Hart Crane: “A Perfect Cry Shall String Some Constant Harmony”

Photographers Unknown, A Perfect Cry Shall String Some Constant Harmony

      As silent as a mirror is believed
      Realities plunge in silence by . . .

      I am not ready for repentance;
   Nor to match regrets. For the moth
        Bends no more than the still
      Imploring flame. And tremors
        In the white falling flakes
                   Kisses are – –
        The only worth all granting.

                It is to be learned–
      This cleaving and this burning,
           But only by the one who
          Spends out himself again.

                  Twice and twice
         (Again the smoking souvenir,
      Bleeding eidolon!) and yet again.
        Until the bright logic is won
         Unwhispering as a mirror
                   Is believed.

Then, drop by caustic drop, a perfect cry
 Shall string some constant harmony,–
 Relentless caper for all those who step
The legend of their youth into the noon.

Hart Crane, Legend

Born in Garrettsville, Ohio in July of 1899, Harold Hart Crane was an American modernist poet considered one of the most influential poets of his generation. He was admired by many artists including playwright Eugene O’Neill, essayist Alan Tate, poet and playwright E.E. Cummings, and writer William Carlos Williams. Important American poets such as John Berryman and Robert Lowell cited Crane as a significant influence.

The son of successful business man Clarence Crane and Grace Edna Hart, Hart Crane had a stressful childhood in which his parents constantly fought. Raised in part by his grandmother in Cleveland, he read continuously in his grandmother’s extensive library which contained the complete editions of such poets as Robert Browning, Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson. As he aged, Crane broadened his interest with writers such as philosopher Plato, novelist Honore de Balzac, and Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. His formal education was undermined by long absences from school caused by constant arguments between his parents. 

In 1916, Crane left Cleveland without graduating and relocated to New York with the hope of passing the entrance exam to Columbia University. Once settled in New York City, he made the decision to abandon college and concentrate on a literary career. Crane met other writers in the city and became exposed to the various art movements prevalent at that time. As a result of his parents’ divorce in 1917, Crane’s mother and grandmother relocated to New York City and moved into his one-bedroom apartment. 

To escape the pressures of family life, Hart Crane attempted to enlist in the army but was rejected due to his young age. He relocated to Cleveland and worked in a munitions factory during World War I. After the war, Crane worked briefly as a reporter for the local “Cleveland Plain Dealer”, worked in New York City for the “Little Review”, and then returned to Cleveland as an employee in his father’s candy company. Tensions between him and his now Cleveland-based family finally erupted in the spring of 1921. This led to Crane resettling back in New York City and two-years of non-communication with his father.

Throughout the early 1920s, Crane published poems in small but respected literary magazines, including “Little Review” and “Seven Arts”, which gained him respect among the avant-garde. By 1922 he had already written many of the poems that would be included in his first collection, “White Buildings”, finished in 1924 and published in 1926. This collection was written when he was falling in love with the Danish merchant mariner Emil Opffer. Their relationship, one of intense sexual passion and occasional turmoil, inspired “Voyages”, a sequence of erotic poems in praise of love. Other poems in the collection include “For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen”, set in contemporary times with Faustus representing a poet seeking ideal beauty, and the notable “Chaplinesque”. Produced after watching Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 film “The Kid”, the poem portrayed Crane’s personal outlooks towards adversity and innocence. 

By 1924, Hart Crane had already started the first drafts of his ambitious “The Bridge”, a long poem of fifteen sections with a finished length of sixty pages. Using the Brooklyn Bridge as the poem’s symbol, the poem celebrates the American experience from explorer Christopher Columbus to the 1910 opening of the newly constructed East River Tunnel. The Brooklyn Bridge functioned as a source of inspiration and a symbol of the unique American optimism. 

The optimism seen in Crane’s “White Buildings” was not quite indicative of his emotional state at that time. In the spring of 1923, he was working at an advertising agency, a job he found tedious and unrewarding. The tumult and loud noises of city life spoiled Crane’s concentration and made his writing difficult. By 1926, his intense relationship with Opffer had faded; this was followed by more conflicts with his mother and the deaths of both his father and grandmother. 

Hart Crane began to seek solace in alcohol and sexual encounters. With his inheritance, he fled his mother and traveled to Europe. Crane associated with many prominent figures in Paris’s expatriate community, including Harry Crosby, the owner of the fine art Black Sun Press, who offered Crane the use of his country estate. There Cane wrote a key part of “The Bridge” but continued his alcohol use and engaged in multiple sexual encounters with Marseilles sailors. 

Through money lent by Crosby, Crane was able to return to the United States where he finally finished “The Bridge”, which received upon its publication poor reviews from the critics. His pattern of self-destructive behavior, with its alternating depression and elation, continued. Crane entered a creative slump from which he could not recover. He applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship with the intention to study European culture and American poetry. Granted the fellowship, Crane decided instead to travel in 1931 to Mexico where he had a heterosexual romance with Peggy Baird, the divorced wife of writer Malcolm Cowley. The poem “The Broken Tower”, one of his last published works, emerged from the affair.

Despite the relationship with Peggy Baird, Hart Crane returned to his homosexual activities. Still feeling himself a failure, he returned to New York aboard the steamship Orizaba. During the voyage, Crane was beaten up after making sexual advances to a male crew member. Drinking heavy and leaving no suicide note, he jumped overboard into the Gulf of Mexico just before noon on the 27th of April in 1932. Crane’s body was never recovered. His father’s tombstone carries the inscription: ‘Harold Hart Crane 1899-1932 Lost at Sea’. 

Hart Crane’s correspondence, manuscripts, documents, drawings and paintings are housed in the archival collections of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University. In the collection are most of the original manuscripts of his major works with corrections and additions in Crane’s hand. Included in this collection are “The Bridge”, “White Buildings” and “West Indies Poems”.

Note: An online collection of Hart Crane’s work can be found in the Digital Collections of the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin. The site is located at: https://hrc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15878coll32

 

David Trinidad: “My Spirits Are Lifted”

Photographers Unknown, My Spirits Are Lifted

Depressed because my
book wasn’t nominated
for a gay award,

I lie on my couch
watching—not listening to—
the O.J. trial.

Byron, who senses
something’s wrong, hides under the
bed until Ira

comes home, carrying
a bouquet of beautifully
wrapped tulips. I press

the mute button. “This
is your prize,” he says. “Guess what
they’re called.” A smile in-

voluntarily
overcomes my frown. “What?” “Red
Parade.” “That sounds like

the name of an old
Barbie outfit,” I say. “That’s
exactly what I

told the florist. And
you know what she told me?” “What?”
“When she was a girl,

she turned her Barbie
into Cleopatra: gave
her an Egyptian

haircut and painted
her nipples blue.” “How cool.” “Yeah,
but now she thinks that

her doll would be worth
eight hundred dollars if she
hadn’t messed it up.”

Once in water, the
tulips begin to unclench—
ten angry fists. Their

colors are fierce, like
Plath’s “great African cat,” her
“bowl of red blooms.” Poor

Sylvia, who so
desperately wanted awards,
and only won them

after she was dead.
Byron jumps up, Ira sits
down and massages

my feet. “You guys.” My
spirits are lifted by their
tulips, kisses, licks.

David Trinidad, Red Parade, Plasticville, Turtle Point Press, 2000

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1953, David Trinidad is a contemporary American poet know for his masterful use of popular-culture references in his work. He attended California State University at Northridge where, as an undergraduate, he took Introduction to Literature with poet Ann Stanford. It was Stanford who introduced Trinidad to the genre of found poetry in 1972. 

Trinidad earned his Bachelor of Arts in English at California State University in 1979. Relocating to New York City in 1988, he studied at Brooklyn College where he earned in 1990 his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Among the poets who have influenced Trinidad are Ann Stanford, Sylvia Plath, Ann Sexton, Ted Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara. In particular, the autobiographical style of such poets as Sexton, whose work he discovered in 1975,  and O’Hara can be seen in Trinidad’s work.

 While at Northridge, Trinidad edited its literary journal “Angel’s Flight” and became friends with poet Rachel Sherwood, fellow student and co-founder of “Angel’s Flight”. An automobile accident in July of 1979 severely injured Trinidad and proved fatal for Rachel Sherwood. Her friends established the annual Rachel Sherwood Poetry Prize at Northridge in her honor; Trinidad also created the Sherwood Press and published, in collaboration with Yarmouth Press, the 1981 book of Sherwood’s poetry “Mysteries of Afternoon and Evening”. 

In the early 1980s, David Trinidad was one of a group of poets active at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California. The group, which included such writers as Dennis Cooper, Amy Gerstler and Bob Flanagan, gave readings and published literary books and magazines such as “Little Caesar Magazine” and “Barney: The Modern Stone-Age Magazine”. Through interchange of ideas and poems between the collective’s members, Trinidad met other poets such as Tim Dlugos from New York and Elaine Equi from Chicago. 

While living in New York City, Trinidad was active in The Poetry Project at Saint Mark’s Church from 1990 to 1991 and in The Writer’s Voice at the West Side YMCA Center for the Arts. In 1991, he published his first book of poems, entitled “Pavane”.  Trinidad has authored seventeen volumes of poetry which include the 1985 “Monday, Monday”; the 1987 “November”;  the 1994 “Answer Song”, which includes the more focused and intimate poem “Driving Back from New Haven” based on a conversation with AIDS-diagnosed poet Tim Dlugos; and the 2007 “Late Show” which contains the long prose poem “Classic Layer Cakes”. Trinidad’s most recent work is the 2022 “Digging to Wonderland: Memory Pieces”. 

In addition to his own work, David Trinidad has edited several collections of Tim Dlugos’s poetry: the 1996 “Powerless: Selected Poems 1973-1990”; the Lambda Literary Award winner “A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos” published in 2011; and the 2021 “New York Diary”. He has also edited collections of works by Ann Stanford and Emily Dickinson, as well as co-edited the 2007 anthology “Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry”. 

Since 1996, Trinidad has been with the Writers at Rutgers Reading Series  of the Department of English at Rutgers University and the Masters of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program at New York City’s The New School for Social Research. Trinidad’s awards include, among others, the Michael Tuck Foundation Fellowship from Brooklyn College, New York’s Fund for Poetry Award, Blue Mountain Center Fellowship from New York, and an artist’s fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. David Trinidad’s personal papers are housed at Fales Library at New York University.

Notes: In 2015, a candid interview with David Trinidad was conducted by educator and lecturer Bryan R. Monte for the Amsterdam Quarterly which publishes and promotes writing and art in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This informative interview can be found at the Amsterdam Quarterly’s site: https://www.amsterdamquarterly.org/aq_issues/aq14-radio-tv-film/david-trinidad-straighforward-and-candid/

The black and white image of three tulips was taken by the award-winning English photographer Dianna Jazwinski who is based in West Sussex. An editorial photographer, she specializes in gardens, plants, forals for horticultural magazines, and books and catalogues. Jazwinski’s website is located at: https://diannajazwinski.co.uk

Jorge Eduardo Eielson: “Half of My Body Smiles”

Photographers Unknown, Half of My Body Smiles

Si la mitad de mi cuerpo sonríe
La otra mitad se llena de tristeza
Y misteriosas escamas de pescado
Suceden a mis cabellos. Sonrío y lloro
Sin saber si son mis brazos
O mis piernas las que lloran o sonríen
Sin saber si es mi cabeza
Mi corazón o mi glande
El que decide mi sonrisa
O mi tristeza. Azul como los peces
Me muevo en aguas turbias o brillantes
Sin preguntarme por qué
Simplemente sollozo
Mientras sonrío y sonrío
Mientras sollozo

If a half of my body smiles,
The other one is steeped in sadness,
And strands of my hair
Turn into mysterious fish scales as they grow.
I smile and I cry
Oblivious as to whether it is my arms
Or my legs that smile or cry,
Oblivious as to whether it is my head,
My heart or my glans
Deciding on my smile
Or sadness. Blue like the fish,
I swim through waters troubled or shimmering,
Never wondering why
I just sob
As I smile and I smile
As I sob.

–Jorge Eduardo Eielson, Cuerpo Dividido (Body Divided), Translation by Juan Ribó Chalmeta and Irina Urumova

Born in April of 1924 in Lima, Jorge Eduardo Eielson was a Peruvian artist, poet, and novelist. The son of a Peruvian mother and a Swedish-American father, he showed an early interest in the arts, where he developed skills in playing the piano and drawing. At the end of his secondary studies, Eielson met writer and anthropologist José Maria Arguedas, who introduced him to the ancient civilizations of Peru and Lima’s literary and artistic circles. 

In 1941, Eielson enrolled at the National University of San Marcos, Lima’s public research university. Three years later, at the age of twenty-one, his collection of poems “Reinos (Kingdoms)” earned him the National Poetry Award and influenced a new generation of modern Peruvian poets. In 1948, Eielson received Peru’s National Drama Award and held a successful exhibition of his visual artwork at the prestigious Lima Gallery. 

After receiving a film study scholarship from the French government, Jorge Eielson traveled in 1948 to Paris, where he exhibited at the Colette Allendy, a gallery linked to the avant-garde of the post-war period. After a stay in Switzerland, he traveled, in 1951, to Italy where he settled in Rome and met his life partner, the Sardinian avant-garde painter Michele Mulas. They lived together in various cities in Italy and traveled to Paris, New York and Peru. 

In the late 1950s, Eielson abandoned the extreme avant-garde and began to texturize his canvases, by using organic materials such as clay sand, and earth to sculpt the canvas surface. Initially using these materials on his landscapes, Eielson moved towards figurative works using textiles of various kinds. In 1963, he began producing his first quipu, an ancient Inca device of knotted colored threads for recording information, which he modernized  by using brilliant colored fabrics, knotted and tied on canvas. These works were exhibited by Eielson in the 1964 Biennale in Venice and received wide acclaim and led to exhibitions at New York’s MOMA and Nelson Rockefeller Collection, as well as the Salon De Mai in Paris. 

Living in Rome, Jorge Eielson wrote his collection of poems, “Habitación en Roma” and his two novels: the 1971 “El Cuerpo de Giulia-No (The Body of Julia-n)” and “Primera Muerte de Maria (Maria’s First Death)”, published in 1988, which contain Eielson’s recurring themes of love, eroticism, religion, the sea, and the city of Lima. In the middle of the 1970s, Eielson returned to Peru where he devoted himself to the study of pre-Columbian art. At this time, Peru’s  National Institute of Culture published most of Eielson’s collective poetry under the title of Poesia Escrita (Written Poetry). 

In 1978, Eielson received a Guggenheim Fellowship for a lecture in New York City. At the end of the decade, he and Michele Mulas moved to Milan, Italy, where Eielson would spend the rest of his life writing and producing his art, which continued to be exhibited around the world. Eielson returned to Peru in 1990 to participate, along with  Peruvian-born visual artist Jorge Piqueras, in the last Trujillo Biennial which also included artists from neighboring countries. In 2002, he gave his last public interview through a streaming video organized by Fundación Telefónica. 

Following the death of Michele Mulas of leukemia in 2002, Jorge Eielson’s own health significantly deteriorated. He died in Milan on March 8th of 2006; his ashes were laid to rest beside his partner’s ashes in a small cemetery in Bari Sardo, a municipality in the Italian region Sardinia. Eielson’s work is in the collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Museo de Arte de Lima, the Rockefeller Collection in New York, and the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, among others.