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Further Examples of Crosby's Poetry

[Cary Nelson’s foonote for Crosby in Repression and Recovery suggested that his writing may have been more various than had been heretofore recognized. As he states: "Although Crosby is now almost exclusively identified with an apolitical experimental modernism, his identity was more contested during his life. His radical rejection of conventional American values, for example, gave his work definite appeal on the left. See those of his poems anthologized in Ralph Cheyney and Jack Conroy, eds. Unrest: The Rebel Poets’ Anthology for 1929 (London: Arthur H. Stockwell, 1929) and Unrest: The Rebel Poets’ Anthology for 1930 (London: Braithwaite and Miller, 1930)" (from Repression and Recovery. Madison: U Wisconsin P, 1989, p. 309).]

These anthology poems underscore different Crosbys. The ten poems in the 1929 selection are apolitical experimental poems that are on the verge of becoming modernist love lyrics. The single selection for 1930, however, is blunt and dismissive, in the vein of Crosby’s anti-paean to Boston, "Target for Disgust." These somewhat opposite sides of Crosby are on display in this selection.

Crosby Radicalized


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1930 (with Ralph Cheyney)

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The Erotic Crosby: Caresse Crosby’s Sleeping Together

[On the boat from France to America in 1929, Crosby copied in long hand the prose poems entitled Sleeping Together as a gift to Caresse. A few days later, and shortly before his death, he jotted down this diary entry:

Transit of Venus (for Josephine)
Sleeping Together (for Caresse)
(these are the two books I have written which
are damn good the others can go to hell)

(After Harry’s death, when a typist had transcribed these working diaries, Caresse scratched out the phrase "(for Josephine).")

One of the prose poems in holograph is reproduced below, followed by its transcription. Typical of the texts in Sleeping Together, it wants to yoke together an impassioned eroticism with a surrealistic imagery. Even when Crosby is employing a language that is marked by violence, he retains an underlying element of sweetness and even tenderness – a surprising combination that must have been immensely affecting.]

"White Stockings"


White Stockings

Your white stockings
spread to dry on the station
platform of some rural station
whose clocks announces
that it is noon are the
cause of the station-master’s
suicide whose bones the
locomotive crumbles as a
dog crumbles a chicken-bone
I remember being surprised
that the hands of the
clock which were almost
as slender as your own
never moved and that in
spite of a hot sun your
stockings were still damp
when you went to put them
on after the tea-party


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Reproduced with the Permission of Special Collections, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

Crosby in Tirade Mode

[The typescript of "Target for Disgust" is reproduced below. It is one of a number of Crosby’s poems that depend upon a display of anger. Neither satirical nor parodic, they are in an odd way pleasantly flamboyant: the thunderbolts they hurl are vivid and flash with lightning, but they are not designed to be sharp and cutting. Such poetry takes enough pleasure in its own performance that it can be admired for its robustness – the exact spirit of which is missing from Boston and whose absence has prompted this indictment.]

Typescript of Target for Disgust
Reproduced with the Permission of Special Collections,
Morris Library, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

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