Hart Crane’s “My Grandmother’s Love Letters” consists of six stanzas, three of which are fairly traditional quatrains, three of which deviate from that established pattern. The “story” of the event that triggered the poem is relatively simple: The speaker discovers his grandmother’s letters tucked into a corner of the attic and contemplates reading them. The story of the poem itself, however, is far more complicated. Crane chooses to focus on the process of decision rather than on the act of reading.
“My Grandmother’s Love Letters” is one of Crane’s most straightforward poems, appearing early in Crane’s first book, White Buildings. It begins with a simple statement of fact: There are no stars to be seen because it is raining. Yet, even when they are covered with clouds, one knows the stars are there; memory serves as a way to interpret the universe. There is also room for human memory—the letters—which might open doors of human understanding. These letters are old—faded, fragile, friable—and they carry the weight of a personal history. Thus the speaker is acutely aware of the delicacy one needs to enter another person’s private terrain: “Over the greatness of such space/ Steps must be gentle.”
It is at this point that the reader is made aware that something larger is at stake. The poem suddenly contains a rhymed couplet, each line end-stopped, as though to give the reader time to pause: “It is...
(The entire section is 514 words.)