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Hart Crane

Hart Crane: A Re-Introduction

Warner Berthoff
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Hart Crane
    Book Description:

    More than half a century after his death, the work of Hart Crane (1899-1932) remains central to our understanding of twentieth-century American poetry. During his short life, Crane’s contemporaries had difficulty seeing past the “roaring boy” who drank too much and hurled typewriters from windows; in recent years, he has come to be seen as a kind of “last poet” whose only theme is self-destruction, and who himself exemplifies the breakdown of poetry in the modern age. Taking as a point of departure Robert Lowell’s 1961 valuation of Crane and his power to speak from “the center of things,” Warner Berthoff in this book reappraises the essential character and force of Crane’s still problematic achievement. Though he takes into account the substantial body of commentary on Crane’s work, his primary intent is to look afresh at the poems themselves, and at the poet’s clear-eyed (and brilliant) letters. This approach enables Berthoff, first, to track the emergence and development of Crane’s lyric style - an art that recreates, in compact form, the turbulence of the modern city. He then explores the background and historical community that nourished Crane’s creative imagination, and he evaluates Crane’s conception of the ideal modern poetic: a poetry of ecstasy created with architectural craft. His final chapter is devoted to The Bridge, the ambitious lyric suite that proved to be the climax and terminus of Crane’s work. Berthoff’s emphasis throughout is on the beauty and power of individual poems, and on the sanity, shrewdness, and sense of purpose that informed Crane’s working intelligence._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5579-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Chapter 1 “Your Strange Steel-Sure Abstractions”
    (pp. 3-27)

    That Hart Crane’s legacy as a poet needs sorting out, item by item, is a matter still worth insisting on. The relative compactness of his finished work, the brevity of his working life, and a hard-to-dismiss sense that every moment in that life was somehow directed toward the confusion and waste of his final years, have all contributed to our taking the poetry itself as a more or less uniform whole (once we follow him out of an adolescent apprenticeship which, though precocious, was as derivative as anyone’s). The regular recurrence, too—as soon as even in single lines and...

  5. Chapter 2 “The Freedom of My Imagination”
    (pp. 28-56)

    At the core the myths are not wrong. Every soul does lead, in some fashion, a divided life; thinks about itself, observes itself, or waits out—it may be for long periods—the baffling absence of the self-born partner who will define and validate its life in the world. The character of John Updike’s who at seventeen “went around thinking of myself in the third person, ‘Allen Dow strode down the street and home,’ ‘Allen Dow smiled a thin sardonic smile,’ ” is simply an egocentric fledgling instance. (At least once, in an early letter, Hart Crane fell into the...

  6. Chapter 3 “A Poetry of the Center”
    (pp. 57-82)

    Into the late 1920s Crane wrote fairly continuously to different friends defining his purposes in poetry and describing how, in the circumstance of the moment, he intended to accomplish them. But at no stage in his life do we find him constructing poems to fit a single peremptory doctrine of poetic value (as Yvor Winters came to do). Even such statements as “General Aims and Theories” and “Modern Poetry” do not undertake fully detailed expositions of his working poetic. “Aesthetic speculations, etc. are of course endlessly interesting to me and stimulating,” he announced to Winters early in their four-year correspondence,...

  7. Chapter 4 The Bridge: “Too Impossible An Ambition”?
    (pp. 83-110)

    No one now pays much attention to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous pronouncement, delivered in the apprehensive dawn of literary modernism, that given natural limits to human responsiveness there can be no such thing as a satisfactory long poem; only short compositions machined to produce a single affective impression can be admired straight through. Yet understanding Poe’s peremptory rule for what it was, a one-sided, problem-solving response to the pre-modernist breakdown of classical-humanist norms of use and value (and to the underlying redistribution of cultural authority), we may have to grant that something oddly like its model of performative excellence still...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 113-126)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 127-130)
  10. Index
    (pp. 133-138)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 139-139)