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Harry Crosby and Hart Crane

Sy Kahn
On Crosby and Crane

Crosby’s own books of poetry and his diaries, Shadows of the Sun, testify that he apprehended and rendered reality in much the same way as Crane. For example, both shared an enthusiasm for the technology of the century and saw in the symbol of the machine a dynamic expression of man’s restlessness and creative spirit. Crosby’s interest is reflected in the many photographs he took of machine subjects: airplanes, dynamos, factory smoke stacks, railroad signal towers, and wires strung against the sky like giant harps. He was especially entranced with speed, drove fast cars, loved race horses and whippets, kept both, and learned to fly and solo only a few months before his death. The pace and space of Crane’s poem, the many metaphors of movement, and, above all, the metaphoric implications of the bridge symbol were precisely the devices that would touch Crosby in the most direct and responsive ways. As their mutual enthusiasm for Blake and Whitman suggests, Crane and Crosby were poets who responded to an ideal image of man, and their resource to the metaphors of the machine, of speed and space, were for the purpose of suggesting man’s inventive and adventurous nature. As with Whitman, their celebration of man’s technological accomplishments was not for man’s literal achievement but rather symbolic of his insistent attempt to relate himself to an ultimate reality and destiny that suited the dimensions of his soul.

From Sy Kahn, "Hart Crane and Harry Crosby," Journal of Modern Literature 1:1 (1970), 47.

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