Hart Crane

By Angel Mansinghani, Megan Mossing, Sarah Sivak, Emily Wilson

Early Life

  • Hart (Harold) Crane was born in Garretsville, Ohio in 1899.
  • He had Bourgeois parents.
  • His father, Clarence, was a successful Ohio businessman. He invented the Lifesavers candy, and held the patent, but sold it for $2,900 before the brand became popular. He made other candy and made a fortune from the candy business with chocolate bars. He eventually ran his own business, The Crane Chocolate Company.
  • His mother, Grace Edna Hart, born in Chicago, was an emotionally unstable woman known for her beauty. She had a very close relationship with her only son.
  • Crane was raised not only by his parents but by their relatives (aunts, uncles, and grandparents).
  • Crane's parents fought regularly, and his mother turned him against his father.
  • His mother had hypochondria and so she used him as an inappropriate confidant in complaining about her real and imagined health problems. He spent a great amount of time in her company, comforting and consoling her.
  • His unusual intimacy with his mother proved overwhelmingly distressful to Crane, causing him to go through his life incapable of freeing himself from his mother's control.
  • As a result of real and imagined problems, Crane's mother suffered a nervous collapse in 1908.
  • While she recuperated he moved to his grandmother's home in Cleveland. There he spent most of his formative years.
  • At this point in Crane's childhood, he first showed enthusiasm for poetry.
  • His grandmother's library was extensive, featuring editions of complete works by poets such as Victorian Robert Browning and American's Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, both whom became major influences in Crane's poetry.


  • 1908:moved to grandmother's home in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Read extensively to broaden his interests
  • In 1914, he entered East High School where he made friends with William Wright and George Bryan, both of whom he remained close with throughout his life.
  • his grades were never very high, and in some cases were just passing.
  • He excelled in subjects he liked, especially English.
  • Because of family issues, he was often absent from school
  • In 1916 he left Cleveland without graduating and moved to New York to attend Columbia University
  • Once in New York, he abandoned the idea of getting a college education and pursued a literary career.
  • Through a painter he knew earlier from Cleveland, he met other writers and gained exposure to various art movements and ideas.


  • After his parents divorced in 1917, his mother and his grandmother moved into his one room apartment in New York City.
  • Crane was emotionally exhausted from his mother demanding constant attention
  • He relied on his parents to provide financial support. His father, being successful in the chocolate business, threatened to withhold further funds for Crane until he got a job.
  • To escape the pressure of his family life, Crane decided to enlist in the army, but was rejected because he was a minor.
  • Crane left New York City and worked in a munitions plant for the duration of World War I.
  • He became a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer after after the war.
  • Crane had a falling out with his father in 1921 that lasted two years after a fight over Crane's mother and threats that Crane's father would disinherit Crane.
  • He moved back to New York finding similar advertising work that he did in Cleveland. But, his personal problems with his mother still remained. She would mail to him her emotional and physical problems and complain to Crane that he should come back to Cleveland.
  • Crane traveled back to New York City and soon afterwards he fell in love with a sailor, Emil Opffer.
  • Crane's intense relationship with sailor Emil Opffer faded and returned to his former ways, enjoying promiscuity, abusing alcohol, and alternating from obnoxious euphoria to disturbing depression.
  • He applied for a Guggenheim fellowship with intentions of studying European culture and the American poetic sensibility. After obtaining the fellowship, Crane traveled to Mexico and continued his self-destructive behavior.
  • He experienced a heterosexual romance with Peggy Baird, who was recently divorced from prominent literary figure Malcolm Cowley. The love affair is suspected to have inspired "The Broken Tower".
  • Crane often abused alcohol in his later years and, as a result, had fluctuating emotional states that influenced his poetry.
  • Committed suicide on April 27, 1932 by jumping off Orizaba steamship into the Gulf of Mexico after being beaten by the crew for making sexual advances towards a male crew member.
  • His body was never recovered.


T.S. Elliot
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Walt Whitman
Percy Bysshe Shelley
James Joyce


Of the Lost Generation?

  • Much of the Lost Generation was deeply impacted by World War I, which resulted in their loss of a sense of values from their parents, forced them to mature quickly, and led to disillusionment with the government.
  • Hart Crane never experienced this war - he only worked in a munitions factory in Cleveland.
  • Hart was, however, nomadic like many of the Lost Generation writers and poets, often moving between New York and Ohio.
  • He has been considered an embodiment of the extreme characteristics—hope and despair, redemption and damnation—that seemed to preoccupy many writers in his time.
  • He was dedicated to and meticulous with his work - he spent hours, days even, perfecting simply lines of his poetry.
  • He wanted to express beauty in a new way, therefore diverging from the traditional art form.

Works Cited

Cowley, Malcolm. A Second Flowering. New York: Viking, 1973. Print.

"Hart Crane." : The Poetry Foundation. The Poetry Foundation, 2014. Web. 01 Jan. 2014.

Logan, William. "The Hart Crane Controversy." Poetry Magazine 23 Oct. 2008: n. pag. The Poetry Foundation. Web. 1 Jan. 2014.

Popova, Maria. "Tennessee Williams Reads Two Stirring Poems by Hart Crane."Brain Pickings. MediaTemple, n.d. Web. 01 Jan. 2014.

Quinn, Vincent. Hart Crane. New Haven: Twayne, 1963. Print.

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