Hart Crane

I’m skipping Hemingway, who doesn’t need my help, and John Gardner, less well known now but still remembered, to give some love to the third birthday boy, Hart Crane. He may be best remembered now for jumping off a steamer to drown in the Gulf of Mexico and/or for being the son of the man who invented Lifesavers candy (no, not making that up), but he is also the author of the wonderful, brilliant, occasionally odd, outrageously ambitious poem sequence, The Bridge. He wanted to write a modern epic like Eliot’s The Waste Land but minus its famous pessimism. It is an attempt to use the Brooklyn Bridge as a lens on the entire country, following bridges and rivers all over the place, just the sort of manic endeavor that fitted its creator. He was inspired to begin the poem when he took up residence at 110 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights. It not only overlooked the bridge but had been the residence of the incapacitated Washington Roebling while he oversaw its construction. The Bridge came out in 1930, but two years later Crane had taken his own life, probably during one of his violent bi-polar swings. Here’s a link to the opening of the sequence, which he called “Proem: To Brooklyn Bridge”: