P.O.E.T.S. Day! Hart Crane

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Just when you thought it would never end, classical mechanics saves the day. We’ve spun through another week and that blessed moment when the whistle blows, it’s time to punch out, and traffic swells is almost upon us. Why wait? It’s P.O.E.T.S. Day. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. There’s no reason to stick around when even the boss has mentally gone fishing. You’re not going to get anything done. At least not done well. Get out of there. Dissemble, obfuscate, ignore the niceties that lubricate the engine of society. There are mid-major basketball games to watch. Head on down to the bar a few hours before you’re “allowed” and have a happy hour beer. No one’s going to notice. Head to the park or the zoo. Browse a book store with a sleeved cup of that overpriced coffee they sell there. I wouldn’t go fishing because the boss might decide to slip out early too and that could get awkward, but hey, it’s your time. Take it. Do with it as you will. That said, may I suggest in homage to the mighty acronym, setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the niceties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.


This week’s poet is Hart Crane and his poetry can be a bit hard to grasp. That’s not just me being obtuse. Harrison Smith from the publishing house Harcourt, Brace wrote “I feel certain you are a genuine poet-and there are not many genuine poets lying around these days. . . . It really is the most perplexing kind of poetry. One reads it with a growing irritation, not at you but at himself, for the denseness of one’s own intellect.” The critic Edmund Wilson wrote he had “a style that is strikingly original—almost something like a great style, if there could be such a thing as a great style which was … not … applied to any subject at all.”

It was though. His style was applied to a great many things as he aptly explained to Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry magazine in the 1920s, in a letter responding to her concerns about his submission, this week’s featured poem, “At Melville’s Tomb.” Previously Marianne Moore wrote to him, when rejecting an earlier poem for publication in Dial, “its multiform content accounts, I suppose, for what seems to us a lack of simplicity and cumulative force.” T.S. Eliot passed on the same poem for The Criterion. I imagine Crane jumped at the opportunity Monroe offered to explain his poetic choices, or his “rationale of metaphor,” to the editor of one of the more influential periodicals.

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