Review: The Complete Poems of Hart Crane

I came across the name Hart Crane a while back looking for magazines in which to place my poems. This one lit mag had a typical section on what they were looking for but under what they were not looking for they simply put “Hart Crane. Anything Hart Crane.” Sold me. I decided to look up his wikipedia page and found that he was famous for his long poem, “The Bridge.” I also found out he was inspired by T.S. Eliot and from there I knew I had to give him a try.

It’s hard to write intelligently about Hart Crane’s work due to its difficulty. I find myself having a hard time just trying to piece together what he means, so consequently I just pay attention to how the poem hits me, if I like it or not. The introduction by Harold Bloom typifies certain poems as great and other poems as not so great but when I come across those poems I do not find my estimation of them to be the same. Whether his work is dense enough to revisit later and find something new I do not seem to know yet. What I do know is that it doesn’t have the addictive quality of Eliot’s earlier work. With Eliot I found an author who could lay the line down perfectly regardless of whether it was his own or a reference- each line spurred me forward to the next line, and I found myself diving into works that were immersive no matter how short they were.

But this is not about T.S. Eliot. This is about Hart Crane, and while I find that much of his poems do have the quality of being “good” I do not find them deeply compelling, interesting, and fun in the same way. Some say that his difficulty shouldn’t detract from a person’s estimation of his work but I believe that if a person is to write poetry that person must connect with the simple as well as the complex. In fact a poet can be simple without being complex, but to be complex without being simple, or at least having that simple core? This is not a thing to be done in my mind. It’s like a trumpet player who completely leaves out the mid range in his solos and melodies. It just presents itself as too off kilter for me to really come away with something after I’ve read.

Grade: C

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