Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

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Location: North Carolina, United States

Monday, May 16, 2011

Revival with Crane

Hey folks,

I've been absent for over a year now, but I'm back to try and revive this blog, at least for the summer. The focus will still be poetry, but I may try and throw some psychology into the mix as well, along with anything else interesting that comes along.

That said, let's jump straight into a poem by Hart Crane:

~~~

My Grandmother’s Love Letters

There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.

There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother’s mother,
Elizabeth,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.

Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.

And I ask myself:

“Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?”

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

~~~~~~~

Some comments, to break the poem down a little bit:

As always, Crane's music is excellent. The first line could easily lead into something trite, but the progression to memory and "room for memory" avoids this. Also, the transition from the first to second stanza is nice, because of the "room" link. The stand-alone "Elizabeth" is good in this case, because he's talking about love letters, so it's like an address or a proclamation.

The image in the third stanza is really lovely, and nicely captures how delicate the connection of the grandmother's love to this world is. Then, the poem takes an interesting turn, with the single line transitioning into the quoted stanza, which uses the somewhat common "music = memories" idea, but does so uniquely- great stanza.

The last stanza ends the poem well, and does a couple interesting technical things. One, it evokes the rain mentioned in the first stanza, bringing the poem into a circle of sorts (but, without being clumsy about it- references to earlier parts of the poem can very easily be tedious or forced). Two, it sets the reader up with a little couple with the first two lines ("hand" / "stand"), then breaks away from this with the final line.

~~~~~

That's enough for now- I'll be back soon, perhaps to post something of my own. Oh, and for old times' sake: It's May (a post from over four years ago!)!

Take care,
~Neil

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