Harp & Altar
Roberta Allen

Stephen-Paul Martin

Eileen Myles

Joanna Ruocco

David Wirthlin

Eileen Myles

It was a nice two-syllable name. Hart Crane. Even one. He was the son of a candy-maker, the one who invented life-savers. Hart Crane drowned, so that was pretty strange. I read everything he wrote which was only White Buildings and The Bridge which I found a little impossible. And then the fat biography and his letters. I had never read anyone’s letters before. I was 27. It was good being a journalist or whatever I was now because I could do all the reading that was too much in college because now I was getting paid to know. I could see in my reading that Hart was trying to write the great long American poem and I think it was beyond him. Not because he wasn’t great, but the long poem idea seems a little stretched thin and who needs it, really. But Hart kept finding patrons and getting grants. He was like a comic ingénue. He winds up completely isolated on an tropical island in a hurricane or else getting thrown out of Mexico on his Guggenheim he was such a drunk. Meanwhile, writing writing the bridge. Why has no one ever made this film. He was a very familiar man. I felt I knew him. A prematurely white-haired fag, shy-faced and handsome. Wearing one of those Russian sailor shirts he was always leaning against a tree or posing in a group, distractedly touching his own face. He seemed to be gazing into another world. My father looked that way in our family pictures. I figured it meant you were gay. There’s one of me when I was thirteen sitting with all of my friends and I was doing it. Looking right through the camera, back at myself but pleased. Usually the other people in the picture seem to be actually in the world. They’re stopping the balloon from floating off.

He was a great poet of love. Hart produced in a flicker the blue of veins he spied in a lover’s breast. His rapid twists of attention took your breath away. To him poetry was film. Even lighter. Watching a man’s hands grow not quite thing-ified but resonant—meditative. You got there by looking long. All that looking was compressed in a poem. He published his first one in Poetry, came to New York and got a job in advertising through a friend of his father’s. And that young, 18 or 19, already Hart was a total drunk. They gave him the perfume account because he was “a poet” i.e. fag. Even leaving open vials on his desk to inspire the young poet who stumbled in sick in a dirty shirt, and then shoved the disgusting shit out the window by his desk, ending that. I thought about going into advertising briefly not cause of Hart but because of Eddie. I think I always liked ads.

Hart published a poem called Chaplinesque and he and Charlie Chaplin go out on the town. Charlie didn’t drink, but Hart must’ve been charming, not just terrible, and together they were at a bunch of parties in the village. Imagine some party where he and Charlie Chaplin stroll in.

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell were talking at a party at Allen’s one night. Lowell was scary. Manic eyes, big glasses, white shirt, of course. Allen wore a white shirt too but Lowell’s just took up more space. Gregory Corso yells at Lowell you’re talking to us like we’re in school. I mean at the reading. Allen yells shut up Gregory.

I went to a giant party in Tribeca one night and Robert Di Niro was there. He was wearing a beret and a plaid flannel shirt. He looked like all of us only a little more deliberate. I was tripping my brains out. It was bright.

I said, are you Robert De Niro, the actor. He paused, waiting.

I am Eileen Myles, the poet.

He smiled very sweetly. At which time about a million women swarmed him. I toured with Jim Carroll. We didn’t really hang out. Except one night we split a pint of ice cream in our hotel. That meant that Jim took a knife and cut the pint in half and we each went back to our rooms, yelling down the hall at each other about the night we split a pint in Milwaukee.

I don’t think you were supposed to become as steeped in your material as I did with Hart Crane. I attached my homosexual poet to him and took a ride. Planes overhead, a train hurtling along its tracks. They had so much time back then and they were meanwhile very interested in speed. They thought the future would be amazing and it is, don’t you think.

I’m thinking about a line Hart Crane wrote two different ways.

“The Bridge of Estador” is the name of the poem the good version’s in. It was just one of those back of the book poems. Really cranky. In many ways Hart was like any weird guy—or the poem was like what you’d find that was great in the back of anyone’s notebook. It was subtitled “An Impromptu,/Aesthetic/TIRADE.”


High on the Bridge at Estador,

Where no one has ever been before,—


Then a few lines below, is the killer: “But some are twisted with the love / Of things irreconcilable,— / The slant moon with the slanting hill,” and then he follows it up, getting all echoey and vatic: “O Beauty’s fool, though you have never / Seen them again, you won’t forget.”

Twisted with the love of things irreconcilable. That was it. That was being gay for me—the slant moon with the slanting hill. The line just never undid itself for me—it’s unbelievable—and every time it ripples in the exact same light.

Hart tormented by the love of a remote (but certain) resemblance that you could not consume but could only view. That got under my skin. I just sat at my typewriter and felt. I thought about Rose. I’m your sister, Eileen, she whispered. What did that mean? I didn’t think incest was so bad. If you loved somebody. She said no. I flipped the pages. He liked sailors.

To write the Crane piece I took a ton of amphetamine. I had this doctor in Queens. Yet I was a drug coward—too afraid to go days on end. I’d go three or four—live sleepless and sad. Accomplishing rote kinds of work in bursts of energy. Cleaning house. It was ridiculous. The very thing I took it for, to write, was in fact entirely sabotaged by the drug. I was like a needle at the final cut of a record just perched there skipping. I had already read everything by him and about him. I was full. And there I sat. Couldn’t go out: nope I’d say on the phone, sipping a beer at my desk, or a cup of coffee. Uh-uh. I am working. I’m doing my Franklin Furnace piece. What are you doing these days. I’m working freelance. Got a piece from Franklin Mint. Yup. Thought you said Franklin Furnace. Yup I guess that is what I said but it’s not what I meant.

Hart Crane’s mother came to visit from Ohio. And she talked a little about staying in New York, which must’ve been scary. Grace Crane in New York. Uh oh. Hart was her family name. He was Harold originally. That’s who probably got the advertising job. C.A.’s son. Harold Crane. Why don’t you call yourself Hart. Hart Crane sounds more like a real poet. She was smart. I bet it was her idea to put the Maxfield Parrish on her husband’s candy boxes.

So the mother and son went shopping, got him socks and a winter coat (which he lost in the waterfront bars on the first cold night). They looked at those wan Preston Dickinsons at the Daniel Gallery on Madison, came downtown on 5th Ave. talking about the paintings and later heard some music. It was just like in Cleveland. Hart went with Grace as a teenager to hear Gertrude Stein.

She went back to Ohio and he took the Staten Island Ferry with a couple of friends. He loved it out there. Leaving the land, hovering in New York Harbor the eerie shimmering place with green liberty holding the giant flame. It was a great day and Hart was one of those kids everyone really loves. He was still really funny when he drank and his friends all encouraged him. Hart was a genius. He wrote his mother, staunchly, about the trip:

I have never felt as encouraged, as free or as clean. Think of me often as such or not at all, for I hope you will understand me.