To Brooklyn Bridge

by Hart Crane

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In what ways is "To Brooklyn Bridge" a modernist poem?

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"To Brooklyn Bridge" can be considered a modernist poem in that it deals with the contemporary city. In Crane's poem, the Brooklyn Bridge stands as a symbol of the possibility of bringing people together in a society in which they are increasingly atomized.

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There are a number of modernist features to be observed in Hart Crane's "To Brooklyn Bridge." As well as the highly subjective prosodic style, there is the depiction of the contemporary city, a common preoccupation of modernist artists.

"To Brooklyn Bridge" is often compared to another great modernist poem, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, part of which is also firmly located in the modern-day city, with its chaos and fragmentation.

The difference, however, is that Crane, who admired Eliot's masterpiece but found it at the same time somewhat dead, sees the possibility of reconciliation between people atomized by contemporary developments in society.

The Brooklyn Bridge itself stands as a symbol of that reconciliation. The bridge, unlike many modern technological innovations such as the radio and the telephone, actually brings people together. In that sense, it is a symbol of hope, something that is notable by its absence in The Waste Land and other modernist works in which there is a marked sense of despair at contemporary society.

Crane's comparison in the final stanza between the Brooklyn Bridge and the river underneath it—they are both sleepless—shows that he regards this great feat of modern engineering as something approaching a feature of the natural landscape. Here, we see not just Crane the modernist, but also Crane the latter-day Romantic.

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