Hart Crane was first published in 1989. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
More than half a century after his death, the work of Hart Crane (1899–1932) remains central to our understanding of twentieth-century American poetry. During his short life, Crane's contemporaries had difficulty seeing past the "roaring boy" who drank too much and hurled typewriters from windows; in recent years, he has come to be seen as a kind of "last poet" whose only theme is self-destruction, and who himself exemplifies the breakdown of poetry in the modern age. Taking as a point of departure Robert Lowell's 1961 valuation of Crane and his power to speak from "the center of things," Warner Berthoff in this book reappraises the essential character and force of Crane's still problematic achievement. Though he takes into account the substantial body of commentary on Crane's work, his primary intent is to look afresh at the poems themselves, and at the poet's clear-eyed (and brilliant) letters. This approach enables Berthoff, first, to track the emergence and development of Crane's lyric style—an art that recreates, in compact form, the turbulence of the modern city. He then explores the background and historical community that nourished Crane's creative imagination, and he evaluates Crane's conception of the ideal modern poetic: a poetry of ecstasy created with architectural craft. His final chapter is devoted to The Bridge, the ambitious lyric suite that proved to be the climax and terminus of Crane's work. Berthoff's emphasis throughout is on the beauty and power of individual poems, and on the sanity, shrewdness, and sense of purpose that informed Crane's working intelligence.