Item description for Hart Crane Complete Poems and Selected Letters (Library of America) by Hart Crane & Langdon Hammer...
Overview Presents a collection of writings by the American poet, including his complete body of poetic and prose works as well as a selection of his letters, and offers insight into his relationships with family and contemporaries.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.14" Width: 5.28" Height: 1.42" Weight: 1.6 lbs.
Release Date Sep 21, 2006
Publisher Library of America
ISBN 1931082995 ISBN13 9781931082990
Reviews - What do customers think about Hart Crane Complete Poems and Selected Letters (Library of America)?
I didn't have time to make it shorter Nov 29, 2006
As an American boy growing up in Normandy, I would sit for hours, homesick, on the cliffs overlooking the Channel, thinking that if the fog ever lifted I could see Manhattan. And I would recite from WHITE BUILDINGS for hours, crying out to the fates that had separated me from my homeland, as Hart Crane had bubbled his way to the bottom of a purple sea some miles away I assumed. "As bells off San Salvador/ Salute the crocus lustres of the stars,/ In these poinsettia meadows of her tides,--/ Adagios of islands, O my prodigal,/ Complete the dark confession her veins spell." I hardly knew what I was saying, but some charms really do work and it wasn't long before I was repatriated, mouth first. I hope it's not heretical to suggest that Hart Crane's letters, while never less than interesting and often amusing, aren't that superb, and the book seems padded out in consequence to fit the desired "heft" of Library of America volumes. The Board might as well get used to the notion that not all poets have written thousands of pages, and for every Whitman you get a Hart Crane, who just didn't write very much. Does he deserve a place on the shelf with his 144 pages of poetry? Maybe there are some packing issues I don't understand, but otherwise, sure, throw in four hundred pages of Crane's letters.
Though nothing could really top the exquisite if critical presentation that the late Thomas Parkinson gave to his edition of the Crane-Yvor Winters correspondence, Langdon Hammer is able, through the sheer gift of size, to expand upon what we've had and complicate our hitherto too perfect picture of Crane. Crane's letters to Slater Brown and Wilbur Underwood are the liveliest, perhaps, but women also animate him and a recent biography that excoriated Crane for his misogyny seems sadly off the mark. However some biographers will do anything to create a scandal. One might profitably read through these letters to find out what Crane recommends in the way of early American modernism, his peers, because in general his taste is pretty good (and his dismissals of overrated trash are classics of vinegary invective). Of course he can sometimes gild the lily when praising, say, Harry Crosby's poems in a letter to his putative patron.
The index may be the single most useful feature of the poems + letters arrangement, for the index will help us find what Crane had to say about X or Y of his poems as he was writing them. He wrote, for example, a wonderfully impassioned letter to Otto Kahn, the industrial magnate who financed the writing of THE BRIDGE, outlining the different sections he had already finished and those still in the pipeline. Kahn also helped to finance the Metropolitan Opera, and Crane asks Kahn's help in finding employment there as a copywriter. He had the personality of a basso profundo; I wonder if the opera world would have changed if Hart Crane had been more in it.
A brilliant lyric poet who died far too young Oct 20, 2006
Hart Crane is one of those powerful poetic voices that is its own style and immensely attractive. As others have noted, he was modern for his time, clearly American, and yet full of the great poetic traditions of the English language. His influences are identified directly in his works. He talks to Walt Whitman and discusses Emily Dickinson, Chaplin, Poe, and others. His early death was a great loss to English letters and the American voice in the 20th Century.
This wonderful volume from the Library of America (remember to thank them with your purchases and donations - they are non-profit after all) is more than eight-hundred pages, but only a few more than one-hundred of them contain all of Crane's poetry (including fragments). A few more have some essays and prose. The rest are filled with more than four hundred letters that Crane wrote to his parents, his friends, his literary associates, and others. The letters help us put Crane's work into a richer context, allow us to see some of the published works in earlier states, and make us ache and wonder what might have been if he hadn't jumped off the deck of the "Orizaba" into the Caribbean in 1932.
To provide just one tiny sample that amazed me from "Cape Hatteras" in "The Bridge" (Crane's great work) [the ellipsis in the second line is in the poem]:
Stars scribble on our eyes the frosty sagas, The gleaming cantos of unvanquished space . . . O sinewy silver biplane, nudging the wind's withers! There, from Kill Devils Hill at Kitty Hawk Two brothers in their twinship left the dune; Warping the gale, the Wright windwrestlers veered Capeward, then blading the wind's flank, banked and spun What ciphers risen from prophetic script, What marathons new-set between the stars! The soul, by naphtha fledged into new reaches Already knows the closer clasp of Mars, -- New latitudes, unknotting, soon give place To what fierce schedules, rife of doom apace!
We can hear his lyric voice, see his fresh images, and his ability to form the words into powerful energy. This is the result of great talent married to hard work and a special sensitivity to the language. Harold Bloom call's Crane "our Pindar". Now, I think there is more to this image than the linking of two lyric poets. Most of Pindar's poetry is lost to us. One set of odes is complete, and the others survive as fragments. Even though Pindar died old and Crane died young, we wonder about what we might have had from both if Pindar's work had found a way to survive and Crane had found a way to live.
Some say that it was the oppression society put on Crane because of his homosexuality (bi-sexuality?). However, almost all the homosexuals in Crane's time did not commit suicide, and a fair percentage of the people that did commit suicide were heterosexual. The poet grew up in a chaotic family. Yes, his father became a successful businessman with his syrup factory (he also invented and sold the rights to Life Saver candies for a pittance), but Crane's mother and father fought constantly and melodramatically. So much so that Crane dropped out before finishing high school and moved away to New York. The poet's own emotional life was harsh and prone to self-destructive behavior including alcoholism. After 1927 his drinking became much worse. When you combine the home life that formed his emotional responses with his parents divorcing, his father dying suddenly, his mother's neediness, his failure to produce much work during his year in Mexico on a Guggenheim fellowship, the affair with Peggy Baird Cowley (the soon to be ex-wife of a friend), his discovery that the inheritance from his maternal grandmother that had been held in trust for him was gone because of a loan his father guaranteed with it, along with being beaten up aboard ship for making a pass at one of the crew and then getting seriously drunk, well, stepping off the boat into the sea in front of witnesses while exclaiming, "Good-bye, everybody!" isn't as big a leap as one might at first suppose.
But what a loss to us all.
This is a fine volume. The editor has provided biographical material for the people mentioned in the letters, notes on sources, notes for the text (including a fine foreword), and an especially helpful chronology of Crane's too brief life.
Hart Crane is a poet I did not know anything about until I had read Harold Bloom's introduction to his "American Religious Poems". Then I knew I had to get this volume and learn more about this important and brilliant poet. You might want to get to know his work and his life, as well.
A Poetry of Vision -- A Life of Excess Oct 17, 2006
"Who asks for me, the Shelley of my age, must lay his heart out for my bed and board."
In a short, tumultous life, Hart Crane (1899 -- 1932) wrote two of the greatest books of 20th Century American poetry: White Buildings (1926) and the Bridge (1930) as well as some splendid individual poems. His poetry is collected in this outstanding volume of the Library of America, edited by Langdon Hammer of Yale University.
Of the 850 pages of this book, only 144 are devoted to Crane's poetry. Most of the remainder of the text consists of 14 short essays by Crane and of 412 letters from his extensive correspondence written between 1910 and his suicide in 1932. These letters, together with Professor Hammer's notes and biographical sketches of Crane's correspondents, offer the reader a good portrait of Crane's troubled life, and they read with more immediacy and poignancy than any biography.
Crane dropped out of high school and left an unhappy home in Cleveland at the age of 17 to try to make his way as a poet in New York. Many of the letters in this collection detail Crane's stormy relationship with his parents, his father Clarence ("C.A.") Crane, a wealthy chocolate manufacturer, and his mother Grace Hart Crane. Crane was also close to his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Belden Hart. In the "Quaker Hill" section of The Bridge, Crane said that the he had to "Shoulder the curse of sundered parentage". His difficult, shifting relationship with his family is amply chronicled in these letters.
But this collection includes much more than correspondence with a broken family. They offer insight into Crane's poetic ambitions and into the composition of The Bridge and of the shorter poems. They offer a view of New York City, seen through Crane's eyes, and of his literary friends and contemporaries, including Allen Tate, Waldo Frank, Yvor Winters, Malcolm Cowley, Peggy Cowley, Crane's patron Otto Kahn, and many others. The letters give the reader a portrait of a complex, troubled person who from late adolescence lived life hard and on the edge. Crane was promiscuous with a lengthy series of mostly homosexual affairs together with longer-term relationships with men and women. Crane's most intense male relationship was with a sailor named Emil Opffer (none of his letters to Opffer survive) and, just before his death, he had a passionate heterosexual relationship in Mexico with Peggy Cowley, as she was divorcing Malcolm Cowley. From his mid-20s Crane had deep problems with alcoholism which greatly hindered his ability to write. He was perpetually short of money and cadged and borrowed extensively from his friends and family. He fought constantly and was jailed several times. In a fit of depression -- when his life superficially seemed to be looking up he committed suicide by jumping off a ship, the Orizaba, en route from Cuba to New York City.
Read as a whole, this collection of Crane's correspondence and poetry raises difficult and probably unanswerable questions about the relationship between Crane's life and his work. Crane's excesses and passions in fact are an important component of his poetry. But while the life was a failure, Crane was a poet of romantic vision. Crane struggled for years to complete "The Bridge", a work which remains controversial and not unqualifiedly successful. In this poem, Crane took the Brooklyn Bridge as a symbol and tried to create a myth, in the machine age, that would unite America's past with its future and also give meaning to his own life. (Much of The Bride is autobiographical.) The Bridge is a work of difficult optimism as Crane traces America back to the voyages of Columbus and the days of Pocahontas with Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe as guides. The poems ends on a note of affirmation and hope, as The Bridge becomes a path to transcendence and to the overcoming of materialism and lifeless routine through love and brotherhood.
Crane's short poems are higly concentrated and difficult. The poems I find most rewarding in "White Buildings" include "Voyages" a six-poem sequence detailing an intense love affair and "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen" which is a predecessor of "The Bridge." The shorter poems include "At Mellvile's Tomb", the subject of an exchange with Harriet Monroe included in this collection, and "Chaplinesque."
One of Crane's masterpieces is his final poem "The Broken Tower" which describes how "I entered the broken world/To trace the visionary company of love, its voice/An instant in the wind." The Broken Tower ends on a note on the redemptive power of love while, soon after completing the poem, Hart Crane would commit suicide.
This is a volume that will bring Hart Crane to his readers. The letters chronicle a sad life cut short by excess. But Hart Crane's poetry, brief in amount though it is, has stayed with and inspired me for many years. Hart Crane holds a high place in America's literary heritage. He deserves his place in the Library of America.
The quotation at the beginning of this review is from Robert Lowell's sonnet "Words for Hart Crane" in his collection "Life Studies".