Harold Hart Crane was born in Garretsville, Ohio, on July 21, 1899, the son of Clarence and Grace Hart Crane. He was an only child, stuck between incompatible parents who each demanded his allegiance. His father, a successful businessman who founded what became a prosperous candy company, wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. His mother, who resented her husband’s absences and abuse, pressed the boy to develop in a more artistic direction.
When he was nine, the family recriminations exploded so fiercely that his mother had a nervous breakdown and entered a sanatorium, while Crane was sent to live with his grandmother in Cleveland. Eventually the whole family relocated to Cleveland, where Crane went to East High School. He was an introverted adolescent, occupying his free time in voracious reading or taking long walks alone. His high school years were punctuated by a trip to visit his grandmother’s plantation on the Isle of Pines, Cuba. Although the trip was ruined by family discord, it introduced Crane to the tropical regions to which he would return and which he would picture so magically in his last poems.
In November, 1916, Clarence Crane moved out, and his wife filed for divorce. Their marriage was over. The young Crane, who had been viewing the Greenwich Village arts explosion from a distance and had a few months previously had his first poem published in one of its small magazines, Bruno’s Weekly, quit high school and set off for New York City. Over the following few years he would get to know many literary figures, such as Allen Tate and Waldo Frank. Although Crane was to achieve a measure of success...
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