Harold H. Crane
Photo of American poet Hart Crane taken by Walker Evans in 1930.
Harold H. Crane, also known as Hart Crane, was a well-known twentieth-century American poet.
Harold Hart Crane was born in Garrettsville, Ohio, on July 21, 1899. Crane described his childhood as being unpleasant. His father, the original producer of Lifesaver candy, was a confectioner in Cleveland and his mother was very doting and domineering. In 1916, Crane dropped out of high school in Ohio and moved to New York City. Arriving in New York, Crane worked as an advertising salesman for a poetry magazine. He returned to Cleveland because he was unable to financially support himself in New York.
Returning to Ohio, Crane worked as a reporter for Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, as a candy salesman in Akron, and as a laborer in his father's factory. When he published his first poem, "My Grandmother's Love Letters," in a literary magazine, he returned to New York City. However, Crane would return to Ohio on several occasions to take jobs to finance other journeys to New York. In 1926, Crane published a collection of his poems in an anthology entitled White Buildings. Crane's poetry in this collection was inspired by his time in New York. After the publication of White Buildings, Crane was recognized as one of America's leading poets. He could be seen socializing with other prominent writers, including Katherine Ann Porter and E.E. Cummings.
After the success of his first book, Crane began to draft a series of poems based on the Brooklyn Bridge. Since he first arrived in New York in 1916, the bridge had fascinated him. Over the next several years, Crane dedicated himself to immortalizing the Brooklyn Bridge in poetry. During this period, he survived on donations from art patrons. He traveled to Europe but was forced to come back to the United States following a brawl in Paris, France. In 1930, Crane completed his epic poem and published it under the title "The Bridge." This poem won Poetry Magazine's highest prize and helped Crane attain a Guggenheim fellowship.
Using the funds from the Guggenheim fellowship, Crane traveled to Mexico and began to write a new epic poem on Hernan Cortes's campaign against the Aztec Indians during the 1510s and 1520s. His funds exhausted, Crane decided to return to the United States. On April 27, 1932, while onboard a ship traveling through the Gulf of Mexico to New York City, Crane jumped overboard and died. He was thirty-two years old.
Today, Hart Crane is recognized as one of the most important and influential American poets of his era.