Cleveland, Ohio, and Hart Crane
by Harriett Staff
Hart Crane, one of America’s most mythologized poets, had a lifelong love/hate relationship with Cleveland, where he was raised. The Los Angeles Review of Books’s Anne Trubek calls him “not a New York poet but a Cleveland poet: a mess of a thing, a striving wreck of promise and all too human failings:”
At seventeen he wanted out of Cleveland, and he left for New York. He would soon return. And he would repeat that pattern for another decade, coming back to Cleveland when he was broke and needed a job, or at the behest of his needy mother, or because he wanted to. He worked at a munitions plant on the waterfront, working seventeen-hour days six days a week tightening bolts. (C.A. always gave him lowly jobs to test his mettle, a test Crane always failed.) That job didn’t last long — nor did his job as a camp counselor, or as a riveter for another war-related plant. The first world war ended right when it looked like he would be drafted. He wrote a poem about the armistice that was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who then hired him as a cub reporter. He lasted seven weeks. He went back to New York, and then came back home again.Read more about Crane and his hometown here.
…In Cleveland, he supervised bulk storage. He had affairs. He went out on “mad carouses” that began with “pigs’ feet and sauerkraut” and ended in his tower, where he played classical music for his arty friends. At one point someone in town found out about his penchant for sailors and truck drivers. Crane paid $10 week, out of his $25 weekly wage, to buy the man’s silence.