Crane, Hart

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Crane, Hart

Hart Crane (Harold Hart Crane), 1899–1932, American poet, b. Garrettsville, Ohio. He published only two volumes of poetry during his lifetime, but those works established Crane as one of the most original and vital American poets of the 20th cent. His extraordinarily complex, visionary, and sonorous poetry, with its rich imagery, verbal ingenuity, frequent obscurity, and meticulous craftsmanship, combines ecstatic optimism with a sense of haunted alienation. White Buildings (1926), his first collection of poems, was inspired by his experience of New York City, where he had gone to live at the age of 17. His most ambitious work is The Bridge (1930), a series of closely related long poems on the United States in which the Brooklyn Bridge serves as a mystical unifying symbol of civilization's evolution.

Crane's personal life was anguished and turbulent. After an unhappy childhood during which he was torn between estranged parents, he held a variety of uninteresting jobs, always, however, returning to New York City and his writing. An alcoholic and a homosexual, he was constantly plagued by money problems and was often a severe trial to friends who tried to help him. In 1931 he won a Guggenheim Fellowship and went to Mexico to work on a long poem about Latin America; a year later, returning by ship to the United States, the poem not even started, he jumped overboard and drowned. His collected poems were published in 1933.

See Hart Crane: Complete Poems and Selected Letters (2006), ed. by L. Hammer; letters ed. by T. S. W. Lewis (1974); O My Land, My Friends (1997), selected letters, ed. by L. Hammer and B. Weber; The Correspondence between Hart Crane and Waldo Frank (1998), ed. by S. H. Cook; biographies by P. Horton (new ed. 1957), J. Unterecker (1969, repr. 1987), P. Mariani (1999), and C. Fisher (2002); studies by R. W. B. Lewis (1967), M. D. Uroff (1974), R. Combs (1978), D. R. Clark, ed. (1982), A. Trachtenberg, ed. (1982), H. Bloom, ed. (1986), M. F. Bennett (1987), W. Berthoff (1989), T. E. Yingling (1990), B. Reed (2006), G. A. Tapper (2006), and J. T. Irwin (2011).

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