“The Wine Menagerie” is a convoluted and disjointed attempt to describe the generative capacity of alcohol to spark creativity. It is divided into eleven stanzas of somewhat irregular rhyme; the final three form a kind of self-colloquy.
Hart Crane begins the poem on an almost fatalistic note coupled with an illusion about the redemptive quality of liquor (Crane was himself an alcoholic). When he gets drunk, the same things “invariably” happen. Wine gives him a fresh vision, he claims. He perceives an image of poetic feet in the line of mustard jars facing the bar, while a leopard of creativity hunts through his mind. The leopard image might also be a symbol of fraud; the poet’s creative visions, then, may be only an illusion.
The poet now fixes on the wine decanters and sees his image in their glittering bellies; they are a “glozening” glossary flowing into “liquid cynosures” that conscript him to the shadows and degrade him to a stupor. A fantasy of applause is attributed to the expansiveness of his wine-soaked visions.
He scrutinizes the onyx wainscoting and painted emulsions on the saloon wall. His revulsion is further expressed in the descriptions of the people who populate the speakeasy. He describes the “forceps” smile of a woman, her destructive, mallet eyes, and the fearful clatter of sweat on the man with whom she argues.
The poet fixes on a reptile image with octagon skin and transept...
(The entire section is 576 words.)