Aside from reading a few of his poems here and there over the years, I am relatively new to Hart Crane’s work, though thanks to multiple recommendations he has been on my reading to-do list for ages. My brother Vincent from across the Pond asked me about Crane this week, because he had just taken up reading the man’s work himself. Since I plan on seeing Vince next week when he visits NYC, I thought I had better have something to say about this American poet, and what better way to get into him than to start reading his words out loud? I confess, I chose a poem that I thought would be easy, or to use PC poet-speak, more approachable. But Crane had a few surprises for me. I chose “A Persuasion,” a poem of Crane’s published in 1921. It took a little more work to read aloud than I expected. You can be the judge after watching the video below.
If she waits late at night
Hearing the wind,
It is to gather kindnesses
No world can offer.
She has drawn her hands away.
The wind plays andantes
Of lost hopes and regrets,—
And yet is kind.
Below the wind,
Waiting for morning
The hills lie curved and blent
As now her heart and mind.
Of particular interest to me was the archaic use of the simple past participle of the word “blend.” I inadvertently read this as bent the first time. Similarly I read the singular “kindness,” rather than the plural kindnesses, which seemed to make the rhythm a bit tricky. Something about the extra syllable called for a slower more careful treatment. These two tiny aberrations from the norm are part of why I think I will put Crane in the camp of Dickinson, Whitman and Cummings in American poetic tradition. Such unconventional choices in diction and syntax force me to examine the words more closely, to slow down and bend my mind around them in a more intimate manner, helping me to see something strangely new and recognizable at the same time.
More about Crane and National Poetry Month in a moment, but first let’s get to today’s reading
For more about National Poetry Month and its history, suggestions of how to celebrate and spread the verse see the good folks at the Academy of American Poets at Poets.org. For a surprisingly sparse and no-frills bio of Hart Crane, which avoids all the controversy while highlighting his social faults and drinking habits see the Academy’s info on the poet here. For a more detailed and racy rundown of his life and his writing check out his page on Wikipedia here. And if you are really into analyzing his work I think you’ll enjoy this work of criticism (in the good sense) at the Poetry Foundation in this article by William Logan.
Happy Third Day! Spread the Muse!
2 Comments Add yours
Another great choice. I love the simplicity of this poem and yet it paints a vivid image and a complexity of gathering ones self. I especially like the ending lines:
“The hills lie curved and blent
As now her heart and mind.”
Thanks for sharing
Thank you, Stephen! And thanks for the props on your blog! I really appreciate it. I honestly don’t even know what tomorrow’s poem will be yet.