[lit-ideas] Crane & Whitman

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2006 10:04:31 -0700

I made a vague reference to Hart Crane's The Bridge having something in
common with Whitman's Song of Myself, and Mike took exception.  I read them
both years ago; so I rummaged through my bookshelves and looked at the books
in shelves in my garage but couldn't' find anything by or about Crane.  So I
turned to Google.  The following seems to be on the dust jacket of a volume
of The Bridge:  


"THE POETRY OF Hart Crane appeared on many of the Beats' reading shelves,
including Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and William
Evans. His work was a poetic bridge between the nineteenth century and the
twentieth, taking inspiration from Whitman and Emerson, and exerting great
influence on the Beats, who thought of him as a modern Walt Whitman. He
attempted, like Whitman, to capture the entire American experience in one
book of poetry, and The Bridge is often thought of as a twentieth century
'Song of Myself.' Indeed one of the poems in The Bridge, 'Cape Hatteras,' is
written to Whitman and concludes, "My hand in yours, Walt Whitman-so-."
Crane, who suffered from alcoholism and depression, committed suicide in
1932 by jumping from a ship in the Gulf of Mexico."


Of course the "is often thought of" is no clearer than my earlier reference.
I found so many study guides that ask students to relate "Song of Myself"
with "The Bridge" that I was tempted to give up the search for something
scholarly.  Here is an example: "1900 America:  Historical Voices, Poetic
Visions -- Lesson, Learning Page" invites students to use life histories,
recordings, & other primary resources to create their own multi-media epic
poems about the year 1900.  Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" & Hart Crane's
"The Bridge" serve as models. (LOC)


Here is a scholarly aside from a University of Georgia article by Edward
Hirsch: http://www.uga.edu/garev/summer03/hirsch.htm 

Crane's The Bridge as a modern mythification of America, a fierce
Whitmanesque chant to the New World.


There was also a fair amount of references to gay poets who claimed both
Whitman and Crane as antecedents, but I passed them up as being largely


I give up.



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