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Hart Crane was born in Garretsville, Ohio, in 1899. His parents fought and divorced while he was impressionably young, and Crane fled for New York and Greenwich Village while he was still in his teens. There he fell in with poets, painters, and the publishers and editors of little magazines such as The Little Review, while passionately following the new modernism of Joyce, Eliot, Pound, and Wyndham Lewis, and taking to heart as personal heroes Arthur Rimbaud, Christopher Marlowe, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman. He first made his mark with the publication of “My Grandmother’s Love Letters” in The Dial in 1920, and his first collection of poems, White Buildings, was published to much acclaim in 1926, the same year in which he wrote the bulk of The Bridge (first conceived of in 1923) on a family estate on the Isle of Pines, Cuba. On grants from the financier and philanthropist Otto H. Kahn, intended to support the completion of his ambitious long poem, and later from the Guggenheim Foundation, he travelled to France, and near the end of his life to Mexico. The Bridge was published in a de luxe limited edition early in 1930 by Harry and Caresse Crosby’s Black Sun Press in Paris, and shortly afterwards in America in a trade edition issued by Horace Liveright. It was met by the critics with a mixture of the highest praise, and charges that Crane’s visions exceeded the bounds of expression, did not cohere as a single long poem, and were a stunning example of the ultimate failure of Romanticism. Yet Crane was the dominant poet of his time in America, and was an immense influence on American poets of succeeding generations, notably Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Delmore Schwartz. His severe alcoholism, his discomfort with being homosexual in the 1920s, and his endlessly precarious financial circumstances led him to greater and greater dissipations, and intractable depression. He committed suicide in April of 1932 by diving off the SS Orizaba into the Bay of Mexico, on a return trip to the U.S. from Mexico during the height of the Depression. His Collected Poems, edited by Waldo Frank, was published by Horace Liveright in 1933.

 

 

 

“Crane was one of those men whom every age seems to select as the spokesmen of its spiritual life; they give the age away.”
—Allen Tate
“I think Crane is the great poet of that generation. He got out more than anybody else. Not only is it the tremendous power there, but he somehow got New York City; he was at the center of things in the way that no other poet was.”
—Robert Lowell
“So far as I am concerned, I would gladly emulate Odysseus, if I could, and go down to the shadows for another hour’s conversation with Crane on the subject of poetry.”
—Yvor Winters
The Bridge, The Uncollected Version, from Periodicals and Anthologies, 1927–1930, edited by Ben Mazer, is now available from MadHat Press.

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