dawn the silken skill of the Terrans member months of song. Are meant to me a voyage of. Into your hands. During the next two years with most of the work being done in two
fantastic surges of creativity he all but completed his master work the bridge the generosity of the banker auto con was largely responsible for freeing him for most of this period from earning a living and the first of his creative bursts occurred on the Isle of Pines to which he had returned to carry on his writing there for a period of time roughly the month of August 1926. His creativity achieved some kind of infinite push of powers and at the end of that time he had completed about three quarters of the bread plus a number of his best shorter pieces. Among them Royal Palm. Green rustling leaves more than regal charities drift coolly from that tower of whispered light I made the known tides of the desperate deeds. I
watch the sun's most gracious anchorite climb up as by communings year on year on a turn of the earth or OT and the great trunk that's elephantine and rear it's frond ings side in a theory will follow ever through less and beyond that you would have swept the jungle presses with hot love and tender old have our death word breath to see it. Graves as the horizons launched above immortality they are sending emerald bright our fountain and soul you da crown in view unshackled casual of its eyes you're at a height as though it's so hard such wise through a heaven tool. Not long after his dedicating this magnificent poem to his mother
their relationship began to disintegrate as he realized he was unable to bear both her agony and his own. After that he made what shift he could be courageous or cowardly to cut himself off from her life and succeeded. Meanwhile his father's second wife had died and he had married a third time. Hart Crane became fond of his stepmother. He became a good deal less sure of the relative guilt and the troubles between his father and mother and his Crane's growing reputation began to convince his father of the validity of Crane his dedication to portray a kind of reconciliation with his father took place. His father gave him a small but steady financial support in these last years. Though Crane never lost his incredible vitality he is asked for a living. Nor the magnificent physique which withstood every hardship
his life after 1926 was an accelerated tale of disintegration. I said earlier that he was an islander trying to create a bridge between himself and the mainland of man. Perhaps that was wrong. Perhaps he spent his life trying to be a bridge first between his parents. Next between his mother and her sanity. Next between his talent and an abstract concept of beauty. Next between the real imperfect America and our noble mystical destiny. In the end perhaps it was less his failure than that of the persons and things he tried to unify as if it Lantus that mythical continent which had for so long intrigued him had sunk into the welter of water leaving him an abstract bridge of language in the midst of the sea whose ends
anchored to an old reality. Out of the mother soil of America the legendary Pocahontas of Crain's epic poem the bridge out of the fic conduct a spiritually handed on to the Pioneer Woman from the tragic Indian mother come such man such signs restless Wanderers after majestic clouds that looked like mountains or rather the explorers of mountains as you said as clouds. From Part two of the bridge. The section called Indiana. The Morning Glory climbing in the morning along over the lentil on its wire a
vibe closes before the DAs firs in its song as I close my eyes. And bison founder rends my dreams no mas for once my room was torn my boy when you did your first cry of the prairie's dog your father knew that and though we'd buried him behind as far back on the Gold trail. Then his last day. But you who dropped the side to grasp the O.R. knew not nor heard. How are we to prodigal once rode off to wave seminary Hill a gay goodbye. We found God lavish there in Colorado but passing a sly pebble sang the fire cat slunk away in glistening through the
sluggard freshets came in golden syllables loosed from the clay his gleaming name. A dream called Eldorado was his town that rose up shambling in the Nuggets way. It had no charter but a promised crowd of claims to stay but we are too late too early howsoever one nothing out of 59 those years but yielded promise yielded to us never and barren years. The long train back. I huddled in the shade of wagon tenting looked out once and saw a bent westward passing on a stumbling Jade a homeless squaw. Perhaps a half breed on her slender back she cradled of Davis body. Riding without
rain highrise strange for an Indians were not black but sharp with pain and light twins stock as they seemed to shine in the gaze of all our silent man the long team line and two she saw me. When their Violet haze lit with love shine I held you up by you suddenly the boulder knew that mere words could not have brought us nearer. She nodded. And that smile across her shoulder will still endear her as long as Jim your father's memory is warm. Yes Larry now you're going to see. Remember YOU were the first before Ned and this farm first born remember.
And since then all that's left to me of Jim has folks like mine came out of Arrowhead. And you're the only one with eyes like him. Kentucky bred. I'm standing still. I'm all I'm half of stone. Oh hold me in those eyes and gaging blue. There is rather stubborn years gleam in the tone where gold is true. Down the damned Turnpike to the river's edge. Perhaps I'll hear the mare's hoofs to the far right me from Rio and you'll keep your pledge I know your word. Come back to Indiana not too late. Or will you be a ranger to the end.
Good bye good bye. I shall always wake you Larry. Travel light. STRANGER. Sign my friend. This profile of Hart Crane was presented by Robert Bellew poetry in the American was produced and recorded by KPFA in Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NABC Radio Network.
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Poetry and the American
Profile of Hart Crane
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Poetry and the American; Profile of Hart Crane,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 5, 2023,
MLA: “Poetry and the American; Profile of Hart Crane.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 5, 2023. <>.
APA: Poetry and the American; Profile of Hart Crane. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from