Friday, July 20, 2012

For Hart Crane

Their hearts are as gifts—the already broken—
aspic and strychnine, tears of the muse
sponged from the soaking—words can't be spoken—
everything good on this earth has no use.

It's only in words that are lifted away
—some rarefied bend of the spoon—
where lunatic voyagers burn in their play
of vapor that yearns off the moon.

Some residue must—that's all we've got—
be left—when our wisdom has fallen apart
—some fact of our essence—distilled to knot
our surrender in peace to the dark.

Such words—will never find meaning in what
betrayed as the end left us ruined—
our dreams became then the loneliest cut
—the music will tend to the wound.

Harold Hart Crane, born this day in 1899, was the stuff of legend for not only his doomed romantic poet life (i.e. jumping off a cruise ship to his death at age 32) but for his sublime verse, as he was the only American poet I know of who extended Eliot's early lyricism into something more sustained and sustaining. Seen as a lightweight in his day, we are only now starting to understand the richness, ambition and depth of his vision. His life was a chaotic swirl of family dysfunction, self-loathing homosexuality and alienating alcoholism held together by the idealism of his poetry, which another, more enlightened age might have preferred to the grim materialism of Pound and Eliot.

What can I say other than he is one of my favorite poets period. Read if you like White Buildings or The Bridge, or the book on his life, The Broken Tower (cleverly turned into an autobiography of James Franco when made into a film last year). Here are a few of Crane's uncollected poems, to give a sample of the quality of work he threw away:

The Visible, The Untrue

Yes, I being
the terrible puppet of my dreams, shall
lavish this on you—
the dense mine of the orchid, split in two.
And your fingernails with all their zest for doom?

I'm wearing badges
that cancel all your kindness. I watch the silver
Zeppelin devastate the sky. To stir your confidence?
To rouse what sanctions?

The silver strophe… the canto
bright with myth… Such
distances leap landward from innocence dissolute—
she hazards jets; wears tiger-lilies, bolts herself
within a jeweled belt.

Surely she has felt the distance
again expand voiceless between us,
as an uncoiled shell, postures that seem too much impromptu…

The shiver of a moth’s descent, the moon
in a mad orange flare
floods the grape-hung night. She
has become a pathos—waif of the tides.

The window weight throbs in its blind
partition. To extinguish what I have of faith.
Yes, light. And it is always
always, always the eternal rainbow.
And it is always the day, the farewell day unkind.

The Hive

Up the chasm-walls of my bleeding heart
Humanity pecks, claws, sobs, and climbs;
Up the inside, and over every part
Of the hive of the world that is my heart.

And of all the sowing, and all the tear-tendering,
And reaping, have mercy and love issued forth.
Mercy, white milk, and honey, gold love—
And I watch, and say, “These the anguish are worth.”

A Persuasion

If she waits late at night
Hearing the wind,
It is to gather kindnesses
No world can offer.

She has drawn her hands away.
The wind plays andantes
Of lost hopes and regrets,—
And yet is kind.

Below the wind,
Waiting for morning
The hills lie curved and blent
As now her heart and mind.

And for something he most assuredly did not throw away, there's this:


Jack said...

Bravo, bravo, bravo. Graceful movement and sound. Assonant, consonant--plain smooth.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Happy birthday, Hart! We heart Hart.

(I didn't realize how young he was...very sad).

the walking man said...

The true poets heart without the posture or poseur. Why so many of us feel that deeply is our curse and our courage.

Tom King said...

O'Hara: "after all, only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American poets, are better than the movies."