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Poems for The Brooklyn Bridge:

125th Anniversary May 24th, 2008

Hart Crane | Alfred Corn| Daniela Gioseffi | Garcia Lorca

From:The Bridge by Hart Crane, 1930

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty--

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
Till elevators drop us from our day

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,--
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry—

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path--condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City's fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.


From The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane edited with an introduction and notes by Brom Weber. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corp. Copyright © 1936 to 1966. All rights reserved. Crane's ambition was to create his long poem, The Bridge (1930) to represent "a mystical synthesis for America" from "certain spritual events and possibiities." The reviews were poor and sent him into a despair from which he'd hoped to lift all at the dawning of the Age of Steel and Technology. The Brooklyn Bridge seemed toCrane a symbol of the potential to harness science to the greater good of humankind.

The Bridge, Palm Sunday, 1973 by Alfred Corn

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not…
—Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

The bridge was a huge sentence diagram,
You and I the compound subject, moving
Toward the verb. We stopped, breathing
Balloonfuls of air; and noonday sun sent down
A hard spray of light. Sensing an occasion,
I put your arm on my shoulder, my friend
And brother. Words, today, took the form of actions.

The object of the pilgrimage, 110 Columbia Heights,
Where Hart Crane once lived, no longer existed,
We learned—torn down, the physical address gone.
A second possible tribute was to read his Proem
There on the Promenade in sight of the theme.
That line moved you about the bedlamite whose shirt
Balloons as he drops into the river, much like
Crane’s death, though he wasn’t a “bedlamite”;
A dreamer, maybe, who called on Whitman and clasped
His present hand, as if to build a bridge across time….

We hadn’t imagined happenstance would lead us next
To join with the daydreamers lined up before
An Easter diorama of duck eggs, hatching
Behind plate glass. The intended sentiment featured
Feathered skeletons racked with spasms of pecking
Against resistant shell, struggling out of dim
Solitary into incandescence and gravity, and quaking
With the shock of sound and sight as though existence
Were a nervous disease. All newborns receive the same
Sentence—birth, death, equivalent triumphs.

Two deaf-mutes walked back the same but inverse way,
Fatigue making strangers of us and the afternoon
Hurt, like sunburn. Overexposure is a constant
Risk of sensation and of company. I wondered
Why we were together—is friendship imaginary?
And does imagination obscure or reveal its subject?
The ties always feel strange, strung along happenstance,
Following no diagram, incomplete, a bridge of suspense.

Sometimes completed things revisited still resonate.
I’m thinking about Crane’s poem of the bridge,
Grand enough to inspire disbelief and to suspend it.
The truth may lie in imagining a connection
With him or with you; with anyone able to overlook
Distance, shrug off time, on the right occasion….

If I called him a brother—help me with this, Hart—
Who climbed toward light and sensation until the sky
Broke open to reveal an acute, perfect convergence
Before letting him fall back into error and mortality,
Would we be joined with him and the voyagers before him?
Would a new sentence be pronounced, a living connection
Between island and island, for a second, be made?


Copyright (c) Alfred Corn from Stake: Selected Poems, 1972-1992.

Alfred Corn is the author of nine books of poems, the most recent titled Contradictions (2002). He has also published two collections of essays, The Metamorphoses of Metaphor (1989) and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007 (2008), and a novel, Part of His Story (1997). In 2008, the University of Michigan Press will bring out Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007. Fellowships and prizes awarded for his poetry include the Guggenheim, the NEA, an Award in Literature from the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets. He has taught at Yale, Columbia, UCLA, and the University of Cincinnati. For 2004-05, he held the Amy Clampitt residency in Lenox, MA. In 2005-06, he taught for the Poetry School in London and in Devon for the Arvon Foundation. In 2007 he taught at Wroxton College in Oxfordshire. He lives in Hudson, New York.

Ode to the Brooklyn Bridge by Daniela Gioseffi

From A Souvenir Chapbookof The 1st Brooklyn Bridge Poetry Walk, 1972. A multimedia event by Daniela Gioseffi created with a grant from The Creative Artist's Public Service Program of The New York State Council for the Arts.

“O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)”—Hart Crane

O' Beautiful monster of the harbor,
bridging Whitman’s Age of Hope
To our Age of Anxiety.
Mayakovsky dinosaur!
Forged of Old World granite, human
individualism, and new world
de-humanizing steel,

Eighth Wonder grown old
beside rockets and lasers,
and The World Trade Center’s twin phalluses
of multi-corporate powers, once
towering over your towers—

The American Dream leapt from your cables
then fell down a deep elevator shaft
of the “Cold Storage” warehouse
blocking your view.

I walk over you and cough out thick air
muffling your “choiring strings”—
smogging the splendor Hart Crane knew.

The womanly river, grown murky with use,
flows on under the steel and granite thighs
you straddled her with over a century ago.

Deafened by the growling cars whizzing over you,
I walk suspended beneath your Gothic Altars
with the Ghost of All That Could Have Been
since you were christened by a city and country
where Lorca’s nightmares have come true.
Copyright (c) 1972 by Daniela Gioseffi, New Verson (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

Daniela Gioseffi is the American Book Award Winning author of 14 books of poetry and prose, Among them, Blood Autumn, New & Selected Poems, 2007, Women on War: International Writings, 2003, and On Prejudice; A Global Perspective, 1993. She is winner of The John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry, 2007. Her verse was etched in marble on a wall of of the 7th Ave. Concourse, PENN Station in 2002. As Richard Haw explains in his book The Brooklyn Bridge, A Cultural History in which the above poem is quoted-- Daniela was the producer of the first Brooklyn Bridge Poetry Walk to good review acclaim, 1972. She has presented her writing for innumerable venues, i.e. NPR, BBC, WNYC-radio and at Book fairs and on campuses throughout Europe and America. She has read her work for the Library of Congress Radio Show, The Poet and the Poem, sponsored by the NEA.

SLEEPLESS CITY (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne)
by Federico Gacia Lorca

Nobody sleeps out in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody sleeps.
Moon creatures circle around and sniff houses.
Live iguanas come to bite men who can’t dream.
Broken hearted renegades rendezvous on street corners.
An unbelievable crocodile rests beneath the gentle
protest of stars.

Nobody sleeps out in the firmament. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody sleeps.
There’s a corpse in the far off graveyard
who’s been howling for three years,
because of the dry sand between in his knees;
and a boy who was buried this morning weeps
so much that dogs were called to hush him.

Life is no dream. Look out! Look out! Look out!
We fall down stairs and swallow moist earth,
or climb to the snow’s cliff with a choir of dead dahlias.
There’s no forgetfulness, no dream:
just raw flesh. Kisses trap mouths in a net of veins.
Those in pain will be in pain with no rest.
Those who are afraid of death carry it on their shoulders.
Soon, horses will inhabit our inns.
Furious ants will attack yellow skies that live in sad cow eyes.

Then, we’ll see the resurrection of dried butterflies,
We’ll still be walking in a vista of gray sponges and silent ships.
We’ll see our ring shine; roses fall from our tongues.

Look out! Look out! Look out!
Those of you still scarred by claws and cloudburst,
and you, child who weeps because he is ignorant
of the invention of bridges,
or that corpse who has nothing more than his head
and one shoe—
They”ll all be led to the wall where iguanas
and serpents await,
where bear’s teeth await,
where the mummified hand of a child awaits,
and a camel’s fur bristles with vicious blue chill.

Nobody sleeps out in the firmament. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody sleeps.
If anybody closes their eyes,
whip them, my children, whip them!
Let there be a panorama of wide eyes
and bitter festering wounds.
Out in this world, nobody sleeps. Nobody. Nobody.
I’ve said it again.
Nobody sleeps.
At night, if somebody grows too much moss
on his temples,
lift the trap doors so he can witness in moonlight
the fake wine glasses, toxin, and skull of theatres.

--Translated by Daniela Gioseffi © 2008. All rights reserved.

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Hart Crane
| Alfred Corn| DanielaGioseffi | Garcia Lorca|

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