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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 139

What claims does Hart Crane make for the role of poetry in American culture?

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What features of Crane’s early poetry exemplify a conservative approach to poetic form?

What is anthropomorphism? Discuss its employment in Crane’s Voyages.

Both Walt Whitman and Hart Crane wrote poems honoring means of crossing New York’s East River. What resemblances in tone, imagery, and poetic style generally do you see in Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” and Crane’s “The Bridge”?

“The Bridge” seems to be made up of a series of rather disparate parts. What unifying element or elements do you see in the poem?

Several writers contributed to the discovery of Herman Melville’s genius in the 1920’s, mostly in biographical and critical prose. What made Crane’s “At Melville’s Tomb” a distinctive addition to this process of discovery?

Other literary forms

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Hart Crane’s principal literary production was poetry. Other writings include reviews, several essays on literature, and two essays on poetry: “General Aims and Theories” and “Modern Poetry.” His letters have been published, including those between Crane and the critic Yvor Winters and Crane’s letters to his family and friends.

Achievements

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Hart Crane is acknowledged to be a fine lyric poet whose language is daring, opulent, and sometimes magnificent. Although complaints about the difficulty and obscurity of his poetry persist, the poems are not pure glittering surface. When Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry, challenged metaphors of his such as the “calyx of death’s bounty” in “At Melville’s Tomb,” Crane demonstrated the sense within the figure. In 1930, Crane received the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine.

Crane is significant, moreover, in being a particularly modern poet. He wrote that poets had to be able to deal with the machine as naturally and casually as earlier poets had treated sheep and trees and cathedrals. His aim was to portray the effects of modern life on people’s sensibilities. In his poetry, Crane caught the frenzied rhythms and idioms of the jazz age.

Crane’s stature also rests on his having created a sustained long poem, The Bridge. Early critics looking for a classical epic deplored the poem’s seeming lack of narrative structure. Some critics also objected to Crane’s joining the party of Walt Whitman at a time when Whitman and optimism were in disfavor. Later critics, however, have seen The Bridge as one of the great poems in modern American literature. They find in it a more Romantic structure, the structure of the poet’s consciousness or the structure of human consciousness.

Bibliography

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Berthoff, Warner. Hart Crane: A Re-Introduction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. This is a solid, concise, generally accurate discussion of Crane’s life and work that uses more recent scholarship to correct misrepresentations of earlier books.

Crane, Hart. O My Land, My Friends: The Selected Letters of Hart Crane. Edited by Langdon Hammer and Brom Weber. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998. This expanded and revised edition of the 1952 Letters includes separate introductions to the periods of Crane’s life and an analytical index. One-third of the letters are new, and all are uncensored.

Hammer, Langdon. Hart Crane and Allen Tate: Janus-Faced Modernism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993. Called a “brilliant study” by the reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, this book focuses on the friendship between Crane and Tate, analyzing modern American poetry’s progress toward professionalism and institutionalization. Includes an index.

Hazo, Samuel. Hart Crane: An Introduction and Interpretation. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1963. Hazo’s small volume served as commentary of choice for several years and remains readable, informative, and enlightening. Begins with a biographical survey, then stakes out several avenues of approach to the poems. Although it includes a small number of illustrations, it has no notes. A chronology, a select, dated bibliography, and an index compensate somewhat.

Leibowitz, Herbert A. Hart Crane: An Introduction to the Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968. Begins with a biographical chapter which is followed by extended critical discussions of individual books. These commentaries are extraordinarily accessible to novice readers and reveal much about the poetry. Includes helpful notes, a bibliography good for its period, and an index.

Mariani, Paul L. The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. Examines the life of Crane, who held a pivotal role in the development of American literature’s avant-garde. Quotes from Crane’s letters and poems are included throughout the narrative.

Quinn, Vincent. Hart Crane. New York: Twayne, 1963. A good small volume in what was a good series of introductions. The commentary is more analytic than biographical; a chronology compensates. Contains full notes, a select bibliography, and a good index.

Unterecker, John. Voyager: A Life of Hart Crane. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969. Unterecker’s detailed biography does not deal with Crane’s poetry but offers a wealth of information about his life

Williamson, Alan. “Hart Crane.” Voices & Visions: The Poet In America. New York: Random House, 1987. This perceptive, informative essay covers Crane’s life and work. The book is intellectually serious but accessible and contains many illustrations.

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