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April is National Poetry Month - A Selection from the Young Promethean Poetry Collection



It is April, and once again, we turn to the stacks to celebrate National Poetry Month. Thankfully, we have our Young Promethean Poetry Collection right next to our Kerouac Corner on the first floor from which to pull selections. You should come on down and do the same.

This selection is from Hart Crane’s masterwork The Bridge. One of the most difficult and rewarding book of modern American poetry. Maybe: most prized, least understood? The selection is from longest poem in the book entitled “Cape Hatteras” which is ostensibly about Walt Whitman’s gravitational force in American poetry—but I can’t help but think Crane is also alluding to the shipwreck of the Monitor off of the eponymous Cape in this opening stanza. The Monitor is, of course, the iron hulled steam ship that fought in the American Civil war in the Battle of Hampton Roads (aka Battle of the Ironclads) in March of 1862. We have a piece of this ship here in the library, given to the city by Lowell resident Gustavus Fox—he was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the war. I wouldn’t exactly call the Monitor saurian (lizardlike) but one can’t help but imagine its slow ponderous  foundering under tow in a storm almost like a dinosaur. Because this blog doesn’t like huge spaces or irregular tabs I’ve also posted a picture of the poem in its original printed form. You can really see and feel the weight of the words as the monster succumbs…

from Cape Hatteras

Imponderable the dinosaur
sinks slow,
the mammoth saurian
ghoul, the eastern
Cape. . .
While rises in the west the coastwise range,
slowly the hushed land—
Combustion at the astral core—the dorsal change
Of energy—convulsive shift of sand. . .
But we, who round the capes, the promontories
Where strange tongues vary messages of surf
Below grey citadels, repeating to the stars
The ancient names—return home to our own
Hearths, there to eat an apple and recall
The songs that gypsies dealt us at Marseille
Or how the priests walked—slowly through Bombay—
Or to red you, Walt,—knowing us in thrall

-Hart Crane, The Bridge. 1930.