Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 37 (Hart Crane)

Crane, Hart
The Complete Poems of Hart Crane


I bought this in 1995 or 1996 at St. Mark's Books in NYC. I actually see myself in the store when I remember it. However, I think the visual portion of that memory is skewed because in it I am standing in front of a wall of books in the fiction section, probably near the M's, with the poetry section behind me and to my right. Nonetheless, it is highly likely that I bought it there, as that is where I made 99 percent of my new book purchases when I lived in the city.

I was immediately taken with Hart Crane's poetry when I read it and tried to imitate his baroque syntax for a time. 

Weirdly, there is a sketch inside the book that I must have drawn while trying to make out some of the images in the poem, "Emblems of Conduct." In the sketch a man sits in a lounge chair on a Florida-shaped peninsula in the middle of the ocean. The volcano is erupting. The man appears to be wearing a sombrero and there is before him what might be a canvas or a sketchbook. The sun is up and there are a few clouds in the sky. A giant gravestone engraved with a dolphin leaping over the letters RIP rises from the water.

Here's the poem (you can puzzle out the sketch yourself):

Emblems of Conduct

By a peninsula the wanderer sat and sketched
The uneven valley graves. While the apostle gave
Alms to the meek the volcano burst
With sulphur and aureate rocks...
For joy rides in stupendous coverings
Luring the living into spiritual gates.

Orators follow the universe
And radio the complete laws to the people.
The apostle conveys thought through discipline.
Bowls and cups fill historians with adorations--
Dull lips commemorating spiritual gates.

The wanderer later chose this spot of rest
Where marble clouds support the sea
And where was finally born a hero.
By that time summer and smoke were past.
Dolphins still played, arching the horizons,
But only to build memories of spiritual gates.

Another memory: my first reading in NYC was at the Segue Foundation with Eileen Myles on April 27, 1997 -- the 65th Anniversary of Hart Crane's suicide.

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