Friday, November 03, 2006

Crane in a Field

The most recent issue of Field includes a symposium on Hart Crane. In the brief introduction that precedes the reflections (and genuflections) of Charles Wright (on "Voyages II"), Kevin Prufer (on "My Grandmother's Love Letters"), Elton Glaser (on "O Carib Isle") and others, the following assertion is made:

"From the time of Crane's death until the mid-1970's, there seemed to be a concerted effort to promote him as a major poet. That effort, essentially, has failed. There are simply too many problems of diction, syntax, prosody, structure, and vision in Crane's work to validate that kind of claim. But perhaps it was not all that interesting an assertion in the first place. Once we take Crane down from his pedestal and simply begin to reread him as the gifted but inconcsistent poet that he was, with flashes of brilliance and an only partially realized promise and ambition, Crane is more interesting, more touching, and more clearly worth exploring."

Of the poets in my own poetic / aesthetic cannon, Crane is right there at the top of the list, standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Hopkins, Celan, Roethke (of The Far Field) and Berryman--all of whom (excluding Celan, maybe?) seem to thrive as influences in poetry circles despite the moniker of "minor" poet; they are poets who got it right in a relatively small body of work and who live on as those few instantiations. Which is probably why I'm underwhelmed by this notion of "too many problems . . ."; every poet has his flaws, and each is the influence he is because (not in spite) of them.

At what point do "problems" demote (or pro-mote) a poet? And whose problems are these, anyway? Among the disparate swath of friends and fellow writers I talk to, Crane is intensely prized, fiercely protected as an influence, so maybe his legacy (anyone's legacy) comes from the continual collective act of identification / appreciation, rather than aethetic coherence of an overall project. For my money, as the pendulum swings back toward earnesty and feeling in poetry, and away from the ironic, the glib, and the willfully absurd, I think we'll find poets like Crane--real visionary poets--even more necessary. And available.


Michael Rerick said...

Yes, yes. I find it funny the fact that there is always this notion of pulling a poet off their pedestal. Not only that, but the promotion of a nice, cozy poetry (um, let’s see, any come to mind?) usually creeps up when these folks say such things. And, in agreement with you, what the &*%# is wrong with a bunch, bunch of people enjoying and getting pleasure from poetry? What’s the function of dethroning? And, what throne?

Morgan Lucas Schuldt said...

Thrones suck.