Friday, October 9, 2009

Lost at Sea (continued)

When I left off on the Hart Crane post below I was in a hotel room in Cleveland, and running off to lead a workshop for grad students there. Now that I've been back a few days, I've found myself turning to the materials on Crane that my good hosts in Garrettsville provided: some of his letters, and some interesting essays on the poet's life and work in a back issue of THE HIRAM POETRY REVIEW, which is published at the college in Garrettsville. (Where, by the way, a sandstone statue of James Garfield, a Garrettsville citizen, was recently cleanly beheaded; his incompletely body stands beside a chapel, looking quite lost.) I also re-read Richard Howard's poem on Crane -- with its compelling moments in a cruising area down under the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge. And I've been thinking of "Voyages" -- Crane's masterwork -- in relation to a terrific chapbook I'm introducing for the PSA by a young St. Louis poet named Haines Eason. The speaker is "Voyages" takes the greatest ecstatic pleasure in being "lost at sea" -- rocked in the ocean of passion, where "sleep, death, desire close round one instant in one floating flower" -- as good a description of orgasm as any I can think of.

Now I think I have to add to what I've said below only a note about the poignancy of Crane's grave. The cemetery in Garrettsville is hilly and sloping. The leaves were turning, and I brought home a few mottled maple leaves fallen near the gravestone. One of our hosts' parents were buried just down the hill, which made it seem like we'd entered into a community. And because Hart's body wasn't there, and because he had no stone of his own but was forever inscribed under his father's shadow, he seemed permanently fixed on the margin: regarded from a distance, and yet still somehow one of their own, forever an Ohio boy yet never entirely claimed.

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