Hart Crane: An Introduction and Interpretation

By Samuel Hazo | Go to book overview

7
BENEATH THE MYTH

THE LIFE of Hart Crane was essentially a succession of moments of order within periods of self-destructive disorder. It can best be described as a life of extremes. The poet could exult in moments of true creative glory and, with the same sense of purpose, descend for days into drunkenness and perversion. These paradoxes in Crane's character have elicited curious responses from his admirers and detractors. To some the final artistic tragedy and triumph stemmed directly out of the poet's conflict with society. To others the poet's disordered life and incapacity to adjust to modern society were reflected in his poems and in his inability to construct and sustain his themes in an orderly fashion.

To the poet Allen Ginsberg, Crane emerges as a symbol of the martyred American artist. In a poem called "Death to Van Gogh's Ear" Ginsberg identifies the suicides of Crane and the Russian poet, Mayakovsky, as acts capable of regenerating the societies that ostracized them. When Ginsberg says that "all the governments will fall" except the "good ones" that "exist in the deaths" of Crane and Mayakovsky, he means that society is capable of being redeemed only by the blood of the poet.

Ginsberg's attitude and all those that resemble it do much to perpetuate the Crane myth. Attempting to establish contact with Whitman, Ginsberg finds in Crane not only a convenient link but the seemingly ideal symbol of a poet victimized by the dehumanizing materialism of American society. The Hart Crane of Ginsberg's poem is not so much commemorated as he is transformed.

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Hart Crane: An Introduction and Interpretation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • About the Author i
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Chronology viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Life 4
  • 2 - New Purities 17
  • 3 - Knowledge, Beauty and the Sea 48
  • 4 - Far Rockaway to Golden Gate 68
  • 6 - The Broken World 124
  • 7 - Beneath the Myth 133
  • Selected Bibliography 136
  • Index 142
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