Critical Overview

(Poetry for Students)

Bettina L. Knapp writes that War is Kind is a both a gloomy and an emotionally charged collection of poems “replete with scenes of martyrdom and bone-hard metaphors.” Knapp writes: “Despair, a morbid presence, permeates the world as individuals are forced to endure the agony of war.” Knapp calls the title poem of the collection “one of the most extraordinary war poems of all time.” Commenting on the historical reception of Crane’s poetry in his book-length study of Crane’s verse, Daniel Hoffman observes that “Crane’s critics have often asserted that his verse did not develop at all. Such critics apparently have been content to regard as typical of his second book the nine or ten poems which correspond in method to those of the first.” Hoffman, however, disagrees with these critics, claiming that Crane’s poetry had indeed evolved from The Black Riders to War is Kind. Hoffman claims that poems from War is Kind express Crane’s shift from allegory to symbolism, and that the subject matter of the latter poems represent “experiences and states of feeling more complex than the simple attitudes of the allegorical poems.” Of the poem “War is Kind,” Hoffman praises Crane’s use of juxtaposition and repetition, claiming that “The power of the poem is in its style. Crane’s style was a more flexible instrument than most critics of his poetry have allowed.” Writing in a more recent article, “Many Red Devils Upon the...

(The entire section is 321 words.)